in Review

Beatlemania: At the Movies

I really didn’t have anytime to do this on thursday but since nothing else happened here’s my “Beatles’ movie post”. So The Beatles were bigger than curly fries back in the late 60s and with such charming and hip personalities (not to mention such incredible musical talent) it was really a no brainer to put them in movies. Appearing in five motion pictures (though Yellow Submarine was more or less a cameo) The Beatles had their fare share of success and failure up on the silver screen.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Directed by up and comer Richard Lester (who would go on to direct Superman II) and written by playwright Alun Owen (although it was a loose script) The Beatles film debut was a smash; from it’s chic black and white cinematography, to it’s loose comedic rhythm, to it’s amazing soundtrack, A Hard Day’s Night not only captured these funny four Liverpudlian chaps at their best but captured an era.

Opening with an iconic sequence of the fab four running from a pack of screaming fans, A Hard Day’s Night follows several days in the life of John, Paul, George and Ringo (Who especially seems to capture the spotlight) as they prepare for a London TV show. Showcasing the bands goofiness, not to mention musical talent through a handful of highly entertaining musical interludes, A Hard Day’s Night was quite unlike anything at the time and was a highly influential work.

At times it almost feels as if you’re watching a documentary as opposed to a straightforward feature. Who would of thought that the lack of a distinct narrative could work in a film’s favor? Sandwich that in between a collection of almost every visual gag in the book and you got yourself a pop culture phenomenon.

Help (1965)

A year later the Fab Four and Richard Lester teamed up once again to make the entertaining although less mature film Help. Filmed in color with a larger budget and exotic locations, Help was inspired by the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup and although it has some nice gags and good tunes it definitely lacks in the story department.

So this time round there’s this evil cult after a sacrificial ring that has fallen into Ringo’s possession. (Ringo and rings get it? Ha that’s kind of funny.) Though after the essential setup the film basically becomes an hour or so of happy nonsense and although it has it’s moments, it pales in comparison to the brilliant A Hard Day’s Night. I used to love this movie as a kid (though not as much anymore); silly segments like “The Exciting Adventures of Paul on the Floor” after Paul is shrunk, or the 30 second intermission is good for a laugh, not to mention all the cult’s amusing attempts at retrieving Ringo’s ring.

Basically it’s good for laugh and good entertainment for the little ones but not much of a movie. If anything check it out for the tunes and slick visuals, it’s a bit pants but worth a bit of a peak.

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Hit with that filmmaking bug once again, The Beatles along with director Bernard Knowles decided to hit the road for their next film, if you can call it a film. Made for television and released in December 1967, Magical Mystery Tour was widely panned but still manages to have a few memorable scenes.

The whole idea here was take a bunch of unusual people, rent a bus and then see what happened. Unfortunately nothing happened and if it wasn’t for some of the musical numbers, this would just be 52 minutes of amateur stoner filmmaking.

I don’t have a lot to say about this one but personally I’ve always found that the musical sequences make this film worth watching. I enjoyed watching the band jam along to “I Am the Walrus” and the ending number “Your Mother Should Know” including a nice little dance by the band themselves. So I’d really only recommend this one for the die-hard fans.

Yellow Submarine (1968)

In 1968 The Beatles hit to the sea with the psychedelic animated film Yellow Submarine. While they didn’t have much involvement with the project (though I used to be convinced that they did) aside from five new songs and a live-action cameo appearance, Yellow Submarine would prove to be another triumph.

Set in the magical land of “Pepperland” after a surprise attack from “The Blue Meanies”, the mayor sends a captain by the name of Old Fred to go find help in his flying yellow submarine. So who else does Old Fred seek help from but Liverpool’s very own fab four? Which is followed by a quite magical journey.

Now it may sound wacky but this is a surprisingly entertaining film with some fun vibrant visuals and great music. Although it’s animation may seem limited by today’s standards, it almost works in the film’s favor going along well with the unique drawings.

I hear Robert Zemeckis is trying to put together a motion capture remake for 2012 and I actually think that could be pretty cool.

Let it Be (1970)

Last but not least was the entertaining if not somewhat ill-fated documentary Let It Be, which followed The Beatles over a four-week period trying to record an album. What was supposed to be a project chronicling the band’s creation of an album and possible return to live shows, it unwittingly became a document of the beginning of the band’s break-up.

Though there is an underlying tenseness here (mostly just between George and Paul) Let It Be is still an entertaining film with excellent music. Released after the announcement of the band’s breakup, it was officially the final original Beatles release. I can only dream that it will someday make it’s way to dvd.

And that’s I’ll she wrote, aside from the countless film’s made about the bad without their involvement. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been pretty mediocre but if you must watch one, I suggest the 1979 made-for-TV movie Birth of the Beatles directed by Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi). It’s a little cheesy but it does a great job of chronicling the band’s early years, unfortunately it’s not available on dvd, though you can easily find it online. So that’s all folks, now I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink.