Sunday, July 15, 2012


The latest upgrade in The Beatles catalog is the 1968 curiosity that remains one of their more debatable projects.  Stuck owing one more film after A Hard Day's Night and Help!, there was no decent script, and no great desire to do another one.  The answer came from the same American company making the silly but profitable cartoon TV series, offering a full-length movie with not too much needed from the Fabs.  They did what they had to, which was come up with some of their silliest songs (Hey Bulldog, It's All Too Much), handed over some old ones (Eleanor Rigby, Sgt. Pepper), and filmed a very short live-action piece for the ending.  The rest was handled by a mixed group of British and U.S. producers, writers, animators and voice actors.

This new issue is the first version to make it to Blu-ray, and it's a top job, with the brilliant colours of the pop-art drawings never looking better.  The soundtrack sounds great in 5.1 audio as well, and you purists can even switch over to mono.  There are some cool bonuses, including some original storyboards, even a couple that weren't used in the end.  There's some commentary and interviews with people who made the movie, and all housed in an attractive package.  Altogether, everything that can be done to spruce up a 42-year old movie has been done. 

What they can't do is make it better, and time hasn't been kind to the silliness inside.  Well, not that it was ever a huge favourite.  While the animation is a treat, the story is a muddle, part childish whimsy (the Blue Meanies have always been the best thing here) and the rest aren't-we-clever 60's hipness.  It might have helped if the several writers had managed to get the four personalities of The Beatles right, but apart from British accents and mod clothes, they could be any sarcastic group.  Ringo's voice actor does a decent job, but the guy doing George isn't close.  And the worst thing about it is that it's kinda creepy.  Laughs, even chuckles are few, and outnumbered by the weird moments.

Still, they price these things now so reasonably, it's almost worth it for the Blu-ray quality, bonuses and the reminder of what it was like.  And Eleanor Rigby sure sounds good coming out of all those speakers.

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