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This affectionate spoof of The Beatles rise to fame and fortunes after
their split was a collaboration between a couple of Pythons, some of
the SNL cast, and Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Band. It's an interesting
combination, which grew from bits in the Rutland Weekend Television
With a soundtrack featuring the likes of 'Ouch!' (instead of Help!); 'Get Up And Go' (instead of Get Back), and an animated 'Cheese and Onions', you just know this is going to be silly. The thing is that the songs by Innes are just brilliant, as memorable as anything the Fab Four did.
But The Rutles are The Prefab Four, so let's concentrate on their story. Eric Idle has the most roles to play as well as being the Rutles' version of Macca, and narrates the thing throughout. Neil Innes is the Lennon equivalent, complete with cute Scouse accent, while John Halsey (as Barrington Womble, forever known as Barry Wom) is the Rutles' Ringo, and Rikki Fataar is the George equivalent, Stig. Their story basically equates to the Beatles' - except that their manager Leggy Mountbatten goes to Australia, where they have to resort to contacting him through the Ouija board (and by letters); they form a company to produce other acts - which fails - and end up playing their last gig on a London rooftop. There's even a spoof of the broadcast which featured 'All You Need Is Love'.
The SNL guys - Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi - fit in just fine. Alongside them are Mick Jagger and Paul Simon playing themselves talking about the Rutles ... as well as a sneaky appearance from Python friend and financier George Harrison as a reporter.
If you're a Beatles fan or a fan of anyone connected with this, you'll love it.
Eric Idle's now-classic spoof of The Beatles grew out of his mid-seventies
BBC TV series Rutland Weekend Television, which featured a fictional rock
group called the Rutland Stones. A bit of creative thinking (and the genius
stroke of bringing in the brilliant musical parodist Neil Innes) later, and
the Rutles were born. This film, made on a tiny budget but displaying a
greater range of ideas and imagination than a dozen current-day Hollywood
blockbusters, tells the story of Dirk, Nasty, Stig and Barry, the 'pre-fab
four', from their beginnings at the Rat Kellar in Hamburg through their
first hit singles, their movies A Hard Day's Rut and Ouch, Che Stadium, tea
addiction, Sgt Rutter's Only Darts Club Band, Surrey mystics, the lawsuits,
the marriages, Rutle Corps and the final break-up of the band, with a
glimpse of their post-fame lives.
The film is an acquired taste, requiring a certain knowledge of the Beatles' career and a liking for Eric Idle's droll sense of (mostly verbal and very British) humour, but if you enjoyed THIS IS SPINAL TAP, then this should bring a smile to your face. Despite it being Idle's project, he is very nearly upstaged at every turn by Innes, who not only offers a letter-perfect pastiche of the Beatles' songs (the highlights being 'Doubleback Alley', 'Piggy In The Middle', 'I Must Be In Love' and 'Cheese and Onions'), but also an uncanny performance as Ron Nasty - the way he walks, talks, slouches, poses and arranges his features are almost scarily close to the real Lennon, particularly his delivery of the line "I'd like to own a squadron of tanks". Everyone will have their own favourite moment, but the superb recreation of the psychedelic animation style of YELLOW SUBMARINE wins it for me every time. The cameos by Mick Jagger and Paul Simon are rather pointless, and they do disrupt the fantasy, but George Harrison is spot-on as a journalist and the Saturday Night Live players are good in their cameo roles. How could anyone resist Bill Murray the K?!
Although parodies never actually rise to the level of their victim they
may be lethally funny at least. Some days ago when I was watching the
Beatles Anthology, I suddenly started to remember scenes from this
movie and I noticed that was laughing to myself. This only indicates
how 'The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash' works other way around too.
Although the Rutles is a very funny comedy itself it does require that you know both Beatles and Monty Python relatively well. Otherwise you might lose something very essential. On the other hand 'The Rutles' can be watched many times again and again without losing a bit of its fascination and there aren't quite many films that can compete with that quality - and even less comedies! For a comedy there is a noteworthy section of famous persons presented as the supporting cast. When making 'The Rutles' Eric Idle was at the top of his fame and he received really good support for this film which is one of those ultra rare examples on how to create Pythonesque comedy and do it even better than the Monties.
If you're a fan of the Beatles or of Monty Python's Flying Circus
(and I happen to be both), it's hard to dislike this classic take-off of the
Beatles phenomenon masterminded by Python's Eric Idle and composer Neil
Innes that lampoons the Fab Four so precisely that the attention to detail
for Beatlemaniacs will be even more impressive than the
Some of the gags are priceless ("Their first album took twenty minutes to record. Their second took even longer."), but that's nothing compared to Idle's spoofing of familiar Beatles set pieces: the John & Yoko chaacters press conference for peace held in a shower, the Rutles looking "shocked and stunned" in their reaction when told of their manager's demise, and the playful banter with the media (Q: Do you feel better after seeing the queen? Rutle: No. You feel better after seeing the doctor. Rutle: Not my doctor, you don't.) And, in the traditional Python style, it's a documentary that spoofs documentaries. In one scene, narrator Idle finds himself chasing after a tracking shot that goes speeding away without him.
But the thing about it is that really satisfies on the level of the obsessed Beatle fan who knows absolutely everything there is about the Beatles' story. The Kaiserkeller is referenced as the Rat Kellar, an old hotspot crawling with rats, the Beatles' detested music publisher Dick James gets a dig ("a music publisher of no fixed ability"), the thievery going on at Apple, Ringo's fascination with the I Ching, and even Allen Klein appears (John Belushi, wearing Klein's trademark turtleneck sweater). Amidst all that, the true highlight (as was the case with the Beatles' movies themselves) is the music. Neil Innes' parodies of Beatle songs are dead-on in style and substance without ridiculing or plagiarizing them ("A Girl Like You" is close to "If I Fell", but not quite). He also gives a more-than-credible performance playing the John Lennon character. On the negative side, I thought Idle kind of glossed over the disintegration of the band- a period ripe for comic parody, and the bit about Idle in New Orleans interviewing old blues singers who supposedly inspired the band is a total throwaway. Besides, weren't the Beatles inspired by R & R pioneers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard rather than Muddy Waters? I think that's Idle's one slip-up to Beatle history.
This movie will be compared, perhaps unfavorably, to This Is Spinal Tap. I think they're about even. But for the definite word on Beatles (or Rutles) commentary, this is it. And the songs are even better than the jokes.
Rags to riches story of Dirk (Eric Idle), Barry (John Halsey), Stig (Rikki
Fataar) and Nasty (Neil Innes): The Rutles. We follow their journey from
humble Merseyside beginnings in Liverpool's Cavern Club to global
superstardom under the secure (if somewhat shaky) hand of their manager,
'Leggy' Mountbatten. This intriguing and revelatory voyage to the highest
echelons of the pop world and subsequent (and almost obligatory) mass
litigation features several contributions from celebrity fans of the
four; ready to reveal to the waiting world exactly 'how it
Brilliant mock-umentary stands as a glowing beacon to the Beatles (including a self-deprecating cameo from producer Harrison) with an astute collection of marvellous mickey-takes of the fab's more pivotal moments performed by four actors clearly having the time of their lives. (Idle and Innes are inspired). All this interweaved with Innes' uncannilly excellent soundtrack (inc. the sublime 'Let's Be Natural') makes for a must see film for true devotees of Beatles and comedy alike.
A perfect blend of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live in this mock-umentary about the greatest rock group of all time, The Beatles. Eric Idle is hilarious as the interviewer/narrator, with cameos from some big-named stars, such as Mick Jagger, George Harrison, John Belushi, Michael Palin, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels, Gilda Radner, Paul Simon and more. An instant classic if you love Monty Python, SNL, or the Beatles....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A memorable sketch in the second season of 'Rutland Weekend Television'
was a parody of Richard Lester's 'A Hard Days Night' ( 1965 ). Shot in
monochrome, it featured a Liverpuddlian pop group called 'The Rutles' -
consisting of Dirk McQuickly ( Eric Idle ), Ron Nasty ( Neil Innes ),
Barry Wom ( John Halsey ) and Stig O'Hara ( Rikki Fataar ). When Idle
hosted an edition of the Python-influenced 'Saturday Night Live' a few
years later, he showed the sketch as the pay-off to a running gag about
The Beatles coming together again. It caused a sensation. 'S.N.L'
viewers sent in Beatles' album covers, amended to read 'Rutles'.
Idle and 'S.N.L.' producer Lorne Michaels then teamed up to make a special programme about the group, a spoof documentary charting its rise and fall. Idle played a number of roles, including an inept interviewer. In one of the best visual gags, he is talking whilst walking down a street, then has to run to keep up with the camera car. Most of the 'S.N.L.' cast joined in the fun, such as Bill Murray as loud-mouthed disc jockey 'Bill Murray The K', Gilda Radner as 'Emily Pules', John Belushi as 'Ron Decline' ( based on the Beatles' manager Allen Klein ). Idbe brought along most of the 'Rutland' gang, such as Gwen Taylor, Terence Bayler ( as 'Leggy Mountbatten' ), Bunny May, Henry Woolf, and Carinthia West. Several real-life pop stars appeared as themselves, including Mick Jagger and Paul Simon ( not to mention George Harrison! ). Idle's Python colleague Michael Palin cropped up as the litigation conscious 'Eric Manchester'.
The reaction was positive, although some die-hard Beatles' fans failed to get the joke. "The final impression conveyed by this dismal programme was that of the talentless sneering at the talented" was how one such person summed up 'All You Need Is Cash' in a letter to 'The Radio Times'. He'd missed the point completely. Eric Idle and Gary Weis' film is not a mickey take of the group themselves, but rather the media circus that surrounded the Beatles. Archive footage is seamlessly blended with new material to create an exhilarating comic portrait. Those who saw Tony Palmer's 'All You Need Is Love' series will appreciate Idle's spoof even more.
Special mention must be made of Neil Innes as the Lennon figure, Ron Nasty. So brilliant were his Beatles pastiches ( particularly 'I Must Be In Love' and 'Doubleback Alley' ) that they were released as an album, then on C.D. ( Lennon objected to 'Get Up & Go' on account of its similarity to 'Get Back'. It was not released until years later ). And as for 'Yellow Submarine Sandwich', well, it takes your breath away!
Not all of the film works, for example, the joke made of Brian Epstein's death manages to be both tasteless and not particularly funny, but this remains Idle's finest post 'Python' project to date.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I adore this show and cannot recommend it highly enough to Beatles
fans. Not only does it wonderfully de-mystify certain elements of the
Beatles legend by bringing them down to earth with a resounding THUD!,
but is surprisingly respectful of the reasons why Beatles fans 'luv'
them so much. Even the persistent "Paul Is Dead" rumor gets the Python
treatment, with no offending party from the cluttered baggage
compartment of annoying Beatle minutiae going unmolested.
The starting point is the music, composed by Monty Python affiliate Neil Innes, who also sang/performed on the recordings and plays 'Ron Nasty', sort of the evil twin Doppelganger to John Lennon. I am surprised to see comments from others relating their disappointment with his songs, which is sort of the point. I am afraid they were snookered into expecting actual substance -- My take on it is that Innes was drawing attention to the mundane nature of Beatles music in general, and how perfect it was for their time. Everyone was so stoned back then that the ordinary-ness sort of got wafted up in a billowing cloud. People assigned meanings or depth to songs that were essentially just pop tunes about falling in love, taking dope, enjoying nature and questioning authority. And once you think about it, things haven't really changed that much. Innes is only saying that pop music itself is usually disappointing, which is funny 'cos it's true today even more than back then.
My favorite songs from the Rutles -- "Doubleback Alley", "Let's Be Natural", "Cheese & Onions", and especially the wonderful "I Am The Walrus" parody "Piggy In The Middle", which even has a backwards secret message -- are remarkably aware of their source material, not only in terms of melody but lyrical content. By not trying to match what the Beatles did but to almost mirror their intent to state the opposite, Innes created some genuine classics that almost stand on their own without the Beatle comparisons. Familiarity with the source material is what makes it hilarious: The chanting of "This Little Piggy Went To Market" at the conclusion of "Piggy In The Middle" couldn't be more appropriate, equating Lennon's original word imagery with childhood rhymes and nonsense words. Which is precisely what Lennon had done in the first place. Throw his critics & scholarly fans a curve ball by constructing a song out of complete gibberish, then daring them to waste their time trying to find a deeper meaning. And amazingly, that is *exactly* what they did. Innes deserved an Emmy + a Grammy.
The look of the show is probably even more perfect. All four of the Rutle performers actually do physically resemble their Beatle counterparts and use it to their advantage. Eric Idle's mugging, eye rolling and cloying as 'Dirk McQuigly' is the closest thing to a cheap shot in the piece. One can understand why Sir Paul McCartney may not have been too thrilled by the portrayal, which is not exactly flattering: Dirk comes off as an idiot. Neil Innes appears and sounds remarkably like John Lennon at times -- I love how he bobs up and down during the Ed Sullivan and Command Performance sequences, as well as his gleefully sadistic Ron Nasty character, kicking a sound technician off the roof before the "Get Up And Go" performance, holding a press conference to inform reporters they are "daft", or stating that his life's aspiration is to "Command a battalion of tanks." One of the biggest laughs to be had is the global TV hookup for "Love Life", which underscores how ridiculous the original Beatles piece was, especially those stupid, colorful psychedelic costumes. They look 100% silly, and after seeing it once you'll never look at the video of the "All You Need Is Love" performance the same way.
Yet as with the musical content, the ridiculous nature of the 1960's itself is what Eric Idle & Neil Innes were focused on rather than making fun of legendary Beatles incidents. The board tapping at Bogner section is a brilliant poke at the mysticism fad that the Beatles found themselves wrapped up in, and one of my favorite moments is where Ron Nasty and his Nazi wife sit in a bathtub and comment the fascinatingly perverse truism that "Civilization is nothing more than an effective sewage system." Which works not only as a perfect parody of the John & Yoko 'Bed-Ins' and Bagism philosophies, but is also a pretty damn accurate assessment of modern life. And then there is the "Piggy In The Middle" performance, which is a sight to behold for any fan of "Magical Mystery Tour", a masterpiece so ahead of it's time that not even the Beatles seemed aware of what the point of it was. I love the double-takes that the masked Dirk McQuigly gives to the costumed nuns and Meter Maids who meander through the set at the end of the song, sort of like they wandered into the shot from a totally different film. Which is a pretty accurate observation on what "Magical Mystery Tour" was all about: Spontaneous happenstance whereby ordinary, stupid, childish elements were juxtaposed on film to create a sort of visual tension that defines psychedelic surrealism better than any other 1960's media event I can think of. That Innes & Idle had figured that out by 1978 is nothing short of remarkable insight into popular culture.
But the bottom line caveat on THE RUTLES is that if you are pre-disposed against The Beatles, Monty Python, 1960's nostalgia and unapologetic non politically correct humor, this probably won't be the CITIZEN KANE of rock parodies -- THIS IS SPINAL TAP still holds that brass ring. But for those of us with an appreciation for those things this is a wonderful diversion and actually could have been expanded to a feature length film & not overstayed it's welcome. They left us wanting more, and that's showbiz. "Hey Diddle Diddle" indeed.
I just picked up this Dvd and I can't stop watching it. It brought back such good memories. The first time I saw this I must have been 13 and I had just become a Beatles fan. I was like "what the ...?" I then bought the soundtrack on vinyl ( which I still play ) Its just great to see all those people up there having fun, Neil Innes and Erics Idle are brilliant.
Absolutely hilarious spoof of The Beatles. Eric Idle's finest 70 minutes and a spin off of his mid 70's TV show "Rutland Weekend Television" (Please BBC repeat this series). The songs are so clever - "I Must Be In Love' could've been an actual Beatles single it's that good. Neil Innes wrote the soundtrack which was deemed so good it was released as an album and 2 singles were released in the UK. The film follows so closely the actual events of the Beatles and George Harrison was so impressed with the script that he agreed to appear in the film. "Piggy in the Middle" (with absolutely spot on John Lennon-esq lyrics) perfectly recreates "Magical Mystery Tour" or in this case "Tragical History Tour" and the Yellow Submarine cartoon section looks so damn good that it will have you looking out for it next time you watch that film. "Love Life" is a perfect recreation of the television event of 1967 and by this point Neil Innes looks and sounds exactly like John Lennon. Everything is covered here, Lennons infamous "Bigger than Jesus" quote and it even mocks Apple (a pealed banana.) My favourite bit is Eric Idle tracing the musical roots of the Rutles, talking to 'Blind Lemon Pie' and finding out he should be talking to the bloke next door is one of the funniest few minutes of film I've seen - especially when he goes round there... "He's lying, he's always lying. Last week he said he invented the Everly Brothers." It's pant-wettingly funny. Regarded as a cult item now this is right up there with Spinal Tap but this is so much funnier, if you love the Beatles (who doesn't?) then you need to see this, one of the cleverest and most affectionate spoofs ever made. Buy the album too - for a parody the songs are superb.
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