The Beatles-Help! (1965)

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Released 29-Oct-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Making Of-The Beatles in HELP! (29:35)
Featurette-The Restoration of HELP! (11:24)
Featurette-A Missing Scene (3:59)
Featurette-Memories of HELP! (6:25)
Theatrical Trailer-x3
Easter Egg-6 Radio Spots
Booklet-Colour, 16 pages w/ credits & essay by Martin Scorsese
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 92:06 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (46:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Richard Lester
Studio
Distributor

EMI Music
Starring John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Leo McKern
Eleanor Bron
Victor Spinetti
Roy Kinnear
John Bluthal
Patrick Cargill
Alfie Bass
Warren Mitchell
Peter Copley
Case Gatefold
RPI ? Music Paul McCartney
John Lennon
George Harrison


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Spanish
Italian
Portuguese
Dutch
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Stop worrying! HELP is on the way!

    The strangest things are happening to poor Ringo. Wherever he sticks his hand, be it in a vending machine or a post box, a loony is waiting to try and manhandle a ring from his finger. Becoming rather concerned for their friend's safety, The Beatles (who reside together in conjoined neighbouring town houses) try to have the ring removed, but it won't budge from his finger. Just as luck would have it, it seems the ornate, bejewelled sparkler is actually used in a daily sacrificial ceremony to Kaili, a pious deity worshipped by a group of island-bound, turban-wearing religious fanatics. When their leader, Clang (Leo McKern), spots the sacred ring on Ringo's hand in a Beatles film, he and his entourage of goons make their way to London to try and hunt the mop-tops down.

Carry on, Beatles.

    With the ring stuck to a bewildered Ringo's finger, there is nothing left for the group to do but race around the globe with their pursuers close behind them, who besides the religious cult now include a pair of mad scientists (Roy Kinnear and Victor Spinetti) bent on using the ring to rule the world. This is essentially a comedy-caper-chase film, broken up by Beatles music videos. For its time, the photography is very experimental and made fantastic use of image framing and colour contrast. A witty script helped a lot, and the film is packed with one-liners that highlight the group's humour.

    It's all great fun, but some of the humour could certainly be considered non-PC by today's standards. The film portrays foreigners as crazies and employs a lot of 'mystic' eastern stereotypes in the plot. These aspects of the film do date it somewhat, but hey, it's The Beatles, so who's complaining?

One ring to rule them all.

    A great number of ideas had been thrown about for the Beatles' follow-up to A Hard Day's Night, which had been released the previous year, but both the band and director were adamant that they had to do something completely different. A loose adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was one of the earliest suggestions; an idea that was championed by Paul, and it is obvious Tolkien had some influence on their final concept. The idea of doing a western was also toyed-with briefly. Ultimately an original story was decided upon, initially given the very boring working title of Beatles Two, then eventually the racier Eight Arms To Hold You. Later, after production on the accompanying soundtrack had already begun at Abbey Road with Producer George Martin, it was Director Richard Lester who suggested Help! as a title, and John wrote the matching theme song very quickly.

    By the mid-60s the band were coming into their own musically, but Lennon was the first of the Beatles to seriously blossom as a songwriter. The film is highlighted by songs predominately penned by him; You've Got To Hide Your Love Away is a perennial classic, while You're Going To Lose That Girl and Ticket to Ride showcase the group's superb vocal harmonies. Paul's contributions included Another Girl, which isn't the most memorable of Beatles songs, and George takes the microphone with I Need You. It's interesting to note that it was during the shooting of this film that George was introduced to the Sitar, while it was being used as a prop in a restaurant scene.

    The film has been extensively restored for this release and looks better than ever. With a great selection of extras included, this package is a must for Beatles fans everywhere.

    For further reading, check out DarrenW's excellent review of A Hard Day's Night. My review of the Maysles Brothers' film The Beatles' First US Visit is also available.

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Track Listing

1. Help!
2. You're Going To Lose That Girl
3. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
4. Ticket To Ride
5. The Night Before
6. I Need You
7. Another Girl

Transfer Quality

Video

    As I mentioned above, the film has been extensively restored for this release and looks absolutely fantastic. The restoration process is the subject of one of the informative featurettes on disc two. Despite the hard work that went into cleaning up this print for release on DVD, some manipulation of the PAL video stream has been performed in order to maintain the intended audio pitch. Corrupt video frames are evident, appearing as doubled, ghost-like overlapping frames of video that can make motion on screen appear jerky and unnatural. This artefact isn't a dire problem throughout the transfer, but some scenes are certainly worse than others.

    The film is presented here in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. Black bars are visible on the left and right of the frame, while the image is tight to the frame on the top and bottom.

    The overall transfer is very sharp and clear, with no ugly jagged edges or unnecessary softness to be concerned about. The image would look fantastic on a big screen if it were not for the corrupted video problems, but those issues may not be noticeable to the average viewer. Shadow detail is excellent and black levels are very deep and inky when need be. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    The image degrades noticeably during composite shots, particularly those with titling on screen. Grain is much more concentrated in these scenes, and they also appear darker and more heavily artefacted.

    Colours are superb, rich and very vivid. An entirely new colour grading process has been employed and some of these scenes really leap off the screen. The colour depth is beautifully consistent and I didn't note any bleeding or oversaturation in the slightest.

    MPEG artefacts are nowhere to be seen. At 14:14 the dark confines of the Beatles' smoky studio room would wreak havoc with your average transfer, but the very healthy bitrate does its job and compression is very well handled. Some very minor film artefacts can be seen on occasion, but considering the film's age this is a stellar job. There isn't the slightest hint of telecine wobble anywhere to be seen.

    An English subtitle stream is provided and is generally accurate, transcribing dialogue and song lyrics at perfect pace.

    Disc one is DVD9 formatted, with a layer break placed during the feature at 46:34. The transition wasn't noticeable on my equipment. Disc two is single-layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks accompanying this film on DVD. It would seem the producers of this disc have taken a leaf from the Queen book of DVD production, because there is no Dolby Digital option to be found here. The default soundtrack is stereo PCM (48Khz, 16 bit). An outstanding dts 5.1 mix (768Kb/s) can be selected on the fly or via the setup menu. There is no mono audio option present.

    The English dialogue quality is obviously limited by the production standards of the day. It's not ever going to be up to the standard of modern productions, but is still very good. I noted some slight distortion, noticeable only now and then, and the dialogue is always situated in the front centre. I didn't notice any audio sync issues at all.

    The correct audio pitch has been retained for this PAL release, and the remixed Beatles songs sound absolutely fantastic. The PCM audio is very crisp and full of depth, with superb separation of instruments. The dts surround mix utilises the rear channels for percussion and backing vocals, with some slight spill from the guitars. A tambourine can be heard very clearly in the rear right channel at 28:28.

    The score was contributed by Ken Thorne and is comprised of a few eastern-sounding renditions of recognisable Beatles classics.

    In comparing the two soundtracks, I found the dts slightly louder, and its dedicated LFE activity seemed to add noticeable depth to the music. The PCM default will delight purists, and it responded best to loud volume. It certainly does the job, but it's hard to deny yourself those great surround mixes.

    The subwoofer accentuated the bass and drums very nicely indeed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a fantastic array of extras, most of which can be found on the second disc, however there is surprisingly little input from the band themselves. A variety of subtitle options are available and all of the content in this package is 16x9 enhanced. The extras all include stereo PCM audio.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The menu screens are decorated with Beatle-related memorabilia from this period and are very nicely animated. Each page is accompanied by an audio clip, as well as animated page transitions.

Featurette-The Beatles in HELP! (29:35)

    This is a generally informative documentary about the film's production, with archive interview clips with the band themselves, as well as new interviews with assorted cast and crew. Director Richard Lester discusses the how the film's premise came about and the challenges that were encountered during filming. We are shown vintage footage of the film's premiere and the band attending various award ceremonies. Lester and Neil Aspinall discuss the band's disruptive habit of pot-smoking on set, and share some home video footage of the various locations that were visited during the shoot.

    The most memorable portion of this featurette comes from Richard Lester, as he recalls receiving an award from MTV citing his direction of the Beatles music on film, declaring him the father of MTV. In an absolutely priceless retort, he responded by demanding a paternal blood test.

Featurette-The Restoration of HELP! (11:24)

    This piece actually focuses on the video (film stock) restoration only, not the audio. Several of the restoration staff speak of their love for the band and describe the processes that were employed to achieve the stunning transfer we have received. My ears pricked up when I heard one of the staff mention: "when you view the film in HD...". Let's hope EMI add HELP! to their slowly growing catalogue of HD DVD releases.

Featurette-A Missing Scene (3:59)

    Cast and crew discuss a scene that didn't make the final cut, and the poor girl who thought the role would be her big break. A few stills are all that survive of this scene and Dick Lester is very frank in discussing why the scene failed to work.

Featurette-Memories of HELP! (6:25)

    This piece is in essence an extension of the making-of featurette. Actors Eleanor Bron and Victor Spinetti discuss their experiences during filming and how they remember working with The Beatles. Dick Lester reminisces about a late-night party while filming on location in Austria, in which he jammed with the Beatles 'till the wee hours. Mal Evans' humorous appearance in the film as a cross-channel swimmer is also explored.

Theatrical Trailers

    There are three trailers in total; two for the film's US theatrical release (3:18) and one Spanish (1:15). Very cheesy, but interesting from an historical perspective.

Easter Eggs- Radio Spots

    Six brief radio promo spots can be found very easily throughout the main menus, reminiscent of the eggs that are on the Yellow Submarine disc. There are four to be found on disc one and another two on disc two.

Booklet

    A very nice, colour, 16 page glossy booklet with production credits, photos and an essay by none other than Martin Scorsese.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from PAL and NTSC differences, this release is identical in content across the globe. A Special Edition also exists, with expanded packaging, lobby cards and the like.

    There hasn't been any word on a HD release just yet, but I would presume it is bound to happen somewhere down the line.

Summary

    While it hasn't dated particularly well, the simple fact that HELP! is a Beatles film makes it a must. Not only is the music absolutely timeless, there are plenty of laughs to be had and the product has been the subject of a superb restoration effort. Fans of the fab four needn't think twice - this is a great package.

    The PAL video transfer is stunning considering the film's age, but some manipulation has been performed in order to maintain audio pitch and sync.

    The audio transfer is outstanding.

    The extras give great insight into the film's production, history and restoration.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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