Help! (1965)

HELP! (1965)
Article #1355 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-29-2004
Posting Date: 4-28-2004
Directed by Richard Lester
Featuring The Beatles, Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron

The head of a sacrificial cult tries to recover a sacred ring that has found its way onto Ringo’s finger.

Fantastic content: A bit of horror with the sacrificial cult plot, and some science fiction with a variety of strange inventions and a scene where Paul McCartney shrinks to a tiny size.

I won’t argue that Richard Lester has earned a place in cinema history; he was one of the pioneers of the swinging sixties cinema style, and his handling of the musical numbers here makes him one of the forerunners of the music video. Nor do I have any problem with the music; I’ve always loved the work of the Beatles, and this movie has a number of favorites (particularly the title song, “Ticket to Ride” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”). Nonetheless, I come out of this one with a certain sense of disappointment because it doesn’t quite succeed as a comedy. Not that it’s disastrously unfunny; it’s mildly amusing throughout. I just think that it was trying to be a lot more than “mildly amusing”; I think it was trying to be an anarchically wild knee-slapper, like what you would expect with Monty Python or the Marx Brothers. And despite the fact that they have a great deal of charm, the Beatles aren’t the Marx Brothers; they were primarily musicians, not comedians. As a result, I feel the movie strains for big laughs at times, and they don’t come. Still, some of the ideas are funny enough; in particular, I like the fact that the cult can’t kill Ringo until they paint him red, so all their plots to do him in must also involve a way of covering him with red paint.

On a side point, I recall having read somewhere that John Lennon hated this movie, though my memory may be playing tricks on me. If he did, I think it shows in his performance; there are moments here where I sense a nasty edge to some of his comments. At any rate, the Beatles’ next movie (MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR) would be their own production.

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