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  Butterfly Ball, The Carnival Of The AnimalsBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Tony Klinger
Stars: Roger Glover, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, John Lord, Eddie Hardin, Vincent Price, Twiggy, Tony Ashton, Glenn Hughes, Neil Lancaster, Al Matthews, Helen Chapelle, Earl Jordan, John Lawton, Barry St John, John Gustafson, Judi Kuhl, Mickey Lee Soule
Genre: Weirdo, Music
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: On October the 16th 1975 a charity concert was held in the Royal Albert Hall and filmed for posterity by Tony Klinger. In aid of Bud Flanagan's Leukemia Fund and Action Research for the Crippled Child, it reproduced the concept album by Roger Glover, ex of Deep Purple, with many of the artists used on the project reappearing for the night. Based around the William Plomer and Alan Aldridge book "The Butterfly Ball and Grasshopper's Feast", it featured many different vocalists and an orchestra, and by all accounts a fine night was enjoyed by all.

Whether you'll enjoy the film of the event is another matter, as you might be better off listening to the album. To bring the music to life, Klinger decided it wasn't enough to simply present the footage of the evening as it was, but to add in various filmed inserts to illustrate the lyrics. The effect is a curious one, too juvenile for adults but not appealing to children, apart from children who like prog rock of which there can't have been all that many even at the time. And even with that in mind, the inserts are incredibly creepy.

But what would you expect with that master of the macabre Vincent Price appearing as the narrator? There he sits, bespectacled on a nearby balcony with his script, but for all the number of times he's called upon to speak, he might have well as phoned it in. Nevertheless, he does add that touch of the unnerving to the affair, enhancing the footage of Klinger-directed whimsy that conjured up imagery of musty nightmares with its actors dressed in animal costumes.

Remember that bit in The Shining where Shelley Duvall catches sight of two men in a supposedly empty hotel room, and one of them wears a mouse costume, or a bear one or whatever it is? Then imagine a whole host of such disguised performers, rodents acting out drinking themselves into oblivion at a bar, or a frog dancing with a young woman, or a near-blind mole with a cane making his way down a street and acting disturbingly aggressively. And so it goes, although it's not all random scariness as there are shots of kite flying and, erm, the Vietnam War.

How this was better than simply watching the concert, featuring as it does Ian Gillan in his first performance since leaving Deep Purple, or a beaming David Coverdale enjoying himself, or even Twiggy singing nervously, is something of a mystery. The music is pretty much a time capsule of sounds about to be torn down by the punk wars, so it's hard to feel involved with the production, but there are a few minutes of nice Halas and Bachelor animation to compensate for a Mad Hatter's tea party-style bit with the creature actors at the freezing-looking Ball of the title. Otherwise, I can see this as a neat way to keep naughty children in check: "Be good or we'll make you watch The Butterfly Ball again!"
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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