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Category:    Home > Reviews > Music > Rock > Comedy > Spy > Satire > The Beatles in “Help!” (DVD-Video)

The Beatles in “Help!” (DVD-Video)

 

Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: B-/B*     Film: B-

 

 

Though it does not get as much respect as its predecessor, Richard Lester’s second film with The Beatles is as important as the first.  The 1964 hit A Hard Day’s Night may get all the credit, but Help! (1965) turns out to be just as significant and influential as the first film, which has a tendency to be a bit overrated despite how important it is.  The problem is that there were such high expectations for the film and it should have been outright better, but the comedy was only mildly good throughout and the storyline spoofing the first few James Bond films never comes together.

 

However, this is not so bad that it is like the many usually bad Elvis Presley films before his 1968 comeback that it is just zero storyline with hit or miss music numbers.  Instead, there is still as sense of consistency throughout the film which is now somewhat politically incorrect, until the band sings seven more now-classic hits.  The storyline is about a ring that brings death to all those who wear it and Ringo now wear the ring.  (“Ring”-o, get it?)

 

A religious cult is after him and the band, making repeated attempts to get it back.  Let by Clang (the immortal Leo McKern) with the help of the beautiful Ahme (Eleanor Bron) intend to get the ring back by hook or by crook.  Though the plotting is thin, the energy of the piece, Beatles themselves and great supporting work by ace comedy actors like Victor Spinetti, Warren Mitchell and Roy Kinnear make this more interesting than it is often given credit for being.

 

Of course, the music is the highlight and while George Martin and Ken Thorne are sending up John Barry Bond music, the band delivers classics like the title song, You’re Going To Lose That Girl, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, The Night Before, I Need You, Another Girl and the tour-de-force of the film, the Fab Four trying to ski in the brilliant Ticket To Ride sequence.  Having the band in color and colorful performances of all kinds is still the main attraction and that alone is reason enough to cheer that this film is finally available in an upgrade worthy of the most successful band of all time.

 

Capitol Records has taken over the rights and distribution first handled by United Artists, than more recently by MPI and at one point, The Criterion Collection issued the film in the old 12” LaserDisc format.  Now comes a DVD set that will be a revelation for a band who caused a music revolution.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 1.75 X 1 image was restored frame by frame in a digital 2K (2,000 lines of digital progressive HD) upgrade and the results are pretty good, though there are a few problems with the presentation here.  The film was made and issued in EastmanColor and most of the character and vibrancy of that format at the time has been retained, but the image can sometimes be too soft in more than a few shots, while the text that flies across the screen in various colors during the film can looked more aged, meaning the restoration team should have not been so purist about them and tried to make those letters look more distinct.

 

As for the sound, the film was originally monophonic, but the original sound stems have been cleaned up and stereo masters of the instrumental music and Beatles hits have been added.  The PCM 16/48 2.0 Stereo sound is very good, but no match for the discreet DTS 5.1 mix that really delivers the film in grand form.  Those who loved the 5.1 mixes on the recent Beatles Love DVD (from the special DVD/CD set that even included high definition MLP 5.1 sound) will be most satisfied with the 5.1 on the songs here.  The combination is great, with the DTS offsetting some of the picture limits.  We hope Capitol will consider issuing this in HD-DVD and/or Blu-ray because the 2K remaster would shine more and if the sound could be DTS MA, it would be stunning.

 

Extras in this 2-DVD set include a production notes booklet from the movie with an appreciation by Martin Scorsese inside the DVD case.  DVD 2 has The Beatles in Help! documentary (running a half-hour) about the making of the film with Richard Lester, cast & crew including exclusive behind the scenes footage of The Beatles on set, a missing scene featuring Wendy Richard, the terrific & too-short Restoration of Help! look at the process of fixing the film, Memories of Help! With the cast & crew reflecting on the making of the film, two US theatrical trailers and one in Spanish and four 1965 US Radio Spots hidden in disc menus.  All you need to do is hit the up-cursor and highlight the band members in silhouette and you’ll get to choose from four such ads.


*A big Deluxe Package box set loaded with additional extras is also available and includes a reproduction of Richard Lester s original annotated script, eight lobby cards, reproduction poster and a 60-page book with rarely seen photographs.

 

 

This new version should start to change the perception of the film for the better.  This would also be the last time the band worked with Lester or did another live action film like this.  Henceforth, it would be animated features, concert films and one TV experiment wackier than anyone expected.  As for Help!, it was one of the first full-color Rock film works ever made, inspired The Monkees, inspires endless imitators to this day and has aged very well.  That makes it one of the top reissue titles of the year.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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