Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a few words on the Blu-Ray release of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.
I don’t often review DVD/Blu content here. Harry’s got that pretty well covered. However, when I was asked if I’d like to check out this release in advance I couldn’t say no. My momma raised a Beatles fan in me. I’ve seen McCartney in concert a half dozen times and have a ridiculous amount of my iTunes dedicated to the Beatles and the post break-up work of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Magical Mystery Tour, both the film and the album, have always intrigued me because of their experimental nature. There’s hardly a narrative to the film, which feels more like an excuse for the band to fuck around and string together a bunch of weird scenes, whether it involves wizards, a waiter shoveling spaghetti or a bizarre Autumn romance. In a lot of ways this film plays as proto-Python.
It was a really interesting time for them as a band. While you can certainly track the evolution of their music from singles selling pop to what would become their signature sound from Rubber Soul to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper’s, Magical Mystery Tour was their real plunge into the deep end. It’s where they stopped flirting with weird and off-kilter and started going steady.
In an odd way you can watch the Beatles’ filmography and get a visual representation of their evolution as a band, too. A Hard Day’s Night (still my favorite) shows their carefree embracing of their place in pop culture, but doesn’t make it feel like they’re buying into their own greatness. Help! is just them trying to have a silly romp. Magical Mystery Tour is where the gloves come off and you see their divergent personalities still working in harmony. They’re comfortable with each other by this point, but not quite bored (I’m looking at you, Lennon!).
So, how’s the Blu-Ray? The Beatles (well, mostly McCartney) directed the flick extremely loosely, almost like a home movie. It was shot on 16mm, so you’re never going to get Baraka-like clarity, but this release is definitely the best looking this film has been available for the home library.
The sound is the real star of this release and when you have a 53 minute movie with songs like I Am The Walrus, The Fool On The Hill and Your Mother Should Know if there was one knock-out feature it should damn well be sound.
But the real ace in the hole for this release is a commentary track by Paul McCartney himself. There are two menu pages full of short docs, featuring behind the scenes footage and new discussions about the film with Ringo Starr and McCartney and some vintage interviews with Harrison and Lennon, but it’s the commentary track that’s the most interesting bonus feature.
McCartney has a surprisingly sharp memory about the process considering just how long ago it was and, let’s face it, how hazy that time must be for him. While the commentary is a little heavy on repetition (McCartney has about a dozen ways of saying “We made it up as we went along”), Sir Paul does give an entertaining insight on the production, the band and their playful tomfoolery. In particular, his discussion of the I Am The Walrus bit had me rolling. Apparently, they purposefully changed costumes halfway through to fuck with the Paul-Is-Dead conspiracy theorists. There was no hidden reason, they just wanted to throw a curveball at those more obsessive fans.
All in all, the disc is a bit pricey, but a must have for any true Beatles obsessive. The DVDs for all these Beatles titles (be it Help, Magical Mystery Tour or Yellow Submarine) going out of print has also made me paranoid that the Blus will follow suit, too, so I’m happy to have this copy sitting comfortably on the ol’ Blu-Ray shelf.