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post #1 of 6 Old 11-13-07, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Help! DVD review

I recently purchased the two disc special edition of "Help!". For me it was a nostalgic and
entertaining DVD. I used to watch this and "A Hard Day's Night" in syndication every time
they were broadcast in the seventies. I didn't see it on it's initial 1965 release. I was only
nine at the time. I was a fan of the group
and purchased all of their albums but not a fanatic. In fact, I've never been a fanatic about anything and tend to rate groups,
movies and music objectively. The Beatles certainly had the greatest number of top quality
tracks compared to other bands but not every tune was a classic ("Mother Nature's Son")
and some records were disappointments. When I saved up my allowance to purchase the
White Album and discovered about half of the double vinyl set was junk I thought I'd been ripped off.
"Let it Be" was also a bit of a downer because it was obvious the group had splintered and
the magic was gone.

For those unfamiliar with sixties' rhetoric,
"Beatles" is not an intentional mispelling of the "Beetles" insect but refers
to the "Beats" or "Beatniks" of the fifties, namely, Jack Keruac and Allen
Ginsburg of "Beat Generation" fame. If you read Kuruac's
"On the Road" and Ginsberg's "Howl" it might make sense
to you...maybe. I guess I should add that Ginsberg wrote his
poem while confined in a mental institution and Keruac dropped out
of the movment. Anyway...into the
sixties when Beats became Beatles or hippies or yippies but later in
the eighties...yuppies. Don't try to figure it out. You had to be there.

Like all rock groups, the Beatles went through phases. From 1962 through 1965, they were
in their pop star phase. "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!" fit into that category.
I'm not sure they were comfortable with that depiction of them as created by director, Richard
Lester and screenwriters Alun Owen and Charles Wood. Lester 're-invented' them for moviegoers as four zany
Marx Brothers style comedians who wrote catchy tunes, didn't take anything seriously and
had a pun for every occasion. Add a bit of Monty Python silliness and you had some very funny and
entertaining movies even if it didn't represent their true personalities. The first film could be
classified as a 'mockumentary' along the lines of what Christopher Guest makes now. To
everyone's surprise, it received critical accolades and became a smash hit even though it
was a very low budget film shot in black and white in a cinema verite fashion.

Lester's follow up film, "Help!" had a bigger budget so he could shoot
in color with extensive location shooting and wacky opticals. Critics were less enthusiastic
about it when it was released but it was also a smash hit. John Lennon disliked it and was quoted
as saying he was an extra in his own movie. To a large degree he was right. Lester realized
that the only member who had a distinct and likeable screen persona was Ringo. Ringo came off
as a sad sack underdog in both movies and continued this character in later movies like
"The Magic Christian". Outside of performing the tunes, the others really didn't register. Paul
came close, is amiable and has a few good one liners. George is so reserved and quiet, he's
barely there and looks a bit disoriented much of the time. John is quite frankly too weird to
relate to. Part of the problem was that they were stoned through much of the filming.
In fact this movie and "Easy Rider" are companion pieces in that they are among the
few movies to feature actors who are actually under the influence on camera as opposed
to pretending to be.

"Help!" is basically a spoof of that other sixties' icon, James Bond. In this story Ringo has somehow
come into possession of a sacrificial ring of a bizarre eastern cult which will do anything to get
it back include killing him. Victor Spinetti plays a mad scientist (Blofeld?) who is also after the ring.
This thin premise is used for a series of 007 type chases in foreign locations with lots of
sight gags. Other than Ringo, the others don't have much to do except crack one liners and run around. Paul, John and George do register on screen when they're singing because they're in their element. Lester's choppy editing set the stage for the later rock videos shown on MTV. The supporting players, Leo McKern and Eleanor Bron ("Bedazzled") carry much of the comedy and keep the plot from regressing into total anarchy.

The songs are all great and catchy. As most Beatles fans know, Lennon and McCartney
wrote many of their tunes separately but agreed to dual copyright and credit.
Harrison and Ringo also did occasional songs. The seven tracks in this movie are the
title tune, "Help" (Lennon),
"The Night Before" (Lennon & McCartney), "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" (Lennon),
"I Need You" (Harrison), "Another Girl" (McCartney), "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" (Lennon) and
"Ticket to Ride" (Lennon). The vinyl album of the movie also had
songs that did not appear in the feature including "Act Naturally", "It's Only Love",
"You Like Me Too Much", "Tell Me What You See", "I've Just Seen a Face", "Dizzy Miss
Lizzie" and Paul's haunting solo ballad "Yesterday". The album contained some of
the James Bond/John Barry style background music used for the chases.

I'm not sure how this movie will work for contemporary audiences. They may not 'get it'
because it's so full of sixties cultural references. They'll certainly enjoy the tracks but
may not make sense of the plot or comedy. Lester's style of filmmaking is certainly
unique but linked to the era it was made in and might seem dated now. I like him
as a director for specific types of movies that are tongue in cheek like "A Funny
Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" , "The Three Musketeers", "Robin and
Marian". Unfortunately, he was not suited for adventure movies like the "Superman" pictures. His approach to the material was all wrong for the series.

A major attribute of this disc is the restoration. I have an archivist friend who inspected
"Help!" a few years ago and said the original camera negative was a mess. Faded, scratched,
broken sprokets and other wear. UA only used two labs. Technicolor for it's top features
(Bond movies, The Alamo etc.) and DeLuxe for their less prestigious movies. Obviously
they didn't have much faith in this film because it was sent to the latter which was a notoriously
sloppy facility at the time (not now though). Every release print of "Help!" was struck directly
from the master camera negative and there were no preservation elements made like black
and white separations. In the suppliments disc, they show how the film was fully restored
by first fixing up the damage to the negative, then reprinting a duplicate element on modern
estar stock 'wet gate' to fill in the wear. Then this element was further digitally enhanced
and fixed on a frame by frame basis. The film actually looks better now than it did in the
shoddy De Luxe color copies of the sixties. The original optical effects were dirty, dusty
and grainy from the beginning and now they look substantially better. The new transfer
is so detailed, you can see the heavy make up on the Beatles which was necessary because
they stayed up all night and had dark circles under their eyes which made them look older
than they really were. They also mentioned that the film was being mastered in high definition
although there's no release date or format listed as of now. The film was re-mixed to 5.1
stereo which was superior to the original mono mix.

The other suppliments include amusing interviews with Lester, Bron and Spinetti who all look
pretty good for their age. American born Lester seems to have picked up a slight British
accent after working there for so many years. There's also a somewhat cruel interview
with an actress whose scene was cut out of the film which was her only chance of screen

Many Beatles fanatics aren't fond of "Help!" and agree with Lennon's take on it but I'll highly
recommend it to general Beatles fans and nostalgic Baby Boomers. I'll also recommend Ringo's
best starring feature, "The Magic Christian" (1970) which is even weirder than this picture and quite funny if you like this type of humor. McCartney wrote the theme song, "Come and Get It", performed by
his protogee "Badfinger". This is the movie where Lawrence Harvey does a striptease to Shakespeare and Yul Brynner sings "Mad About the Boy" in drag to Roman Polanski at a bar. Check it out. It's released on DVD by Artisan. The transfer is full
frame but that's the way it was shown in England even though it was cropped to 1.85 for
US release. Don't bother with John Lennon's starring vehicle, "How I Won the War" (1967).
Lennon was a great musician but simply couldn't act or play a character in a narrative. He's
pretty dreadful in the film wearing his granny glasses for the first time although Lester's
anti-war movie does have it's defenders. Paul's late starring vehicle, "Give My Regards
to Broad Street" (1984) is also a dud and has few advocates. Quiet George became a
top producer with his Handmad Films which financed some of the Monty Python films ("Life of Brian").

As for the other Beatles movies, "Magical Mystery Tour" was shot without anything
being planned in advance and looks it. Some catchy songs and drug references.
It's completely incoherant as a narrative. "Yellow Submarine" also has great songs
and drug references. The animation is limited in the Peter Max style and the
story is basically a children's fairy tale. I've never been a fan of it and the
voices are not the Beatles themselves but imitators. "Let it Be" is a downer for the reasons mentioned above. In all three cases the records were better than the movies. Also,
the Beatles changed their hair styles from Ish Kabbible/Moe Howard mop tops (but well groomed) to
scraggly long cuts with lots
of facial hair and bizarre clothing. They began to look borderline grotesque, especially
John who resembled a monk. I guess I shouldn't criticize them too much because
I had the same type of shoulder length scraggly hair hanging in my eyes in my teens
and looked rather rediculous too.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 11-14-07 at 05:27 PM.
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post #2 of 6 Old 11-13-07, 02:03 PM
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Re: Help! DVD review

Hey Richard...for not being a Beatle fanatic you gave everyone a short biography on the Fab four.
I am a fanatic. Especially since I and my friends grew up with them and there music. They were part of the family. It was a sad day when Lennon was murdered and Harrison died.
Then there were two.
I have myself bought three of there lithographs. Revolver, Abbey Road and Sgt Peppers. I hope to fine the Beatle's 65 lithograph and add it to my collection. I do not know if you have that album or cd but it is highly recomended.
My wife and I recently came back from Las Vegas and had tickets for the Beatles Love show at the Mirage. It was Fantastic as well as nostolgic. A lot of people came out of the show singing. All good Karma.
Another thought is the Beatles Anthology DVD, Excellent! You can find it on Amazon. com pretty reasonable.
Also there is a group from New York called The Fab Faux. They are amazing. They do not imitate the Beatles by there dress or make-up but they do the most important thing you would want from that kind of band to there music exceptionally well. If they come to your home town I highly recomend you go to the show.
A Splendid Time is Gauranteed for All.

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post #3 of 6 Old 11-13-07, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Help! DVD review


Obviously from your screen name (their sixth US album), you are a fanatic. I guess it's a thin
line between fanatic and fan of which I am the latter. I guess a fanatic tends to be less
critical and/or more tolerant of all of their work including the post-Beatles music.

I have all of their vinyl albums from my adolesence and the CD compelation their tracks. I was
enough of a fan to have the Remco little big head dolls which my sister and I would move to the music while listening to the albums. There are of course differences in the vinyls and CDs. Some people prefer the smoother sound of analog than the extreme range of digital which is worthy of a discussion. I guess if I was going to continue their history I'd mention George Martin who is sometimes called the fifth Beatle. He was their early record producer who helped fill out and expand the sound of their tunes by adding other instruments because three guitars and a drum set tended to be a bit thin. At least based on the surviving performances on film or kinescope, the Beatles
weren't all that great live. The screaming fans didn't help and Lennon's voice was weak and
couldn't last an entire show. It was in the recording studio that they advanced the art of rock
I was on a train traveling to New York one morning when I saw the headlines that Lennon
had been murdered by a crazed fan which made me sick to my stomach back in 1980. This
was before the term 'celebrity stalker' was in the mindset of the culture. When George died
I was also sad, less for the loss of his musical talent than in his Handmade Films which was
a very unique independent production company.
In terms of their post-Beatles work, I liked McCartney's albums with Linda and Wings,
"Ram" being my favorite. Ringo had some decent hit singles. I enjoyed George's feature films
but not his later music. I didn't like Lennon and Yoko or his post-Beatles work.
He seemed to write better music under the influence of narcotics than under
her influence. He also played the 'fool on the hill' when he acted as front/dupe
for radical extremists like Jerry Rubin ("The Strawberry Statement") and
the Black Panthers at concerts which is why the Feds were hastling him. He
was a peacenik but they certainly weren't. That was the time when some flower children hippies changed into violent, activist yippies (aka 'Radical Chic').

I agree with you that the Beatles Anthology is worth watching despite the poor visual quality of the clips. It could use a digital clean up to remove the scratches
on the interviews.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 11-14-07 at 05:19 PM.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-14-07, 03:12 PM
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Re: Help! DVD review

Glad to hear from you.
Another DVD you might be interested in since you like Paul McCartney(as I do) is Paul's Live at the Cavern. Good old rock and roll. If you enjoy Pink Floyd David Gilmore plays lead guitar on the DVD. Also Run Devil Run by McCartney is another keeper on cd if you enjoy the band on the Live at the in the same except for MAYBE Gilmore.
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-14-07, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Help! DVD review

Thanks. I'll check em' out.
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-15-07, 12:12 AM
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Re: Help! DVD review

Thats interesting. Thanks for posting. I wonder if they rent it at BlockBuster.
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