Incredibly, I never got to see Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. I was twenty-one then and an entrenched Beatlemaniac. I had heard the rumors, read reviews of the time and decided not to risk sullying the magic I had grown to an adult with, by watching it. Never even gave the thing much thought in the ensuing years though I loved the title track and have never gotten over I AM THE WALRUS, which I will discuss in a moment.
A week ago, I saw several copies of this DVD on a grubby little stall at a small-town open market on the Australian coast. They were selling (or rather just sitting there) for $4.95 (That's two pounds (GBP) or $US3.80) and I thought to myself "How sad!" Tonight I watched it.
Quite obviously it was meant for me to see this so long after the film was made. I am now, given the passing of almost forty years, able to view objectively what in 1967, I (and most every other detractor) could not possibly have done.
It isn't a masterpiece - yet there are inspirational flashes in this film that highlight what the Beatles were and what they stood for. FOOL ON THE HILL though amateurish by comparison with today's techno film clips, is beautiful in its raw simplicity - especially if one is to listen to the lyrics as the clip invites you to do. Ringo comes across as being by far the most natural performer of the group - his manner and smile are infectious. It is no wonder all the girls loved him. He has no pretences, no gratuitous pleasantries. With dear old Mr Starkey, what you see is most definitely what you get.
The years of idiotic complaints as to the film's relevance and purpose! Its a Magical Mystery Tour for God's sake. There IS no purpose. There IS no relevance. It's the Beatles Home movie - so what if it's nuts? If you don't like it - go film your own.
Much of the cinematography is truly inspired and far from hack work. Following the tour guide's almost twilight-zone suggestion "Now Look to the Left" can be seen some amazing photographic FX (for its day)of ice floes, mountains, far distant fields, blinding sun etc, as they kaleidoscope and blend. Does not this remind you of anything? How similar are some of those shots (the mountain slopes especially) to Kubrick's trip through the Stargate - released two years later!
And then we have The Walrus! That song I believe was so far ahead of its time production wise on its release - we STILL haven't caught up to it! For me, it - together with STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER, are the two greatest pop songs ever recorded, or ever LIKELY to be recorded. Watching the I AM THE WALRUS sequence tonight I can hardly credit how emotionally I was affected by it. SEEING the thing, added a dimension that simply a turntable cannot. Again, some of the lyrics are awesome in their contemplation - far from the ravings one attributes to John Lennon occasionally. I wonder how many people WOULD have cared, watching a crowd kicking Edgar Allan Poe? How many people reading this I ponder, have even the slightest clue who he was? If you have access to this DVD I would suggest you watch this sequence again....even in its fading seconds it is innovative brilliance.
Sure they couldda ditched BLUE JAY WAY - the undisputed low-point off the film and really only with any shareable purpose if you are stoned of your face, But it's OK..it's where George WAS at that time and it stands as an epitaph to that fact.
The strip show sequence is a hoot and almost makes up for George's little turn. Lastly I am curious as to what so many people have been on about complaining that the mop tops "do nothing" when they descend the staircase? What exactly were they supposed to be doing. Its just a light-hearted film clip (complete admittedly, with totally out of sync dance moves)of YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW...another nostalgic McCartneyesqe piece from a period long dead!
In the upshot, what MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR represents, is a totally unshreddable memory. A time-capsule without peer, a showcase of Beatle madness, innovation and lovable tomfoolery. It may not be art but I didn't hear the "f" word, no one was raped, I didn't see a terrorist with a bazooka and I'm wondering just what humanity has in fact achieved since that bus pulled out of Liverpool that one magical day.
Given the option, I really would prefer to spend a few hours on tour with Mr Buster Bloodvessel than Bin Laden!
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