It’s difficult to overestimate just how much the Beatles accomplished in very little time. The band released their first LP in 1963, and in only two years they had made five more, starred in two popular films, and taken over the entire world. By 1965, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were a more famous foursome than the Gospels, even if they weren’t quite bigger than Jesus. Help! (1965, 1 hr., 32 mins., G) — the Fab Four and director Richard Lester’s madcap follow-up to A Hard Day’s Night that’s now available on Blu-ray — catches the Liverpudlians right at the crossroads of their early moptopped superstardom and their later psychedelically influenced musical reinvention. Appropriately, the movie itself recalls both the loose-limbed goofiness of their previous film and the colorful surrealism of Yellow Submarine, resulting in an absurd, infectious, and frolicsome romp that seems to be making itself up as it goes along. The plot concerns an evil cult’s attempts to sacrifice Ringo after he gets a mystical ring stuck on his finger, but really that’s only an excuse to string together a series of freewheeling scenes of exquisite nonsense that fuses the British anarchisms of Ealing comedies, Lindsay Anderson, and Benny Hill. The Beatles admitted that they had filmed much of it in a fog of marijuana smoke, and Lester smartly manages to tune the movie to their wavelength rather than vice versa, a tactic he discusses in a new 30-minute documentary included in the EXTRAS. As a film, Help! is a bit of a crazy train to nowhere, but it’s worth having a ticket to ride. A-
Help! Eleanor Bron, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon (Everett Collection)
Genre: Musical, Comedy; Starring: The Beatles, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Leo McKern, Victor Spinetti; Director: Richard Lester; Author: Marc Behm, Charles Wood; MPAA Rating: G; Distributor: United Artists (MGM)
Posted January 17 2015 — 5:04 PM EST
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