Saturday, December 29, 2007

Help! on DVD

I must've been a good boy this year, cuz I got the deluxe Help! DVD box set for Christmas.

As quick overview: The extras on Disc 2 are a bit slim. There is some cool premiere footage and news clips, including one of them accepting some kind of award on the "house" set. John seems surprising happy in the footage. It's nice to see that, considering he would later refer to that period as being not so happy.

A lot of "memories" from Richard Lester and Eleanor Bron. We also get some interviews with Neil Aspinall, Victor Spinetti (who, in his brief appearance, comes across as kind of a kook), the make-up/hairdresser and other crew members.

Surprisingly, the feature about the restoration is actually interesting. But they all fly by pretty quickly, and one is left wanting more. Sadly, the "deleted" scene with Sam Ahab is only shown with stills. I guess the original footage is gone. But they do provide a lengthy explanation of the scene and have tons of photos.

The booklet is sparse, but it does have a nice tribute by Martin Scorsese. Who woulda thought he was such a fan of Help!?

The coolest extras may be the nice movie poster and eight lobby cards. All done on high quality paper, suitable for framing. And the lobby cards have that old fashioned "hand painted" look that we old-timers remember so well. They look like the real thing, only smaller. Which is good, actually. They look better small.

There's also a copy of Lester's script with his hand-written notes. A super item to have, especially for such an ecclectic film.

Personally, I don't care that there aren't more interviews. Pretty much everything you want to read about Help! has already been written and talked about. Maybe they realized that, too, and hence the nice quality "goodies". I do, however, wish Lester would've done a commentary track on the film.

Ah yes. The film. It looks gorgeous. The color is great. So rich, like a comic book cover. And the sound is super, too. I also dug watching it with sub-titles, since there was always a bit of dialogue here and there that wasn't clear.

Another must have for Beatles fans.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a "White Album" Christmas....

Growing up during the Beatles' heyday, there always seemed to be a new album just in time for Christmas. Beatles '65, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour and the "White Album" were all released in December.

And solo albums also loom large in my Christmas memories. Two of the most popular and still loved solo LPs, All Things Must Pass and Band on the Run were under a lot of trees in '70 and '74 respectively.

Double Fantasy was released just a week or so before John Lennon was killed on December 8th, 1980. That Christmas was a sad one. A day didn't go by where you didn't hear one of his new tunes on the radio or see his picture on a magazine cover. His super Playboy interview, intended as promotion for the new album, was released, too. Double Fantasy was his first new album in five years, and that made it even sadder, knowing he was "playing the game" again.

The Beatles and Apple finally got back on the Christmas bandwagon, and a lot of stuff since the 90's has come out during the Holiday Season; Live at the BBC, a couple of the Anthology CDs, 1, Let it be...Naked, Capitol Albums Vol. 1, and Love. Not to mention the remastered DVDs of A Hard Day's Night and Help!.

But my most vivid Beatles' Christmas memory is from 1968. I got the "White Album" and a new record player (that's what we called them back then, not "stereos").

After getting over the shock of John Lennon's latest look, and a poster that was a radical departure from the "mop top" days, the "White Album" soon became my favorite. I couldn't get enough of it.

That Christmas, my hometown of Portland, Oregon was also hit with the most snow in my memory. It snowed like crazy, and kept snowing. And living in the hilly corner of town, we got more of the white stuff than anybody else.

I remember playing outside alone one night, sometime during our school break, and two "older kids" were walking by and talking about "Rocky Raccoon", which I was familiar with since I had just got the record. I'm not sure if I made the connection of the "White Album" (with it's stark white cover) coming out at the same time that my neighborhood was being blanket in piles of white snow, but I do now. And that tiny moment, overhearing those two kids discussing "Rocky", surrounded by a sea of white on a dark night, is fused into my Beatle-lovin' brain.

I'll always remember that "white" Christmas and that wonderful album that still fascinates and surprises me every time I listen to it.

So here's hoping you have a Very Beatles Christmas...and that the new Help! DVD or some other cool Beatles' item is under your tree this year. I'll be looking for mine!