Magical Mystery Tour (1967 TV Movie)
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With that said, it is still worth a look just because it is the ONLY place you will get see a performance of I AM THE WALRUS. The other music video type segments include FOOL ON THE HILL, George Harrison's BLUE JAY WAY, YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW and FLYING. In conclusion, it is a must have for the die hard Beatle fan but, don't expect a HELP! or A HARD DAYS NIGHT kind of performance. Just sit back, enjoy the music and don't even try to figure out the rest.
First, think about the album cover, with these grown-ups dressed up as psychedelic circus animals. It is one of the creepiest covers for a pop record ever conceived of. I used to find it silly, now I see something darker and twisted in it that isn't all peppermint drops & incense. Then there are the songs themselves, amongst my favorite of The Beatles' catalog and utterly timeless examples of the psychedelic years' popular culture. Watching the band mime "I Am The Walrus" is a singular, unique experience: It was never performed or staged anywhere else by them. And George's utterly bizarre film for "Blue Jay Way" has gotten better and more mysterious over the years now that I have the patience to actually sit still long enough to see what he wanted to show us, and some of it is creepy as hell.
It's impossible to get around how deeply the music and imagery is infused with a seeming preoccupation with death, or mortality at any rate. It makes sense too since this was the band's first project after the death of their manager Brian Epstein at just 32 years of age. Where I used to look upon "Magical Mystery Tour" as The Beatles' attempt at Ken Kesey psychedelic twaddle I now look upon it as a subtle reaction to their grief and loss at having lost their friend & mentor right as they ceased needing him minding their daily affairs. The irony must have been unsettling even to Paul, who was largely responsible for this project and approached it as a way to keep themselves busy in the wake of Epstein's death. This was their expression of grief and is very unsettling because of it.
It's easy to chortle about the film's excesses being an example of how the boys needed someone to tell them "No" or how it was their first flop or misstep. I think that at the time it was impossible for their public to view the work and not dwell on the imperfections, which are numerous. Now in hindsight it's disturbingly odd, deliberately opaque and so purposefully unfocused that they must have had no idea what they were doing but had faith in themselves & proceeded as best they could anyway. It's probably exactly the movie the psychedelic age had coming to it too, waking everyone up from the party with a killer hangover and palpable sense of queasiness.
As others go to great lengths to point out, not everyone is going to enjoy this, even hardcore Beatles fans. I love the comment from another contributor of how they lost friends after showing this at a gathering: It's that kind of an experience. You'll either be fascinated by it or repulsed, as one should be by any example of artistic expression. What many may have a hard time accepting is that The Beatles were capable of making such an artistic statement, which is too bad for them. I say it's another brilliant masterpiece, though if you're looking for a trippy love fest you should probably stick with "Yellow Submarine", and if you want mop top foursome madness just watch "A Hard Day's Night" again. But for daring viewers who are content to let things be what they are this is a marvelous little head movie that may just creep you out if you let it.
(P.S.: I enjoyed the 'coming-down-the-stairs-scene' a lot at the end of the movie)
The Beatles have an incredible ability to make movies and sing...while maintaining the classic "Beatle" style. The best song in my opinion is "I am The Walrus" because of the odd costumes and the feeling of worrylessness (is that a word?). It just makes all of your other fears and worries go away. Anyway, this is a great movie...one of my favorites.
And that's what film is all about.
Like "A Hard Day's Night" a mere three years earlier which captured a day in the life of the Beatles, this film shows what the Beatles were living and experiencing then. Imagine it: you're a famous British rock star who captured the world with Beatlemania, you're on your own now, you're watching and helping shape pop culture around the world, you're sampling the sexual, drug, and youth revolutions of 1967, and you want to capture it on film.
The Beatles tried to do that with this film and it's hit and miss. But where else will you see a performance of "I Am The Walrus"? You can see where each of the Beatles were heading: John wrote the spaghetti dream sequence and was in real life deeply into surrealism. George plays "Blue Jay Way" and his Indian mysticism comes through. Paul contributes "The Fool On The Hill" and supervised the film shoot. Ringo is giving the acting job in the film and went on to star in other 1960s films such as "Candy" and "The Magic Christian".
Many people have dismissed this film as a failure and a mess. Watch through the eyes of the Beatles and it's not so bad after all. When I first screened this movie, I watched it at least six times trying to find out the plot, etc. I failed but had fun watching it. And that's the whole point.
At times the movie is even hilarious but perhaps too permissive adaptation of some scenes makes the overall atmosphere a bit too lame to be wholly enjoyable. It is sad that people will usually just remember the lame scenes only and forget funny ones. Therefore the overall impression will become negative to many viewers.
My score of this film is actually a combination of two separate categories: people who don't consider themselves as a Beatles fans they will get nothing more than just few cute tunes and for them this is a 4/10 movie. For Beatles fans this is about 7/10 for they will find many scenes and references certainly as entertaining as ever. Still even the fans can't be subjugated to enjoy everything and therefore not full score for even them.
There isn't any plot to speak of here; we see Ringo Starr and his ever-quarreling fat aunt Jessie boarding a special tour bus consisting of the three other Beatles and a zany cast of misfits and oddballs. From there, things get crazier and crazier as the bus travels from one absurd situation to the next. Some of the highlights involve Ringo and his tubby aunt's constant bickering, which is amusing to watch, and a surreal dream sequence written by John Lennon which has himself in the part of a maniacally grinning restaurant waiter who literally shovels heaps of spaghetti onto the table of the overwhelmed fat woman. One thing that may always be counted on within any Beatles movie are great songs, and here we're treated to early MTV-like vignettes of John's I AM THE WALRUS, Paul's FOOL ON THE HILL, and George's BLUE JAY WAY. In truth, the I AM THE WALRUS segment along with a special grand finale featuring the four Beatles spoofing it up by doing a dance routine down a ballroom staircase to the tune YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW are worth the price of admission alone. **1/2 out of ****
If I try to describe the film's plot, I really can't. It's all a rather incoherent stream of consciousness piece that looks like the four guys just chucked ANYTHING into the film--and in some cases, I am pretty sure this is what happened. In between some terribly unfunny comedy bits, there are a few music videos and in many ways it seems like a much, much lower budgeted version of Paul McCartney's later vanity film, "Give My Regards to Broad Street".
As I sat watching this film, I looked through some of the IMDb reviews. Some hated the film or saw it as a disappointment. Others, however, were such die-hard fans of the group that I honestly think a sizable minority would have loved the film if it consisted of the Fab Four picking each others' noses for 60 minutes. The film is an artless mess and demonstrates that occasionally extremely talented people delude themselves into thinking this talent extends to many other aspects of their lives. In this case, Paul McCartney appeared to think he was creating something new and different....and in a good way. Well, it's not--at least not in a good way. Now it is NOT because of the surrealistic aspects of the film. Some folks can make this work (such as the folks who did "Monty Python" just a year later) but if NOT done right, it can come off as very amateurish and puerile---like this film. Any way you cut it, it's a terrible film despite some nice songs. But, when it comes to their songs, the ones used in this movie look like castoffs from their other movies--stuff that is far from their best work. The same can be said for the entire movie, actually. The film earns a 2, as the music, at times, is a nice break from the rest of this mess.
I have no idea what the Beatles were thinking when they made this, and I'm sure neither did they. "Magical Mystery Tour" has the loose story of a group of people on an English tour bus that's out of the ordinary. Strange things happen on this bus, like random music videos and really random dreams of food and love. I guess making this movie was a way to show off some of the Beatles' songs, but I would've much preferred the music videos to sitting watching this. It makes too little sense for it's own good. The reason this deserves a 3, is because I did enjoy some of the songs (which were spread out, making us wait through nonsensical sub-plots), and even though it was totally random, some of the daydreams amused me. The I am the Walrus segment of this is so strange, with an already out there song, now made in to a music video where they were walrus heads and cut to random fires and John Lennon dressed as the egg man. One of the main positives for this, is it is short, running at only around an hour, so you don't have to sit through much. I'd really only recommend this to Beatles' fans, or for people that want to really experience a bad acid trip. For me, this is much worse than the already lacking Yellow Submarine film, and is almost unwatchable.
My rating: * 1/2 out of ****.
In any case, while it is indeed not a great movie, it is a strange one that bears watching at least once so you can say "Wha??" right along with the other Beatles fans. It's like a car accident... and we all know how fun those are to look at.
The premise of the movie was cooked up by Paul McCartney on an overseas flight, and shared with John Lennon. The idea (and ultimate paper-thin plot) was to scrounge up actors, Apple Corp. employees and others to join them on a "trip" via bus, improvise characters and situations, and film everything as it happens. Unfortunately... nothing much actually happens on the bus, and as John Lennon later lamented, it was "... the most expensive home movie ever made." John's quote sums up a lot about this lackluster production... poor film quality, terrible "acting", rock-bottom "improvisation" and a definite feeling that there was no way to end this movie easily.
Despite this unbelievably poor idea, there are moments of surreal abstractions that make it worth watching. The movie features the only filmed version of Lennon singing "I Am The Walrus", which watching it makes one think that MMT was the casts off of Sgt. Pepper.
Many have speculated that this production would never of happened if Brian Epstien had been alive at the time to stop them. It is also interesting to note that their greatest album (Sgt. Peppers) was followed by what many considered their worst (Magical Mystery Tour).
Many of the sketches feel like those Monty Python would be doing a few years later, so credit must be given for being ahead of its time; perhaps if the sketches were a bit more polished and given a vaguely coherent link it would have been better or even good. I was also hoping for a few more of The Beatles songs. Over all I was quite disappointed; perhaps because when I sat down to watch it I'd actually expected it to be quite good... as far as TV specials goes it is far from the worst though... I'd watch this again before I dared watch 'The Star Wars Holiday Special' again! On the plus side the recently restored print does look good.