The new Blu-Ray release of The Beatles' second film, Help!
, restores the witty and wonderfully shambolic film to its original luster. "We spent quite a lot of time on post-production," remembers Director Richard Lester, who also directed A Hard Day's Night
. "We took two frames of every shot in the film, put them up on a light box, and played around with color filters until we chose which filter we were putting in . . . we did it for every shot in the film."
, released in 1965, was--in its own way--a trendsetting film of its time with a plot that both celebrated and mocked the break up of the United Kingdom as well as touching on previously unspoken subjects such as urban class warfare, immigration, and the industrial complex. The Beatles played themselves ("We were bit players in our own film," recalled John Lennon) as a pop band on the run and under siege, with a soundtrack that mixed James Bond and rock and roll along with action sequences that suggest primordial versions of Monty Python's Flying Circus
, Saturday Night Live,
and Austin Powers (with a bit of Doctor Who
thrown in, too).
The Beatles' musical contributions were especially cool with an eclectic mix of loud bluesy guitars, bongos, electric piano, and three part harmony as well as the first recorded appearance of a Beatle owned Epiphone Casino
, too. The UK version of the Help
! soundtrack album featured "Yesterday" as the second-to-last song followed by the now Beatle-traditional album-closing R&B cover; a near hysterical version of Larry Williams' "Dizzy Miss Lizzie." Later in 1965, they would make their first cohesive LP--Rubber Soul-
-and Beatlemania and their fans would never quite be the same.
can be bittersweet in many ways. Beatlemania was becoming not-so-fun and downright dangerous and you can see that everywhere in the film. (Who but The Beatles would make a film telling their fans to chill out a little?) But Help!
never takes itself seriously and it gets better with age. Richard Lester was, in many ways, just as groundbreaking a director as The Beatles were for popular music and there's still nothing like it, old or new. Check it out.