Wait around long enough and it’ll eventually see the light of day. Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles’ much-maligned 1967 TV special has finally been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, complete with outtakes, mini-docos and commentary by Paul McCartney. So, how does the programme hold up 45 years after it was first released? Does it still deserve the bad reputation it garnered over the years or will seeing it in a newly-remastered form with surround-sound audio reveal it to be a work of comic genius?
In a word…no.
AS both Ringo and George say in the accompanying bonus bits, “It was Paul’s idea, really”. Which sounds like their way of distancing themselves from the mess that was/is Magical Mystery Tour. Smart move.
The plan was to hire a bus, paint it psychedelic colours, hire a bunch of actors and hangers-on (“one of the passengers was our fan club secretary” reveals McCartney) and travel the English countryside with a film crew, in the hope that something interesting would happen. It didn’t. Instead there are painfully embarrassing scenes of Ringo “improvising” (“I was just blah-ing away” admits Ringo), a potentially funny bit with comic actor Victor Spinetti that drags on too long and a visit to a strip club with music provided by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
Fortunately The Beatles recorded six new tunes to go along with the inane footage. So, as you’re wading through the 53-minute film, you find yourself waiting anxiously for the next song. And the segments with I Am The Walrus and Blue Jay Way are worth waiting for. The closing big dance sequence with Your Mother Should Know is pretty good as well. Fool On The Hill is a bit self-indulgent, with Paul gazing out at the French countryside.
The music has been remixed for 5.1 surround and it sounds amazing. Check out the percussion in Blue Jay Way.
The Beatles were given free reign by the BBC to make whatever they wanted, and what Magical Mystery Tour proves it that they were genius musicians but not film makers.
Bonus features include short bits on some of the supporting actors, a clip of Hello Goodbye from Top Of The Pops, deleted scenes and a short “Making Of” doco with new interviews with Paul and Ringo.
The feature I was most looking forward to was McCartney’s “Director’s Commentary”. Magical Mystery Tour was pretty much his baby and I was hoping for lots of cool inside info. Unfortunately, he sounds old and tired, as do his stories. Occasionally there is a glint of interesting info…outtakes from Dr. Strangelove were used in the sequence for the song Flying…but that’s about it.
Paul states that, “At this point in our history a lot of things didn’t make sense and this shows that”.
Sadly, he’s right.
As were the critics, who Paul addresses at the end of his commentary…”Thanks to the critics for such kind reviews”, he says with tongue firmly in cheek.
Now, when will they release the Let It Be film?