Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Help! DVD Review

Written by General Jabbo

Less than a year after making their big screen debut in A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles returned to the silver screen – this time in color – with Help!

Directed by Richard Lester, who also directed A Hard Day’s Night, Help! tells the story of an eastern religious cult about to perform a sacrifice, only to find their sacrificial ring has gone missing. They discover it is in the possession of Ringo (who can’t get the ring off his finger) and stop at nothing to try to get it from him.

The cult chases Ringo and the rest of The Beatles from London to the Austrian Alps to the Bahamas in an attempt to get the ring. They try to bite it off his hand, pull it off his finger when he drops off mail in a mailbox, and saw off his hand while The Beatles dine at a restaurant. The cult members are not very good thieves and their theft efforts prove humorous. Along the way, The Beatles encounter a mad scientist (played by Victor Spinetti, who was also in A Hard Day’s Night as well as Magical Mystery Tour), who after attempting to remove the ring from Ringo’s finger, decides he needs the ring for himself as with it he could, dare he say it, “rule the world.”

Seven classic Beatles songs are featured in Help!, including the title track, “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “I Need You,” and “Ticket to Ride.” The musical sequences could all stand alone and, in that sense, are very much a precursor to MTV. The film has been restored and has never looked or sounded better with remastered audio presented in PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Oddly enough though, no Dolby 5.1 track is included.

Disc two contains a number of special features, including “The Beatles in Help!” – a documentary about the making of the film, the restoration of Help!, memories of Help!, a deleted scene with Wendy Richard, three theatrical trailers, and radio spots from 1965 which are hidden in the menus. While there are no interviews with the surviving Beatles or George Martin, the documentaries are interesting nonetheless. Also included is a booklet with outtake photos, an introduction by Lester and excellent liner notes by Martin Scorsese.

While John Lennon once said that the song “Help!” was his personal plea, none of the problems that would plague the band just a few short years later are evident in the film. Help! is one of the last looks at not only the group in its “mop top,” innocent glory, but also a very different London pre-“Summer of Love.” The times were about to change for both very quickly, however.

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