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DVD Review: Magical Mystery Tour Revisited

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Last December PBS broadcast the entire film and the “Making of…” documentary. While it’s still posted, you can watch the whole documentary here at PBS.org.

Richard Lester, director of the first two Beatles films Hard Days Night and Help, once advised the foursome to make their third film themselves, much in the same way they would an album. Explained Lester “it should grow organically rather than have the professional cult of film making superimposed upon it.” And so they did.

55 minutes long, The Beatles MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR was filmed over the course of 4 days in September 1967, the final month of the fabled Summer of Love. The purposely unplanned and very spontaneous  plot centered around the Beatles and a bus load of their friends on a circular tour of mystery stops with songs connecting the dots. All of the stops being conjured up by four goofy wizards played by the Beatles.  Shot in 16mm color, movie was KO’D by critics after BBC TV debuted a B&W edited version three months later on  Boxing Day. 45 years later, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is now available on dvd for the first time after being painstakingly restored by a  small army of sound and picture restorers overseen by Paul McCartney who originally came up with the idea for the movie along with John and George who each contributed scenes built around their songs.

Ringo was given the main acting role, improvising most of his dialog on the fly, bringing his aunt along for the ride, marvelously played by British Actress Jessie Robins. Deleted from the BBC broadcast included here is a poignant scene on a beach where bus tour guide, Mr. Bloodvessel awkwardly proclaims his love for Ringo’s aunt, one of the film’s finest.

Included with this restored Magical Mystery Tour dvd are several must watch bonus features. Paul gives a few more clues about the Walrus and offers some revealing director’s commentary. John George and Ringo all have something to say in a very interesting “making of” documentary which includes present day interviews with the film’s editor and cameraman. What is amazing in this day and age, here are the Beatles in 1967 shown gallivanting around the British countryside on their bus filming away followed by herds of fans with absolutely no security! And no need for it either.

Other bonus features include several deleted scenes and two unfinished segments directed by John Lennon. The audio and color are greatly improved with the screen aspect kept true to it’s 16mm format. The audio for the music tracks, presented in 5.1 surround sound for the first time, is spectacular. You have the option of listening in stereo as well.

Watching the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour in 2013 is a delightfully quaint experience.  In that respect the film holds up as an entertaining visual and musical romp, perfectly capturing the free spirit of those psychedelic Sgt. Pepper days across the pond. It’s a gem of a time capsule with it‘s then innovative use of solarized film effects and abrupt art film edits.

A bloody good time is guaranteed for all.  Eric Berg / Bergalert

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