The Beatles in “Help!” (DVD-Video)
Picture: B- Sound: B Extras: B-/B* Film: B-
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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