During a brief lull in new concert DVDs to review, I finally got around to reviewing Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii (The Director's Cut) DVD. I first picked this one up on VHS back in the mid-'80s and can still hazily remember staying up many a night, after a long night of partying, and letting the hypnotic strains of "Echoes" whisk me back in time to an ancient Roman land, until the sleep fairy eventually brings me back to reality. If you thought that listening to Dark Side Of The Moon while buzzed off your rocker was a real mind-fuck, just go ahead and give this baby a try.
A little about the history of Live At Pompeii. The video was shot in October of 1971 amongst the 2000 year old ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater in Pompeii, Italy. Additional footage was also filmed at a Paris studio over the next few months, and this was all around the same time that Pink Floyd would release their sixth studio album, Meddle. The original 1972 theatrical release of this film was only 62 minutes long and featured performance footage from the Pompeii amphitheater and the Paris studio. A second version was released in 1974 on VHS that featured additional footage of the band working on their legendary follow-up album, Dark Side Of The Moon, as well as some band interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. This version ran about 80 minutes, and was also later released on laserdisc.
Live At Pompeii (The Director's Cut) is a 2003 DVD re-release from director Adrian Maben that includes additional interview footage, some new computer generated graphics, loads of NASA video, and more non-performance related video and images of Pompeii. This version has a running time of 92 minutes, and, thankfully, it also includes the original theatrical release as an extra feature. It is just a shame that it didn't include the 80 minute, 1974 version, which, in my opinion, is still the best version.
The original version really presents a uniquely eerie mood, as if Stanley Kubrick had filmed it just before doing The Shining, and that element mostly gets lost with this director's cut. Maben splices things up with too much interview and behind-the-scenes footage, which, although fascinating, ruins the mood and flow of the original performance footage. Take the opening sequence, for instance. The original begins masterfully with a completely dark screen, as heartbeat-like percussive sounds gradually increase in intensity until nearly two minutes in when images of the Pompeii ruins are finally shown. This is followed by an amazing wide angle shot of the entire amphitheater, from above, which shows the crew setting up all of the equipment.