The Beatles’ fun & frantic second feature film, “Help!” is coming to Blu-ray, joining recent high-def releases of “Yellow Submarine” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”
The Blu-ray, out June 25 in the U.S., boasts a 5.1 soundtrack. Upgrades from the nicely done 2007 DVD set are the HD video and lossless audio. The hour’s worth of extra features all are ported over from the DVD, which also featured surround sound.
Meanwhile, L.A.’s Grammy Museum plans a major summerlong exhibit dedicated to Ringo Starr’s career with the Beatles and as a solo artist.
1965’s “Help!” debuted in the latter stages of Beatlemania, following “A Hard Day’s Night” — both films directed by Richard Lester. While “Help!” fell short of the classic status of the 1964 black-and-white musical, it remains a solid fan favorite.
The color film has aged well as an entertainment, with its moments of surrealism, goofy Eastern intrigue and, of course, fab songs such as “Ticket To Ride,” “The Night Before” and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.”
Musically, the movie captures the Beatles midway between their pure pop period and the grownup folk rock of “Rubber Soul.” George Harrison famously became intrigued by Indian music while shooting the scene in a curry restaurant, in which the eatery’s eastern musicians played “A Hard Day’s Night.”
The band made much of the film in a marijuana haze, history has revealed.
“We were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period,” John Lennon remembered years later. “Nobody could communicate with us, it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time,” drummer Starr added: “If you look at pictures of us you can see a lot of red-eyed shots; they were red from the dope we were smoking.”
The plot has the Fabs up against a religious cult bent on retrieving a sacrificial ring from Ringo’s finger — with or without the drummer’s finger. The movie, far more frantic than “A Hard Day’s Night,” has a James Bond vibe that somehow manages not to wear too too thin. “Absurd, delightful and exuberantly messy,” the New York Times wrote. Influences include the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” and radio’s “The Goon Show.”
The film had an obvious impact on “The Monkees” TV series (which began production about the same time the film debuted) and, years later, on many of the early music videos shown on MTV.
Supporting actors appearing in “Help!” include Victor Spinetti, Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron … and Bruce Lacey as the chattering-teeth Lawnmower. Locations include London, the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas.
As with the DVD, the Blu-ray includes a booklet in which director Richard Lester introduces “Help!” with a couple of paragraphs. Martin Scorsese adds longer comments, focusing on director Lester:
Unlike the Marx Brothers, the Beatles had a real director. A brilliant one, in fact. … It’s difficult to convey now exactly how important Lester’s films were. Each film was eagerly awaited, and they set the style for so much — in in commercials, in television, and certainly in movies.
“Help!” has a fairly long and respectable history on home video, including a Criterion Collection release on laserdisc. MPI produced a “Help!” DVD in the late 1990s with OK video but terrific remastered stereo versions of the seven Beatles songs.
Miramax released “A Hard Day’s Night” on Blu-ray with with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in 2009. “Yellow Submarine” surfaced on Blu-ray in May 2012. “Magical Mystery Tour” rolled into high-def in October 2012. The remaining Beatles film, the downer docu “Let It Be,” reportedly is being prepped for Blu-ray as well.
Here are the extra features for “Help!” according to the Beatles web site — all of them reruns:
- “The Beatles in Help!”: A 30-minute documentary about the making of the film with Richard Lester, the cast and crew, including exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of The Beatles on-set.
- An outtake featuring Wendy Richard, a famous British TV actress who doesn’t appear in the actual film.
- “The Restoration of Help!”
- “Memories of Help!”: Cast and crew reminisce
- 1965 theatrical trailers: Two original U.S. trailers and one original Spanish trailer
- 1965 U.S. radio spots (hidden in disc menus)
Ringo Starr is the subject of a major exhibit at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A., dubbed “Ringo: Peace & Love.” Items on display include the drum kits he used at Shea Stadium and on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” and his red cape from “Help!”
The exhibit begins June 12 and runs through November. The museum assures the public their production will be second to none:
The scope of exhibit spans Ringo’s early life growing up in Liverpool, from Raving Texans turned Rory Storm, from The Beatles, to becoming a solo artist and then to the All Starrs with whom he is on tour now — this unique collection brings together diverse artifacts, rare and never before seen photographs, documents, personal letters and footage.
The museum previously featured Lennon and Harrison, with the cute Beatle no doubt in the wings.
Starr will release a photography book — called, of course, “Photograph” — keyed to his exhibit. An e-book version is planned for Apple’s iBookstore with a June 12 release, complete with Starr’s commentary. A signed hardcover version will be available for the holidays, Reuters reports.
“These are shots that no one else could have,” Starr said of the images.