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Beginner’s Guide to Beatles Films
13 March 2019
10.21pm
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Jane_Lane
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Okay fans of the Fab Four, ready to be surprised? I’ve never seen a single Beatles film. What would you suggest and why? I have seen snippets of Yellow Submarine .

13 March 2019
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The Hole Got Fixed
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Hmmm good question! I'd go for Help !. I think it and A Hard Day's Night stand up as good movies in their own right, but Help ! (to me at least) doesn't feel like they're shoe-horning the songs into the movie (*ahem* the 'concert' with half the songs in AHDN *ahem*)

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14 March 2019
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Ron Nasty
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Welcome, @Jane_Lane.

I have to disagree with Holey as I find Help the least satisfying of their four cinema outings, with the group spending much of their time filming stoned out of their gourds and later commenting that they felt like extras in their own film.

A Hard Day's Night  follows the adventures of the group as they journey from Liverpool to appear on a television show in London, allowing songs to be fitted in in a more naturalistic way (rehearsing for the TV show, the concert) rather than just breaking into song in the most odd situations (which, myself, I think of as "shoe-horning" the songs into the film). There was a reason it was referred to as the "Citizen Kane of jukebox movies" and it set a new benchmark for what a film starring a "pop" act could be. Easily the best of their films, in my opinion, and the most culturally influential, it offers a glimpse of Beatlemania from the inside in an almost Cinéma vérité-style.

Help is, basically, a chase movie as Ringo is sent a ring by a fan who's also a member of an Eastern religious cult which marks those to be sacrificed with the ring. This makes Ringo a target for the cult, and leads to a chase around the world as they try to avoid Ringo becoming the sacrifice. While hugely entertaining, in my opinion, it is one of the few occasions where they follow the industry standard instead of pushing the boundaries, as they did with AHDN , making it a shallower movie.

Yellow Submarine  was something they agreed to reluctantly, fearing it would be like the US The Beatles TV cartoon series they hated as some of the same people were involved, but believing it would fulfil their three-film contract with United Artists. Unknown to them until later, it didn't, but they got more behind the film as they saw it would be very different to the US TV series, even agreeing to a live cameo at the end of the film. One of the most important and influential animation films of 1960's, it broke the Disney mould that dominated, and was a great film to boot.

Let It Be  started out as a TV project - them rehearsing for their first live show in years to be shown alongside the concert. The concert, as originally envisioned, never happened, with them only making it as far as the roof, and the project switched from TV to cinema in order to fulfil their UA three-film contract. Long unavailable, it is a far better film than most expect based on its reputation. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies) is currently in the process of making a new film from the footage which is expected in time for the 50th anniversary of the original film's release next year, with the original film also being re-released in some way.

Magical Mystery Tour , their 1967 Christmas TV special, was a bit of a car crash, though still innovative, influential and pushing boundaries, its lack of proper storyline and structure can make it an infuriating and confusing watch, but still worthwhile.

If interested, I'll go on to comment on some of the post-Beatles official film projects alongside the more interesting and important unofficial films based in the Beatles world.

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The Beatles Non-Canon Poll List

14 March 2019
1.46am
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Von Bontee
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Excellent overview! 

Welcome to the forum, Jane Lane! heart Check out some of the threads on the Beatles movies for more detail...

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14 March 2019
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I agree with Ron Nasty’s overview, but while it is historically true that Magical Mystery was a car crash, the main reason for this is that the movie was shot in color, but shown on TV in black and white, so that the viewers didn’t get the psychedelic effect. Also, I doubt people were getting stoned with mom on Boxing Day when it was shown.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

14 March 2019
11.40am
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50yearslate
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My advice is to leave Let It Be and Magical Mystery Tour for later; watch Help , AHDN , and Yellow Submarine first, they're much more enjoyable. I'd recommend watching A Hard Day's Night first, then Help , then Yellow Submarine

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14 March 2019
11.54am
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Starr Shine?
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Oh and before Hard Day's Night, there is another film where some camera guys followed them on tour. Pretty good.

https://youtu.be/52nwiTs7bk8

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14 March 2019
1.45pm
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Starr Shine? said
Oh and before Hard Day's Night, there is another film where some camera guys followed them on tour. Pretty good.

  

Oh yes that one is great. It's called The Beatles' First US Visit or something like that.

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14 March 2019
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Von Bontee
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Ooh, yeah, all that Maysles brothers footage is astounding to watch! I don't know how easy it is to see the most complete version of the film - it's been compiled into different forms with differing cuts.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!"
-- Paul McCartney

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14 March 2019
5.19pm
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50yearslate
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Von Bontee said
Ooh, yeah, all that Maysles brothers footage is astounding to watch! I don't know how easy it is to see the most complete version of the film - it's been compiled into different forms with differing cuts.

  

I have the DVD, and then there's some extra stuff on YouTube.

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14 March 2019
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I've got that DVD too.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

14 March 2019
7.31pm
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Dark Overlord
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Great post @Ron Nasty but from what I've heard, Yellow Submarine did fulfill their contract with UA and Let It Be was shot out of contract.

Personally, i consider Yellow Submarine to be their best film, mainly because i love the animation and they were able to use previously released songs as opposed to having to write all new songs.

A Hard Day's Night is also a great film, the black and white really helps it.

Let It Be is okay, it's essentially a documentary with no narration and the stars never directly talk to the camera that ends with a live performance.

Magical Mystery Tour is their worst film from a critical standpoint, mainly due to the lack of a plot. Also, it really pisses me off that a band besides The Beatles have a musical number and on top of that, they play it during a strip tease, imagine how many little kids were watching at the time. Still, the I Am The Walrus scene is amazing and i'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Help ! is their worst film from a personal standpoint. While it's a better film critically, it's boring and was just an excuse for The Beatles to go on vacation.

Eight Days A Week is a great documentary but they really should've left the old footage in black and white.

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14 March 2019
7.34pm
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Dark Overlord said
Great post Ron Nasty but from what I've heard, Yellow Submarine did fulfill their contract with UA and Let It Be was shot out of contract.

I thought it was MMT that was shot out of contract?

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14 March 2019
8.33pm
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Ron Nasty
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It remains a disputed point, @Dark Overlord. I grew up reading many books saying that YS did not fulfil their UA contract because the contract was for three films that featured The Beatles, while YS featured animated Beatles voiced by others apart from the live cameo at the end. In more recent times it has been suggested that the cameo at the end met the contract stipulation of having the actual Beatles appear in the film.

Until there is more clarity (probably not coming until Mark Lewisohn's third volume) I tend to stay with the more familiar account.

UA had a three film contract with them for cinema films, @50yearslate. MMT was a television special (not their first) made for the BBC and had nothing to do with UA. Their film contract with UA did not prevent them making shows for television broadcast.

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The Beatles Non-Canon Poll List

14 March 2019
8.37pm
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Ron Nasty said
It remains a disputed point, Dark Overlord. I grew up reading many books saying that YS did not fulfil their UA contract because the contract was for three films that featured The Beatles, while YS featured animated Beatles voiced by others apart from the live cameo at the end. In more recent times it has been suggested that the cameo at the end met the contract stipulation of having the actual Beatles appear in the film.

Yes, that's what I'd heard.

UA had a three film contract with them for cinema films, @50yearslate. MMT was a television special (not their first) made for the BBC and had nothing to do with UA. Their film contract with UA did not prevent them making shows for television broadcast.

  

That's what I'd heard (though I thought the contract was for four films and LIB was the fourth, guess I was wrong though.) Thanks for clarifying RN. apple01

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15 March 2019
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I would personally rank the films this way:

AHDN

Yellow Submarine  

Magical Mystery Tour

Let It Be

Help

The documentary about the first US visit is of course not a Beatles film in the way that we are discussing, but I find it more entertaining than Help .

There is, however, one scene in Help that is my favorite from any Beatles film.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

15 March 2019
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The thing about Help is that it is pure entertainment. You don't watch it to marvel at the cinematography or the artistry or the story or whatever. You watch it for two reasons:

1. It's the freakin' BEATLES.

2. It's hilarious. 

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15 March 2019
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One or two laugh out loud scenes.

The rest is like watching bad TV when you’re 12.

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

15 March 2019
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No offense but I disagree. The acting may be crap but there are so many amazing moments, like the Fiendish Thingy and the watch store and the marching band and the Ticket To Ride scene and the fight scene and the bathroom scene and... shall I go on?

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15 March 2019
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It just doesn’t hold my attention. Too formulaic. But as I said, it had the funniest scene of any Beatles film. Don’t want to give spoilers though. 

"This Beatles talk bores me to death.” —John Lennon 

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