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Bernard Knowles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr)
Writing Credits:
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

In September 1967 The Beatles embarked on making their third film, this time conceived and directed by themselves ... Based on a loose unscripted narrative, in the spirit of the experimental mood of the time, and directed by The Beatles themselves, the film became the vehicle to present 6 new songs - "Magical Mystery Tour", "The Fool On The Hill", "Flying", "I Am The Walrus", "Blue Jay Way" and "Your Mother Should Know".

Now, 45 years on, the virtually forgotten film has been fully restored and is being presented properly for the first time ... The restoration of Magical Mystery Tour has been overseen by Paul Rutan Jr. of Eque Inc., the same company that handled the much acclaimed restoration of Yellow Submarine. The soundtrack work was done at Abbey Road Studios by Giles Martin and Sam Okell.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM Stereo
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 53 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 10/9/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director/Actor Paul McCartney
• “The Making of Magical Mystery Tour” Featurette
• “Ringo the Actor” Featurette
• “Meet the Supporting Cast” Featurette
• “Your Mother Should Know” Outtakes
• “Blue Jay Way” Outtakes
• “The Fool on the Hill” Outtakes
• “Hello Goodbye” Promo
• “Nat’s Dream” Deleted Scene
• “I’m Going in a Field’ Deleted Scene
• “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” Deleted Scene
• Easter Eggs
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour [Blu-Ray] (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 9, 2012)

Because I was a mere seven months old when the Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour debuted at the end of 1967, I have no first-hand experience with its reception. However, ever since I became a Beatles fan in 1979, I heard about how widely loathed it’d been back then.

Though the Beatles had received criticism related to other issues – most notably John Lennon’s widely misunderstood “bigger than Jesus” comment in 1966 - Tour became the first time they’d been attacked for creative reasons. Through mid-1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they’d done virtually no wrong, but with the Tour film, they finally made a misstep, and apparently the critics lashed out with a vengeance.

45 years later, Tour still maintains a negative reputation – as a film, that is. The six-song EP of then-new songs released in December 1967 gets somewhat mixed marks; it’s usually viewed as a set with two great numbers (“I Am the Walrus” and “The Fool on the Hill”) plus four less interesting tracks. (As most Beatles fans know, Capitol expanded Tour to album-length in the US with the inclusion of five previously-released tunes from singles; this has been the “default” version of Tour worldwide since the first batch of Beatles CDs in 1987.)

While fans continue to enjoy the songs from the movie, the film remains much-panned. I saw it at a local art house theater in late 1980 and don’t think I’d viewed it since then. I can’t remember much about that experience, though I was such a massive Beatles freak at the age of 13 that I’m sure I dug it. That was a long time ago, so this Blu-ray release of Tour offered a good chance to revisit the oft-maligned film.

Shot for TV exhibition, Tour offers little to no plot. Essentially the Beatles pile into a bus with a bunch of actors, travel around and document whatever happens. A few musical production numbers pop up along the way.

Actually, the Beatles frame events with a little more structure, as we’re supposed to follow the exploits of Ringo and his Aunt Jessie (Jessie Robins). However, that thread doesn’t go much of anywhere; instead, we simply watch random events vaguely connected by the notion of the bus tour.

Does Tour deserve its negative reputation? Yeah, pretty much. Granted, it throws out a little more entertainment value than expected, especially early in the movie; the weirdness can occasionally seem oddly invigorating.

But then the general pointlessness of the endeavor hits the viewer and it’s downhill from there. The Beatles themselves feel like extras in their own movie. Ringo and Paul make the biggest impact, as John and George often seem MIA. None of them stick to the screen very often, though, as the collection of supporting actors tends to dominate.

And they do so in a rather annoying way. “Annoying” seems like a very good word to cover Tour. We see a lot of annoying people who act in annoying ways. There’s little wit or cleverness on display here; it’s just self-indulgent nonsense most of the time.

At least the songs are good! As I mentioned earlier, I think only “Fool” and “Walrus” qualify as genuine Beatles classics, but the other numbers are enjoyable enough. It’s the Beatles; they created precious few bad songs, so even though I’m not a big fan of stuff like “Flying” and “Your Mother Should Know”, they remain likable.

The musical sequences don’t do a ton for me, though; while I dig the tunes, their presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Only “Walrus” – with its trippy performance sequence – stands out as interesting; the others seem amateurish.

Along with “annoying”, “amateurish” is another good word to describe Magical Mystery Tour - which isn’t a surprise, as it was created by actual, honest to God amateur filmmakers. Although I don’t think the movie is a complete disaster/abomination, it’s darned dull. If anyone but the Beatles made this snoozer, it would’ve been forgotten decades ago.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Magical Mystery Tour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The film came with an erratic presentation.

Sharpness was one of these up and down elements. At times, the film exhibited surprisingly good definition, as many shots looked pretty concise and accurate. However, more than a few exceptions occurred; plenty of elements came across as mushy and soft. There was no great rhyme or reason on display; sharp and soft mixed with no logic I could discern.

Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, but I noticed occasional edge haloes. I also suspected the use of digital noise reduction. While some grain appeared, I didn’t see much, and I find it hard to believe that a 45-year-old movie shot on 16mm stock could look so grainless so much of the time. This didn’t leave severe artifacts, though; I thought the image sometimes appeared a bit “plastic” but I didn’t notice especially harmful problems related to the probable use of DNR. The movie also lacked any print flaws.

Like sharpness, colors varied. The movie sometimes demonstrated peppy, vivid hues, but then it’d also show flat, bland tones. Facial hues tended to be a bit on the pink side. Still, colors were better than expected and usually fairly decent. Blacks seemed pretty dark, and shadows showed reasonable clarity. Overall, this was a generally attractive image – and almost certainly the best this flawed production has ever looked – but it still came with concerns.

On the other hand, the film’s remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was a winner. The music became the main beneficiary of this work. Songs actively used all five channels, which really allowed the various instruments and voices to spread out around the room. Effects also broadened well, as they received good placement and movement. Sounds panned across all five channels well, with examples such as the bus itself flitting from speaker to speaker as it puttered along. Throw in some localized speech and you found a soundscape that sounded more modern than expected.

The quality of the audio was also solid. Music remained the big winner, as the score and songs showed nice vivacity and range. Speech was fairly natural and concise, and effects seemed more than satisfactory. A little distortion occasionally marred the louder moments, but those instances didn’t cause real concerns. Given the age and nature of Tour, I expected more obvious sonic flaws, but the audio worked quite well.

When we shift to the disc’s extras, unquestionably the most intriguing component comes from the audio commentary with director/actor Paul McCartney. He delivers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the movie’s background, its cast, elements of the shoot and the film’s music.

I expected McCartney to provide a good but unexceptional commentary and that’s what I got. He tends toward two poles, though. While he likes to tour the movie’s experimental avant garde nature and its alleged influence, he also undercuts the project; McCartney frequently lowers our expectations with remarks about what a modest undertaking it was and how they all just made it up as they went.

Despite those dichotomous tendencies, McCartney still offers some interesting observations. It takes him a while to get going, so expect borderline narration for the first few minutes. However, he becomes more involved as the movie progresses. This never becomes a great chat, but it’s fun to hear a legend talk about his work.

By the way, dedicated Beatles fans know that McCartney loves to claim that Steven Spielberg refers to Tour as an influence. Not one to disappoint, Macca brings up this story at the commentary’s 12-minute, 25-second mark.

A few featurettes follow. The most substantial of the bunch, The Making of Magical Mystery Tour runs 19 minutes, three seconds and includes notes from McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison (circa 1993), John Lennon (circa ?), fan club secretaries/extras Sylvia Nightingale and Jeni Crowley, music journalist Chris Welch, cameraman Michael Seresin, producer Gavrik Losey, editor Roy Benson, former BBC1 controller Sir Paul Fox, and musician Neil Innes. We hear about the movie’s origins and development, its “script” and shoot, sets, technical elements, editing and the film’s release/reception/legacy. “Making” moves at a nice pace and gives us a good overview of the production. It becomes a quality take on Tour.

Ringo the Actor goes for two minutes, 24 seconds and features Starr as he watches parts of the movie. He chats about his work in Tour and his “role”. Despite the clip’s brevity, it’s a lot of fun to hear Ringo, and the addition of some outtakes adds value.

Under the 10-minute, 55-second Meet the Supporting Cast, we learn about a few of the non-Beatles in the film. Though we get a quick comment from Starr, this mostly comes to us as a collection of archival elements; in addition to shots from Tour, we see other works in which a few actors appeared. This becomes a nice way to pay tribute to these participants.

Three outtakes follow. These come for “Your Mother Should Know” (2:41), “Blue Jay Way” (3:58), and “The Fool on the Hill” (3:05). Nothing revelatory pops up here, but I’m happy to see a little more footage of the Fabs.

Used on Top of the Pops, a “Hello Goodbye” Promo runs three minutes, 37 seconds. Most fans have seen the mimed performance clip in which the Fabs don their Sgt. Pepper’s outfits; this one mixes shots of the Beatles in the editing room with contrived segments in which two guys and two girls pop in and out of the camera frame. I like the brief glimpses of the band as they work on Tour, but the other bits are a waste of time.

Three deleted scenes come next. We get “Nat’s Dream” (2:01), “I’m Going in a Field” (2:42) and “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” (2:41). Don’t expect any lost gold here, as the clips are just as forgettable as most of Tour. “Dream” and “Field” are particularly terrible.

At least “Bush” benefits from the presence of Steve Winwood’s band Traffic; the footage itself isn’t interesting, but it’s moderately fun to see Traffic on film. It’s unclear how the segment would’ve fit into Tour, as it seems out of nowhere. Granted, that description applies to much of Tour, but this sequence feels even less connected to the other events than the rest.

At least four Easter Eggs show up here. If you click “left” from “Play Film” on the main menu, hit “enter” to see “Magic Alex Sings ‘Walls of Jericho’” (1:31). Go “up” from “Play Film” and locate “Fish and Chip Shop” (4:45). Opt right from “Audio Options” and discover “Jessie’s Blues” (2:16); head up from “Audio Options” and watch “Missing Dining Room Scene” (4:10). Of these, only “Shop” seems even vaguely intriguing – maybe I’m just entertained by the sight of the Fabs as they order food. Overall, though, the snippets are forgettable; I mean, you know something’s bad when it’s not good enough to be included in Tour!

Finally, the set includes an eight-page booklet. This shows a planning graph for the film, an introduction note from McCartney, credits and photos. It’s a nice finish to the package.

After 45 years of derision, I’d love to claim that Magical Mystery Tour deserves a positive appraisal. Alas, it doesn’t; if anything, I suspect the years have made this self-indulgent mess look even worse. The Blu-ray provides inconsistent but generally positive picture along with strong audio and a reasonably interesting batch of bonus materials. Beatles fans will want to own this for their collections, but I find it hard to imagine it’ll appeal to anyone beyond Fabs diehards.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 15
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