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HELP!

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear
Director:  Richard Lester
Audio:  DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.75:1
Studio:  Capitol
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  November 6, 2007

“Hey, Be-a-tle!  You shall have fun, yes?”

“No thanks.  I’m rhythm guitar and mouth organ.”

Film ***

Stop worrying…Help is on the way!

That is to say, a brand new restored special edition of the legendary Beatles’ legendary second feature film, with an all new audio and picture presentation.  But more on that further down.

When the lads from Liverpool exploded off the screen in A Hard Day’s Night, it showed the world what the kids already knew:  The Beatles were the real thing.  The black and white film showcased their indelible music, but also their natural charm and humor, in a crazy plot that demonstrated what was probably the equally crazy lives of the boys.

Their second film reunited them with director Richard Lester for a color picture.  There was more plot this time around, and more absurdity to be sure.  It all involves an Eastern cult’s attempt to either retrieve their sacred sacrificial ring from Ringo, or sacrifice him and be done with it.  Take your pick.

Used to screaming mobs of fans, but not used to people trying to kill them, the Fab Four find themselves in a race against time and badly costumed extras that takes them all over England, the Bahamas, and the Alps.  The locations were really only to placate the group’s desire for a couple of exotic vacations, but what the hey…it’s all in good fun.

The story is amusing, but really only an excuse to string together some classic songs from the band, and there are some wonderful ones here, from the title track “Help!” to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “Another Girl”, “I Need You”, “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” and “The Night Before”.  Oh, yes, and a little ditty called “Ticket To Ride”; one of The Beatles’ best, in my humble opinion.

The film is significant in the lives of the lads for more than their appearance.  It was the film that introduced George Harrison to the sitar and the whole band to Eastern philosophy.  It was also right around the time they started experimenting with drugs, which was either a distraction to them or a way to enhance the zaniness…your choice.

It didn’t quite live up to the mania media event that was A Hard Day’s Night, but Help proved the boys could still carry a movie with natural charm, wit and candor.  And a notebook filled with amazing songs never hurts, either.

BONUS TRIVIA:  The original working title of the film was Eight Arms to Hold You.

Video ***

This restored edition looks quite lovely, and it seems the team that did it spent more than a hard day’s night on it.  You might even say they worked eight days a week (okay, I’m stopping).  Colors are eye-popping and vivid throughout.  There’s a bit of noticeable grain and aging here and there, but not bad at all for a film that’s over 40 years old.

Audio ***1/2

Man, do I love hearing The Beatles in 5.1!  This DTS soundtrack brings the lads’ music to life like you’ve never heard it before.  It contrasts with the rest of the audio, which is decent given the age, and actually makes a bit of use of the rear channels in bigger sequences.  But the real treat is the songs.

Features ***

Some fun extras are included in this double disc set.  Disc One features four Easter eggs, easily found, that will play you actual radio spots for the movie from 1965.  Disc Two has a half hour documentary on the making of the film, including cast and crew interviews (but no Beatles).  There’s also a memories featurette, a restoration demonstration, three trailers, and a legendary missing scene featuring the character of Sam Ahab (Bahamas spelled backwards).  Rounding out is a nice booklet including an introduction from Richard Lester and an appreciation from Martin Scorsese.

Summary:

Help is good, clean, mindless musical fun from rock and roll’s most pivotal group.  The Beatles carry the day by just being themselves and delivering some great music that sounds better than ever on DVD.

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