Following up on their wildly successful comedy movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” the Fabs went free-form for the third film, with disastrous results.
“Magical Mystery Tour” was a lump of coal unloaded on British television viewers the day after Christmas. The unscripted road trip movie aired on BBC1, to the puzzlement of the public and the outrage of critics.
Perhaps the hourlong telefilm, inspired by the home-movie exploits of Paul McCartney, simply was ahead of its time. We’ll see soon enough.
Apple Films has fully restored the long out-of-print TV movie, which it cheerfully refers to as a “classic.”
“Magical Mystery Tour” comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 8, preceded by a limited theatrical run in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, and a few other countries. (The U.S. screenings begin Sept. 27.)
In addition to the regular single-disc videos, there is a “Magical Mystery Tour” deluxe box set
going for about $67.
The soundtrack has been remixed (surround and stereo), with DTS-HD Master Audio and PCM stereo on the Blu-ray.
Paul Rutan did the film restoration, as he did for three other Beatles films — “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help” and “Yellow Submarine.”
McCartney, who has said he “took the blame” for the “Magical Mystery Tour” project, does a feature-length director’s commentary on the new release.
Other extras include “new” edits of several Beatles performances from the film; interviews with McCartney and Ringo Starr; a making-of docu; a “Hello Goodbye” video promo; and a feature on the supporting players, which included Jessie Robins, Ivor Cutler, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, (Beatles movie regular) Victor Spinetti and Derek Royle. The group Traffic is seen in a 2-minute video never used in the telefilm.
The 10×10-inch video box set includes both the DVD and Blu-ray discs, as well as a 60-page book. The most intriguing extra is a reproduction of the original U.K. EP, in mono.
The original British EP of 1967 was an oddball offering, a double-disc affair offering six new tracks: “Fool on the Hill,” “Flying,” “Blue Jay Way,” “Your Mother Should Know,” “I Am the Walrus” and the peppy title track. (A double EP was unprecedented for a pop release.)
In the U.S., the “Magical Mystery Tour” soundtrack always was sold as a full Beatles album. A lot of American consumers didn’t know or care that there was a failed telefilm as the source. It turned up at Christmas, as the Fabs’ long players tended to do.
Capitol filled out the U.S. album with five 1967 singles, including the songwriters’ childhood masterworks “Strawberry Fields Forever” (Lennon) and “Penny Lane” (McCartney).
That 11-track version remains the official release for both the U.S. and U.K. The audio was reworked in 2009, along with the rest of the Beatles CD catalog.
The new soundtrack work was done at Abbey Road Studios by Giles Martin and Sam Okell.
“Magical Mystery Tour” has a long and sketchy history on home video — VHS, laserdisc and DVD. MPI’s official release came in 1997, although that title is long out of print. Many Beatles fans only know the telefilm from bootleg videos.
The story, such as it is, concerns a countryside bus tour undertaken by an assortment of British fun seekers. Along the way they encounter a group of magicians played by the Beatles. Musical interludes and fantasy scenes keep things moving along, somewhat.
“Yellow Submarine,” another title long MIA, was recently rereleased by Apple Corps. The 1968 psychedelic animated film was accompanied by with a new CD version of the soundtrack album, although there appear to be no plans to do so with “Mystery Tour.”