Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

Written, produced, directed, and starring the Beatles with additional direction by Bernard Knowles, Magical Mystery Tour is the story of the Beatles going on a tour on the English countryside for all sorts of adventures. In this strange mixture of psychedelia and whimsy, the TV film is a showcase where the Beatles play songs from that album as well as going on strange adventures. The result is a strange yet fascinating film from the Beatles.

The film is essentially the story of a road trip across the country featuring the Beatles and various individuals including Ringo’s Aunt Jessie (Jessie Robins) as they encounter all sorts of strange events including marathon races, a psychedelic film, and other array of images while wizards are keeping an eye on the journey. While there isn’t much of a narrative as it’s just about a road trip with a group of people and some strange dream sequences mixed in with musical performances. It’s a film that doesn’t really need a narrative nor a plot since it’s just really about an adventure into the English countryside with a courier and a hostess leading the way.

The film’s direction is very loose as it somewhat has a cinema verite style to present something that feels naturalistic and real for many of the scenes set in the bus and in the English countryside. With the exception of the song performances by the Beatles and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band that would feature future Monty Python contributor Neil Innes. The film is played as if there was an air of unpredictability though the only aspect of the story in the narrative that is staged is the testy relationship between Ringo and his aunt as the latter falls for the bus conductor Buster Bloodvessel (Ivor Cutler) that would feature some weird dream sequences. The film also contains an air of psychedelia through some of the imagery set in the English countryside to maintain that air of mystery.

The film also have some strange inserts that has the Beatles play wizards as they’re keeping watch on where the bus is at. It’s all part of this approach of comedy where everything is meant to be absurd and off-the-wall. The musical performances by the Beatles does play to the sense of whimsy in songs like I Am the Walrus and Your Mother Should Know as they’re given some elaborate presentation. For the performances of Fool on the Hill and Blue Jay Way where it is presented with something more direct as the former has Paul McCartney wandering around the countryside while the latter has George Harrison singing the song while sitting on the road with cuts of the rest of the band playing around. Overall, the Beatles have crafted a film that captures the innocence of psychedelia as well as something that is just a whole lot of fun to watch.

Editor Roy Benson does wonderful work with the editing where it is emphasized on style through some transition cutting as well as playing to the rhythm of the music. Production designers Roger Graham and Keith Liddiard do amazing work with the look of the Magical Mystery Tour bus as well as some of the sets like the wizard‘s room, the secret tent, and the dance hall where Your Mother Should Know is performed. Sound editor Gordon Daniel does nice work with the sound to capture the atmosphere on the bus as well as the chaos that occurs in some scenes such as the marathon that happens.

The film’s cast largely consists of unknowns and comedians as standouts include Jessie Robins as Ringo’s aunt, Derek Royle as the tour director Jolly Jimmy Johnson, Mandy Weet as the tour hostess, Victor Spinetti as a drill sergeant, Ivor Cutler as the tour conductor, the Beatles’ longtime assistant Mal Evans as a fifth wizard in the background, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band as themselves playing the song Death Cab for Cutie in a very weird scene involving a stripper that is just full of humor. Finally, there’s the Beatles themselves as they each give very comical and lighthearted performances with Ringo Starr being the standout in his scenes with his aunt Jessie.

Magical Mystery Tour is a remarkable yet absurd film from the Beatles. While it may not rank with their earlier feature films nor Yellow Submarine, it is still a very enjoyable film for the way it explores psychedelia and the Beatles’ fascination with it at that time. It’s also a very light-hearted film where the band isn’t trying to take themselves seriously while giving out performances that are just truly memorable. In the end, Magical Mystery Tour is a marvelous film from the Beatles.

The Beatles: The Albums: Please Please Me - With the Beatles - A Hard Day's Night - Beatles for Sale - Help! - Rubber Soul - Revolver - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Magical Mystery Tour - The White Album - Yellow Submarine OST - Abbey Road - Let It Be

Compilations: (1962-1966) - (1967-1970) - Past Masters - (Live at the BBC) - (Anthology 1) - (Anthology 2) - (Anthology 3) - (1) - (Let It Be… Naked) - (Love)

The Films: (A Hard Day’s Night) - (Help!) - (Yellow Submarine) - Let It Be - (Anthology) - The Beatles: Get Back

© thevoid99 2013

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