Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Bad Beatles fan here. I’ve loved them for decades, and yet it’s taken me until now to see this. Still, unavailability’s a bitch like that (it was on DVD here years ago via Avenue One, but I had enough sense not to give them my money)… I happened to spot it in the TV guide for this afternoon, and so decided I’d better remedy that gap in my appreciation of the Fabs. Appreciation, of course, was the last thing it got at the time, as we know, and with hindsight that’s hardly surprising; the Arena documentary on the film’s making was also shown before the film, and someone from the BBC at the time said they had a gap in programming for Boxing Day that year, and The Beatles just happened to be working on this film that would fill it nicely, the BBC thought it’d be ideal slotted between Petula Clark and Norman Wisdom… OH HOW WRONG THEY WERE. I mean, now that I’ve seen it myself, I can see the Fabs weren’t really doing much that was, strictly speaking, new; the film seems to have been mostly Paul McCartney’s idea, he was better connected with the artistic avant-garde of the period than the rest of the band, and he obviously took cues from the work of others in creating MMT. But it was one thing for the world’s biggest pop band to make an experimental home movie with no real plot and a lot of random weirdness, it was another for the BBC to offer it as family viewing entertainment on Boxing Day when people were coming down from festive season business, and I somehow wasn’t surprised when I saw it today that it made people choke on their turkey leftovers (I’m surprised the strip club scene made it to air). Also, as quite a lot of the commentary on its re-release notes, it was a colour film shown in b/w on BBC1, so that did it no favours (the “Flying” sequence, which uses colour filtered outtakes from 2001, would’ve made even less sense than the rest of the film, cos the colour was the whole point)… they did show it in colour on BBC2 a few days later, but so few people had colour sets then that it didn’t help either.

Since then poor unloved MMT has come down through the ages as the Fab Four’s Fabbest Fuckup; the revisionist view now upon its rerelease seems to mostly be that it’s a lot better than conventional wisdom would have us believe, and that’s understandable, though I didn’t think it was the “lost classic” they’re now trying to push it as. It still is what I think it always was: the work of a bunch of young men being self-indulgent Four pop stars trying their hand at something a bit different, probably not really knowing enough about what they were doing to really make it work, but, having said that, the circumstances of its first presentation probably caused its reputation to be far worse than it really merited. I didn’t think it was that good—I understand the whole “happening” and improvisatory aspect of it and how important that was to them, but a stronger sense of direction would’ve helped—but I suspect that if it had premiered at a film festival or something it would’ve been received far more differently, probably a bit better. Anyway, it might’ve been a minor hole in my film knowledge, but at least it’s filled; maybe one day Let It Be will finally get its own legitimate release and I can fill that gap as well…

Advertisements

One thought on “Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

  1. Joel Bocko November 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I think this film’s pretty bad but the musical sequences are nifty. I especially love I am the Walrus which is certainly one of the great proto-music videos (a great deal of which were created by the Beatles; I dig Strawberry Fields Forever too with the paint pouring on the piano and everything). Let it Be is, I believe, available on some online venues. At least I’ve seen it there before.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s