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Wattstax [30th Anniversary Special Edition] [DVD] [1972]

Release Date:09/07/2004
Sub-billed as a "30th Anniversary Special Edition," the 2004 DVD release of Wattstax restored to circulation the film based around the 1972 Wattstax concert, mixing musical footage with scenes from the African-American Watts community and Richard Pryor comic routines. The DVD version is a notable improvement on previous prints on several scores. The soundtrack has been remastered in Dolby 5.1 digital; however, of greater importance, the original director's cut has been used. Actually, this doesn't change the movie much, but there's one crucial difference. Legal reasons prevented the use of Isaac Hayes' concert sequence, including "Theme From Shaft" and "Soulsville," in the original release, where a different song ("Rolling Down the Mountain") filmed on a sound stage to mimic the Wattstax environment had to be substituted. Now "Theme From 'Shaft'" is back where it belongs (complete with an introduction by Jesse Jackson), as well as "Soulsville." "Rolling Down the Mountain" is still present, too, though only as one of the supplementary extras. The main bonus features are the two commentary tracks, one featuring Chuck D of Public Enemy and soul historian Rob Bowman; the other track contains quite a multitude of voices, among them Isaac Hayes, Stax executive Al Bell, director Mel Stuart, cameramen, Little Milton, and members of the Bar-Kays, Soul Children, and the Temprees. The commentaries are worthwhile and informative but might occasionally frustrate some viewers in that there's actually not too much direct observation of the onscreen action. The Bowman-Chuck D track focuses on the musical and social significance of the event with some rather long pauses at times. The other track is more centered on first-hand memories of Stax and the Wattstax concert with the use of so many commentators necessitating a pseudo-narrator that briefly identifies each voice prior to most of the observations; it's a necessary device, perhaps, but doesn't lend itself to the smoothest of flows. Other less interesting extras include a longer clip of Albert King's song from the film, "I'll Play the Blues for You" (though this version still doesn't seem absolutely complete), and trailers for both the original 1973 release and the 2003 special-edition theatrical re-release. Altogether, it's still a rich viewing experience both for the opportunity to see some '70s soul performers in their prime and for the film's presentation of a slice of African-American urban life of the era.
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    Special Features

    • Audio and video commentaries by rap activist/musicologist Chuck D and music historian Rob Bowman
    • Audio commentary by Isaac Hayes, director Mel Stuart, executive producer Al Bell, and others
    • Rolling Down a Mountain: Isaac Hayes performs the original 1973 version's finale
    • Complete Albert King performance of I'll Play the Blues for You
    • Original 1973 and special-edition 2003 trailers
    • Closed Captioned


    This is a filmed documentary of a black music festival held on August 20, 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, sponsored by Stax Records and Schlitz Beer. The L.A./Watts riots demonstrated the community's urgent needs to the black show-business community. All the proceeds from the concert and this movie went to charity. Among the better-known performers were Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, The Staple Singers, Little Milton and Luther Ingram. Richard Pryor, at the peak of his form, hosts and provides scatological and satiric comic relief. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Isaac Hayes
      Isaac Hayes
    • Richard Pryor
      Richard Pryor
    • Image coming soon
      Rufus Thomas
    • Image coming soon
      Kim Weston
    • Image coming soon
      Roebuck "Pops" Staples - Himself

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.