Pink Floyd a’ Pompeii – Live At Pompeii Collectors Edition (No Label)
Pink Floyd began their relationship with film during the late 1960’s when they provided the musical soundtrack for the film The Committee. They would follow it up with music for Zabriskie Point and finally a French film More with music from the latter two films being adapted for their live appearances. After a meeting with director Adrian Maben, the band decided to make their own concert film, it would differ from other concert films from that time as it was recorded in the Ancient Roman Amphitheater in Pompeii, Italy and while the band would be playing live, other than the film makers and crew, the audience consisted of the ghostly ruins and echoes of days long past. The filming at Pompeii took place between October 4-7 1971 and would get its first screening September 2, 1972 at the 26th Annual Edinburgh Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The band would slightly rework the film and have another release in 1974 before fading into obscurity, largely due to the band’s popularity during the mid to late 70’s thanks to mega selling records such as Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Hear. The movie would get a second life, so to speak, in the era of video cassettes and DVD’s. Back in 2003 Hip-O Records released Live at Pompeii The Directors Cut, a re working of the film from Maben, the subsequent cut was a mess and featured no new footage but just extra crap thrown in and was boring to watch. Thankfully the bonus material gave us a version of the original concert film. It is this version that I used for my comparisons. This new release from no label gives us a lavish three DVD Collectors Edition with three different versions of the film in an attempt to be the definitive version of Pink Floyd at Pompeii.
DVD 1 (63:30) Restored 1972 Original Cut; Intro, Echoes Part 1, Careful With That Axe Eugene, One Of These Days, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Mademoiselle Nobs, Echoes Part 2, End Credits. Bonus Track; 1974 Movie Trailer
The first DVD is a restored version of the original film, sans the extra footage of the band in the studio as they worked on the Dark Side Of The Moon, the picture quality is excellent, just slightly below the official version and the sound is excellent as well. The beginning is the same, a montage of footage of the Pompeii ruins and the crew setting up the equipment. This version cuts straight to the chase while the HIP-O version has a black screen for a period of time with a heart beat that leads into the Pompeii footage. The main difference in this portion of the film is the use of the large lettering that gives the movie title, company introductions, band members etc. in the larger bolder font where on the official release it is a smaller, different font style. The second curiosity is the placement of One Of These Day before A Saucerful Of Secrets. The movie trailer bonus is of a high generation as the picture is somewhat blurred and the colors a bit washed out but is really great to see and a nice addition. There is no menu for the DVD, you simply hit play and it starts but there is chapter marks for each of the songs. The DVD has a picture of them playing in the Roman Amphitheater ala Echoes.
DVD 2 (83:42) Restored 1974 Cut / 1974 Theatrical Version; Intro, Echoes Part 1,On The Run (Studio Footage), Careful With That Axe Eugene, A Saucerful Of Secrets,Us And Them (Studio Footage), One Of These Days, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Brain Damage (Studio Footage), Mademoiselle Nobs, Echoes Part 2, End Credits
This is the version I first saw, sometime back in the mid 80’s on VHS, again the picture is crisp with slightly better color than the first DVD. The sound is excellent and the intro begins with the black screen and heart beat that leads into the Pompeii footage. The director and band both felt the movie was too short; to reconcile this Maben would film the band at Abbey Road Studios in January 1973 while recording Dark Side Of The Moon and also featured brief interviews with the group. I did read online that the studio footage was staged as the band had already completed the music and were in the mixing stage, it does make sense as it is largely just them doodling around with finished music over the top. The interviews and Diner footage is a good watch though. Again there is no DVD menu but chapter marks and the DVD has a picture of the band playing in the Roman Amphitheater at dusk with the large lights on.
DVD 3 (71:40) Japanese Home Video Edition 1983 Betamax Raw Superstar Series (TE-M507); Intro, Echoes Part 1, Careful With That Axe Eugene, One Of These Days, A Saucerful Of Secrets, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, Mademoiselle Nobs, Echoes Part 2, End Credits. Bonus Tracks; 1977 VHS Raw (M60C-107760); Intro, End Credits. 1983 Promo Only VHS “83 Toei Video Sampler No. 1” In-Store Promo Video
This version of the film is a somewhat questionable addition to the set. It is a Betamax copy and while that form of video tape was known for a superior picture, it simply does not compare to the first two DVD’s. It is simply not as sharp and the colors are not as vibrant, the sound is excellent though. It does feature the original cut of the film like on the first disc. The DVD does have bonus features, the first are from a 1977 VHS tape that features the intro and end credits. The intro is similar to the first DVD and between the film title and producer graphics there is something in Japanese on the screen in pink letters. The intro is cut at the beginning of Echoes and the end credits pick up at the songs conclusion and fades early into a blue screen.
The In store sampler is excellent, it is Japanese in origin as there is much Japanese writing overlay with footage taken from A Saucerful Of Secrets. No DVD menu but chapter stops for all tracks, the DVD has a picture of Roger Waters’ silhouette while attacking the gong ala Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.
The packaging is simple, all three DVD’s housed in a clam shell style case. The insert is adorned with Pompeii graphics and stills from the movie as well as pictures of the source tapes and even a small advert for the movie’s canned screening at the Rainbow Theatre, the set also includes a numbered sticker. Live at Pompeii is a film I watch a couple times a year, it remains the most comprehensive footage of the band pre Dark Side and for this reviewer is extremely relevant in the history of Pink Floyd, IMO this release does not replace the Official version but is more a companion piece, one that is certainly recommenced for die hard Floyd fans.