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Wattstax [1973]

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Richard Pryor
  • Format: Import, PAL
  • Language: English, French, German
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0039YYY8S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,850 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a great DVD. I bought it for the Bar Kays iconic performance, which will not disappoint. It captures the atmosphere of that day in Watts, Los Angeles in 1972 when a sports stadium was filled with Soul music lovers. The other highlight for me was Isaac Hayes performing at the end. My only complaint about it is that I would have liked to see more performers and also their full sets. Considering the actual festival lasted for seven hours you really don't see that many acts. Also I think it would have been better to go out on the streets of Watts and talk to random people passing about Watts, rather than having one group of people who's opinions we kept hearing. All in all though a great DVD.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is not simply a music video, Rather this is as much a social history of the African American experience as it is a concert, Essentially a documentary about the concert which took place 7 years after the 1965 watts Riots, and was designed to support the continued rebuilding of the LA Watts area. The film takes you on a fascinating journey of everyday Watts, with some revealing conversations with the people that lived there at the time. The music is great and it looks like everyone had a great time. The film is introduced by Richard Pryor who we see on occasion throughout being generally funny. Look out for jess Jackson's speech. The artists on show provide a good view of the range of acts that appeared. It was very much the African American version of Woodstock.
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I bought this thinking I was going to get a soulful Woodstock; it is rather a social documentary with musical clips of live performance in there. It's no less entertaining nor interesting for that. If you want to reflect on why we went from Dancing in the Streets to What's Going On then you need to understand the social background that made that cultural shock happen. Black America was so radicalised at the time that they had a Black National Anthem. And the clothes worn by the artists are an absolute treat.
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Great snapshot of time and togetherness and some great performances by Bar-kays, Rufus Thomas, Ike Hayes and The Staple Singers. Richard Pryor at his uncomfortable best.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x98325374) out of 5 stars 81 reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x98490f78) out of 5 stars A Dream Come True...!!! 9 Nov. 2004
By Eddie Landsberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
I first discovered the album during my early years as a '70s funk, soul and black music fanatic (in the early 80's) and dreamed of one day actually being able to see the move... For years and years I waited and prayed... probably figuring that something that good had long been lost and destroyed... and finally... ! ! ! - - Although in all honesty the two records actually have much more music than the film, the film is an amazing portrait of urban black life, music and culture in that era... The blacksploitation films presented a fantasy version of it... Wattstax took the cameras out in the community and showed people being for real and talking about... well, life in general. - - and the high point... YES, definitely RUFUS THOMAS's performance, and also Johnnie Taylor at that club that looked like a scene out of THE MAC or some Rudy Ray Moore Film... as well as the less than enthuisiastic response of the audience during the Star Spangled Banner... (Film also features an incredible version of LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING which I don't remember being on the soundtrack (?) - - a commemoration of the tragic WATTS riots and a celebration of how the community was coming to terms and rebuilding itself, in addition to the poignance and political message, and a young (just getting discovered) Richard Pryor's "social commentary"- - the film is also delightfully dated... trust me, you KNOW its the early '70s ! ! ! The only downside is that its over before you knew it...
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9824d648) out of 5 stars "Power to the people, let's go to the stands!" 26 Sept. 2004
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Even if the concert movie "Wattstax" had nothing else interesting in it, it would still be totally worth watching for the amazing sequence in which rhythm-and-blues legend Rufus Thomas (a bald, portly, middle-aged man who performs in a long-sleeved pink shirt tucked into red shorts over knee-high go-go boots) encourages the ecstatic crowd to spill out of the stands, onto the football field at the L.A. Coliseum, so they can do the Funky Chicken. They comply. At the end of the song, he tells the huge assortment of several hundred dancing fans that they have to return to their seats and, miraculously, again they comply. But when one odd, umbrella-twirling spectator is reluctant to leave the field, Thomas heckles and teases him then, fed up, asks the crowd to remove him. And, man, they comply; the umbrella man is gone within about 3.6 seconds.

Concerts like that just don't happen anymore and Wattstax, a 1972 festival held to mark the seventh anniversary of the Watts race riots, is a lot more than just a presentation of incredible music (by Thomas, the Staples Singers, the Bar-Kays, Albert King and Isaac Hayes). Director Mel Stuart (who, notably, also made "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory") filmed the entire concert but then decided to intercut footage of church services in the Watts area, man-on-the-street interviews about race (Ted Lange, who later went on to play Isaac on "The Love Boat," angrily weighs in) and very off-the-cuff comedy by Richard Pryor.

The pieces don't always mesh together - and I really wish Stuart hadn't felt compelled to interupt the sets by Albert King and others - but they're all fascinating in their own way and the music is tremendously good.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x984903b4) out of 5 stars WATTSTAX 23 July 2004
By M. B Gillespie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I feel as though the current editorial review perhaps does a slight disservice surrounding the fact that the film does not exclusively feature the concert footage. When Mel Stuart originally looked at the footage from the show he has said that he felt as though the concert needed a context. It needed to be appreciated as being informed by (but not a mere reflection) of a distinct cultural experience. If he hadn't, we would be left with just the art and not the inspiration. Exploring these things together in his film makes for a rather interesting and fun time. So then, rather than offer a standard and totalizing explanation, he opted for interviews and episodic footage which includes among other things: churches, broken hearts, pimps, Love Boat bartenders, streetcorner philosophers, and Richard Pryor. The effect is the sense that blackness isn't a neat package. You see, while the film is a nice document of black power peaking, there are a lot of different definitions of blackness that are featured as much as there are the different kinds of music performed at the show. I would also note that the DVD includes the original footage of Isaac Hayes' performance (which due to issues w/ MGM) was cut before the film's release. Overall its an incredibly nice film. There's a lot of good music and the film definitely has a lot more to offer beyond being tagged unfortunately as the Black Woodstock. It's STAX records. Come on. Rufus' shorts, the Bar-Kays? hair, Johnnie Taylor and the pimps parade, the woman in the red dress, the innumerable samples Public Enemy got from this film...Try it.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x984e1c24) out of 5 stars Truly Worth The Wait 8 Sept. 2004
By Soletaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
I have waited years to see this. I know that there have been bootlegs of this film floating around for years, but I never seen it. I'm glad I've waited for a proper release as this has the true ending with Issac Hayes doing Shaft.

A truly amazing movie, which captures the essence of the culture, and gives you the insight of how things were during those times in the early 70's. So much emotion in it that, you feel like you are taking part of the event yourself.

I love the footage they had with people talking. I saw a couple of people that would go on to have a acting career in the film. I saw Issac from the Loveboat up on there and Ned the Whino( I forgot his real name ). I guess this is what got their acting career started.

The skits with Richard Pryor were comedy classics. So many people copied his style over the years.

I was amazed when Rufus Thomas got all those people to go back to their seats after they all came onto the field during his performance. It was one guy that didn't go back to his seat and Rufus was just clowning him and had everyone laughing at him. Priceless.

There had to been 100,000 people that attended that show and not one fight. If this were to happen today you would have had body bags galore out there. There is no respect in music now.

It's sad to think that Stax as record company would be no more just a few years later. Watching this movie, you couldn't even see that as a possibility. Probably the last great moment in soul music.

Just a classic film that I recommend to anybody that appreciates real soul music and its history.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x982ff090) out of 5 stars Clearin' up the Facts 18 Jun. 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The Wattstax concert took place in 1973-- 8 years after the Watts Riots. It was a benefit funded by Watts Records to "help the people of Watts, and give our artists exposure in Los Angeles," (quoted Al Bell, then president of Stax Records). Proceeds went to the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, the Martin Luther King Hospital and the Watts Summer Festival.
This movie is a must-see. Aside from the [great] music, there are interviews with working-class black Angelenos which give you a look at the political and social climate at that point in time. Jessie Jackson's opening speech is inspirational. Richard Pryor's ongoing commentary is pure genius.
Isaac Hayes and Rufus Thomas' performances are big highlights as well as the sweet, soulful outpouring performed by the Emotions in a small chapel in Watts.
See it while it's in the theatres. I don't know of a video release.
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