Friday, October 19, 2012

The Beatles' magical tour bus a Suite pickup

Paul, George, John and Ringo go through the window
They'd probably  bill it as "Beatles Night in Canada" if they weren't afraid of being sued by CBC.
Friday night at 9 p.m. ET, Hollywood Suite's Sony Movie Channel has the Canadian television premiere of The Beatles' 1967 TV special The Magical Mystery Tour.
Now, how can anything Beatles have taken 45 years to reach the small screen? Hollywood Suite president and co-founder David Kines explains that the film's rocky launch in The U.K. probably derailed plans for immediate North American distribution.
Billed there as a Boxing Day present from The Beatles (it debuted on the BBC on Dec. 26, 1967), there was nothing remotely Christmas-y about the film. It basically showed the Fab Four taking a zany bus tour of rural England. The film was the brainchild of Paul McCartney and all four members of the group are billed as writers and directors.
Missing, unfortunately, was director Richard Lester, who had a lot to do with making A Hard Day`s Night and Help such memorable fun.
That first BBC premiere was broadcast in black and white, leaving viewers in the dark. This was The Beatles in all their psychedelic glory, and the bright colour changes in one cloud sequence in particular left viewers seeing, in Kines' words, "fifty shades of grey."
Colour TV was still a novelty in Canada in 1967, so broadcasters on this side of the pond probably felt this tour was best left a mystery.
The version Hollywood Suite will be showing Friday night, uncut and in true HD, is the same restored and remastered print just released on DVD. The Sony Movie Channel will also air a documentary about the making of Magical Mystery Tour, complete with interviews with John Lennon (conducted in 1970), George Harrison (1993) and a recent interview with Paul McCartney. Martin Scorsese also weighs in on the film's influence, as does former Python Terry Jones and fellow psychedelic survivor, Peter Fonda.
A Hard Day's Night and the John Lennon doc Imagine are also on Hollywood Suite's playbill.
Among the songs on Mystery Tour are I Am The Walrus and The Fool on the Hill. The film is mainly worth watching for the musical moments, not so much for the story. Late '67 was a fractious time for The Beatles, who seemed to drift apart after the death of manager Brian Epstein. If you're wondering what these dudes were smoking when they shot this film, well, you can practically smell it, man.
One other note: Victor Spinetti, who passed away earlier this year, is the only actor to appear with The Beatles in A Hard Day's Night, Help and Magical Mystery Tour. Look for him as a strutting military man.
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