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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock Concert > Rock Opera > Musical > Rockumentary > Counterculture > Political > The Butterfly Ball (Counterculture Rock Opera/Musical)

The Butterfly Ball (Counterculture Rock Opera/Musical)


Picture: C     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: B-



Deep Purple’s Roger Glover had left his hugely successful band to go solo and producer work for other artists.  One very ambitious project suggested by the concept works of The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s, Magical Mystery Tour), The Who (Tommy) and Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon) became a recording and then filmed and montaged stage presentation of The Butterfly Ball.  This 1976 film version is directed by Tony Klinger (later a producer of The Who’s The Kids Are Alright, reviewed elsewhere on this site) and stars Vincent Price as the narrator of this elaborate production based on William Roscoe’s 1806 poem for starters.  This benefit concert mixes newly-shot narrative-based film footage, the concert, terrific period animation by the great Halas & Batchelor Animation, Ltd. (the 1954 animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm) and a few visual effects in its attempted statement against war (including the usual montage of military vehicles destroying nature) and in support of children in particular.  It is also has its drug trip aspirations, which dates and now contradicts some of its intent.


Twiggy, a pre-Whitesnake David Coverdale, Tony Ashton, Helen Chapelle, Ian Gillian, John Gustafson, Eddie Hardin, Glenn Hughes (the last four involved with Purple at some point) and Price used much more effectively here than Michael Jackson could ever have hoped for.  Alan Aldridge and William Plomer pulled this together with Klinger and it now serves as a little counter culture gem that is worth revisiting just for its freeform and talent alone.  The music is not bad at all and though this may not work the way Quadrophenia did not work on the whole as a complete piece, the 85 minutes of this fine British Rock film (which just qualifies as Rockumentary) is better than much of the bad music we have suffered through since the late 1980s.  The time for its return on DVD is welcome indeed.


The 1.33 X 1 image is a little softer than one would like, but the film is nicely shot by cinematographer Ian Wilson, B.S.C., whose credits include films like Fright, Music!, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, Wish You Were Here, Derek Jarman’s Edward II, The Crying Game, Backbeat, Emma and the underrated supernatural thriller Below, as well as TV classics like Danger UXB and the 1979 Quatermass mini-series, both reviewed elsewhere on this site.  The look evokes and reminds one of everything from Ken Russell’s Tommy to Brian De Palma’s Phantom Of The Paradise, though it is hard to tell if this is a tunnel vision print or if the film was shot soft matte for 1.66, 1.75 or 1.85 X 1 theatrical presentation.  This was an EastmanColor release, though, and does not look as faded as it might have otherwise.   The original optical mono and possible 4-channel magnetic stereo (unconfirmed at posting time) is here in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and a 5.1 mix that expands the sound across the room via ambiance.  Maybe this has stereo masters, but the playback here does not show that, with fidelity limits that suggest the sound from the film and/or video copy/copies were being used.  Both will need upgraded for an HD version and it will be worth the trouble.  Another idea for that edition would be extras, because this DVD has none.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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