Before The Beatles Anthology, the definitive Beatles video documentary was The Compleat Beatles. On Magical Mystery Tour, the narration states, “The idea was to travel the English countryside in a bus filled with friends, actors and circus freaks, and to film whatever happened. Unfortunately, nothing did.” That pretty much sums it up.
Magical Mystery Tour is not as bad as you may have heard, but it comes close. It combines vignettes directed by the Beatles individually, with scenes of everyone on the bus having a day out. As such, it’s half film school project and half gonzo Carry-On film. It may have sparked a young Spielberg’s interest, but that doesn’t make it any more entertaining or understandable.
To say it doesn’t make any sense is to miss the point, which is that there is no point and it’s not supposed to make sense. The main problem is that it just doesn’t flow. And what is so frustrating about the film is that it’s so easy to see how they could have made it work. The idea of the four (or five) magicians keeping an eye on everything could easily have been used to explain everything that was going on, but as with most of the scenes, it ends up going nowhere.
The music is the redeeming feature. Paul is right to say that it’s the only time you can see John Lennon performing I Am the Walrus and that alone makes it worth watching, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band performing Death Cab for Cutie is pretty good too.
Although this is the first officially sanctioned release, there have been many bargain-bin editions of Magical Mystery Tour over the years and an old copy shows what an excellent job they have done of the restoration. The film looks beautiful. The new surround mix is effective but not intrusive.
On the extras side, there’s a commentary from Paul which has flashes of insight among a lot of things we’ve heard before. There’s the obligatory making-of documentary and a new interview with Ringo as he watches some outtakes. Two unused scenes are included – Nat’s Dream, which would have worked very well in the film, and Ivor Cutler’s ‘I’m Going in a Field’ which is just baffling. There’s also a previously unreleased clip for Hello Goodbye, some songs from the film re-cut from outtakes and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush by Traffic.
Highlight: I Am the Walrus
Feature: * *
Extras: * * * * *
Audio: Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1, DTS
|Generic el-cheapo copy|