A Hard Day’s Night faithfully documented the crazy lives of the Beatles in 1963; Help! literally added a bit of color, irreverent humor and adventure to the group's cinematic ventures. From the ski slopes of Austria to the beaches of the Bahamas, the Fabs spent much of their time dodging bullets and avoiding apprehension — not from fans, mind you — but a group of religious cult members and a pair of bumbling scientists in hot pursuit of Ringo Starr’s sacrificial ring. The antics add up to a delightful romp that rivals the best of the Marx Brothers. Help! has finally gotten a long-awaited makeover as a two-DVD set, digitally restored with a screaming 5.1 mix. Watching it always brings a smile to this reviewer’s face.
Help! was the second and final Beatle film directed by Richard Lester. It could be said that Lester was to the Beatles in the movies what George Martin was to them in the studio, although the Beatles never set out to be movie stars and Lester's tenure was nearly as long or deep. Nevertheless, it could be argued that the movies the Beatles were involved with in later years didn’t quite capture the cheekiness and charm. When they made Help!, they were in the posi tion to call the shots, which they did by requesting the luxurious locations. Pot smoking also figured prominently into the equation, as they indulged on a daily basis during the making of Help!
A number of tidbits are touched on in the 30-minute documentary about the making of the film, in which Lester, Eleanor Bron (who played Ahme), crew members and pundits each share a memorable story about their personal encounters with the Beatles. There’s discussion about a missing scene — but no sign of the actual missing scene? A swift and tidy overview of restoring Help! to a beautiful sheen gives the techies something to chew on, along with the usual batch of vintage trailers and radio spots. The included booklet features an introduction by Richard Lester and an appreciation by Martin Scorsese. A deluxe version all of the above plus an annotated script, eight lobby cards, a poster, a 60-page book with rarely seen photographs and production notes from the movie. Finally, I can finally toss my VHS version and get into some serious Help! viewing. Let's see Let It Be top that.
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