Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stop Worrying! HELP! (on DVD) Is On The Way!

Help! will be released on DVD on October 30th. This is great news, and it's nice that there will be another Beatles' product to go under a million Christmas trees.

I don't know how long it's been in the Apple pipeline, but I have to wonder if the post-Neil Aspinall regime stepped it up. If there is truth in that assumption, it's a good sign of things to come.

There will be two versions, but it's the deluxe one that interests me: A copy of the script, lobby cards, a poster, and a 60-page book with photos and text. Not sure what the price will be, but it ain't gonna be cheap.

Both versions will also contain a missing scene. I assume it's the one where they go to see Sam Ahab, Teacher of Dramatic Arts. I've seen pictures of the scene here and there, and the segment is included in the paperback novelization of the film.

I'm glad we're getting a robust treatment of my favorite Beatle film.

Wait a minute...better than A Hard Day's Night!? Not a lot better, but I certainly enjoy it more.

I'm not alone in that thinking. Most of my Beatle friends prefer Help!. And Richard Lester (director of both films) does, too.

Popular opinion (critics, books, essays, even the Beatles' themselves) have always held up A Hard Day's Night as a great film. It's a perennial on those lists of the 100 Great Movies and repeatedly referred to as the Citizen Kane of jukebox movies (was it the Village Voice that coined that phrase?). And that's fine. The more accolades the Beatles get, the better.

But the film snobs have always dismissed Help! and labeled it as a weak follow-up with a silly plot. According to John Lennon, the Beatles became "extras in their own movie".

Personally, I see the movies as complimentary bookends. The first film, in black-and-white, shows them in a (sort of) realistic, day-in-the-life situation. Help! flips it upside down and puts them in colorful James Bondish global adventure.

It has magnificent color, better pacing, and the musical segments are more interesting. I've always thought the closing concert scene in A Hard Day's Night was dull, a rehash of countless TV performances we'd already seen and was tacked on because the filmmakers felt they had to put in a segment of them performing.

So instead of dissing it, it's more appropriate to say that Help! is the other great Beatles movie (Yellow Submarine is a barley watchable children's picture or something to watch if you're high. Let it be is entertaining for historical reasons, but the rooftop concert is the only great sequence. Magical Mystery Tour was a TV show, so I'm not counting it as one of their "films").

Help! was a big hit in it's day, it's in glorious color (remastered for the DVD) and has great songs, It's laugh-out-loud funny and shows the Beatles as cooler and better looking than A Hard Day's Night did (better hair, better clothes). And as established stars (no more "flash-in-the-pan" worries), they ooze a laid-back confidence that they didn't have in their first picture.

Check out the Beatles official site for the trailer.


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