Help! (1965)

Directed by Richard Lester
Cinematography David Watkin

Help! is a 1965 film directed by Richard Lester, starring the BeatlesJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—and featuring Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, John Bluthal, Roy Kinnear and Patrick Cargill. Help! was the second feature film made by the Beatles and is a comedy adventure which sees the group come up against an evil cult.  The soundtrack was released as an album, also called Help!.

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An Eastern cult discovers that the sacrificial ring is missing. Ringo, drummer of The Beatles band has it; sent by the girl (who’s to be sacrificed) as a gift. Clang, Ahme, Bhuta and several cult members leave for London to retrieve the ring. After several failed attempts to steal the ring, they confront him in an Indian restaurant. Ringo learns that if he does not return the ring soon, he will become the next sacrifice. Ringo then discovers that the ring is stuck on his finger. Its a race against time; John, Paul, and George try to protect their friend while they’re all being chased not only by Clang and his minions, but also by two mad scientists and the chief inspector of Scotland yard. Will Ringo be saved, or will he be sacrificed?

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BEATLEMANIA PART 2

13 November 2002 | by brianlion (United States) – See all my reviews

“Help” is a nice companion movie to “A Hard Days Night”. It is filmed in color, and while it doesn’t have the classic look of black and white “Hard Days Night”, the script is better, and the Beatles appear more relaxed acting. The music is very good. Ringo, often in the background during in concerts and on recordings, proves he is the best actor of the Fab Four. Paul, John and George come across the screen as genuine and charismatic. “Help!” is filmed in different locations as well, which add to the film’s quality. To me, the Beatles are the greatest rock group in history. Before there was MTV, there was “A Hard Days Night” and “Help!”. Nothing in music can top that.

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One of the film’s original taglines was, “Please do not reveal the beginning of this movie to your friends (they’d never believe it, anyway)”. This is a spoof of the tagline from ‘Alfred Hitchcock”s Psycho (1960), which implored its audience, “Please do not reveal the ending of this movie to your friends (it’s the only one we have)”.

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Inspiration

The Beatles said the film was inspired by the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup;[3] it was also directly satirical of the James Bond series of films.[4] At the time of the original release of Help!, its distributor, United Artists, also held the rights to the Bond series.

The humour of the film is strongly influenced by the abstract humour of the Goon Show, in which the director had personal and direct experience in the conversion of the radio format to television, and personal working experience with Peter Sellers in particular.Beatles recording producer George Martin had also produced records for the Goon Show team. McCartney has always said that the Beatles style of humour was taken from the Goon Show. Many of the film’s concepts are derived from Goon Shows, such as the presence of wild animals, music, and abstractions such as the closing statement that concludes the film.

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According to interviews conducted with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr for The Beatles Anthology, director Richard Lester was given a larger budget for this film than he had for A Hard Day’s Night, thanks to the commercial success of the latter. Thus, this feature film was in colour and was shot on several exotic foreign locations. It was also given a fuller musical score than A Hard Day’s Night, provided by a full orchestra, and including pieces of well known classical music: Wagner‘s Lohengrin, Act III Overture, Tchaikovsky‘s “1812 Overture“, Beethoven‘s “Ninth Symphony” (“Ode to Joy”), and, during the end credits and with their own comic vocal interpretation, Rossini‘s “Barber of Seville” overture. The original title for the film – only changed to Help! very near to its release – was Eight Arms To Hold You.

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Help! was shot in London, Salisbury Plain, the Austrian Alps, New Providence Island and Paradise Island in the Bahamas and Twickenham Film Studios, beginning in the Bahamas on 23 February 1965. Starr commented in The Beatles Anthology that they were in the Bahamas for the hot weather scenes, and therefore had to wear light clothing even though it was rather cold. Tony Bramwell, the assistant to Beatles manager Brian Epstein, stated in his book A Magical Mystery Tour that Epstein chose the Bahamas for tax reasons. According to The Beatles Anthology, during the restaurant sequence filmed in early April, George began to discover Indian-style music, which would be a key element in future songs such as “Norwegian Wood”. Filming finished on 14 April at Ailsa Avenue in Twickenham.

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The ski scenes were shot at Obertauern, a small village in Austria. One reason this location was chosen was that the stars of the movie were less likely to be recognized there than at one of the larger resorts with many British tourists. The Beatles were in Obertauern for about two weeks in March 1965 along with a film crew of around 60 people. Locals served as ski stunt doubles for the Beatles who stayed at the hotel “Edelweiss”. Most of the crew were based in the hotel “Marieta”, where one night the Beatles gave an impromptu concert on the occasion of a director’s assistant’s birthday. This was the only time they ever played on stage in Austria.

The Beatles did not particularly enjoy the filming of the movie, nor were they pleased with the end product. In 1970, John Lennon said they felt like extras in their own movie.

“The movie was out of our control. With A Hard Day’s Night, we had a lot of input, and it was semi-realistic. But with Help!, Dick Lester didn’t tell us what it was all about.

— John Lennon on filming Help!
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Ten years later Lennon was more charitable:

I realize, looking back, how advanced it was. It was a precursor to the Batman “Pow! Wow!” on TV—that kind of stuff. But [Lester] never explained it to us. Partly, maybe, because we hadn’t spent a lot of time together between A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and partly because we were smoking marijuana for breakfast during that period. Nobody could communicate with us, it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time. In our own world. It’s like doing nothing most of the time, but still having to rise at 7 am, so we became bored.

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A contributing factor was exhaustion attributable to their busy schedule of writing, recording and touring. Afterward they were hesitant to begin another film project, and indeed Help! was their last full-length scripted theatrical film. Their obligation for a third film to United Artists was met by the 1970 documentary film Let It Be. The 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine did not meet contractual obligations because it did not star the Beatles, and their only live appearance was featured for less than two minutes at the film’s conclusion.

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Music video before there were music videos

Author: Ajtlawyer from Richland, WA
24 April 2002

This is an entertaining movie that serves its sole purpose very well—to showcase a bunch of terrific Beatles songs. Everyone knows the plot—a religious cult needs to retrieve a sacrificial ring which Ringo cannot get off his finger, consequently he has to be sacrificed. The lads go through various adventures in London, Switzerland and the Bahamas before it is all over.

It is easy to imagine this movie being an inspiration for Monty Python later on and it isn’t surprising to learn that George Harrison in particlar became good friends with Michael Palin and Eric Idle of Python fame. Now imagine what a combined Beatles-Python movie would’ve been like!

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One scene in “Help!” which I particularly remember is the Leo Mckern, the cult leader, dressed in his sari, drinking tea and collegially discussing his religious beliefs with an Anglican priest. Of the Beatles, John and Ringo have most of the funny lines and the movie exaggerates the idea of George being tight with his money—playing poker with Ringo at Buckingham Palace, pilfering rings from a jeweler, pretending he can’t find his wallet thus forcing Ringo to pick up the tab at a pub. The caricature personas the Beatles adopted for this movie in particular became the way many fans viewed them which I think George found to be alternately ironic and irritating since he insisted he was nothing like the movie version of himself.

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Weird little throwaway film with great music

6/10
Author: kylopod (kylopod@aol.com) from Baltimore, MD
10 November 2005

Because my mother is a huge Beatles fan, I saw this movie a lot when I was a kid. It may look weak in comparison to “A Hard Day’s Night,” widely regarded as the “Citizen Kane” of rock musicals. But it’s an easier film for a kid to relate to. Instead of a realistic, ironic mockumentary about the lives of rock stars, it’s a harmless escapist fantasy that has precious little to do with the real Beatles. These are the Beatles of myth, the four asexual men who all live in the same house, which is supposed to pass for an automated futuristic type of home, at least to audiences in the 1960s. I suppose that as a kid I got a kick out of the idea of having a vending machine in one’s own home. Somehow, I never asked myself what the advantage of that would be, and the film never does, either.

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Looking back on the film as an adult, I have a hard time determining what it is I liked about it. Certainly, I can’t remember laughing at any of the jokes. In fact, I was vaguely aware that most of the jokes fall flat. (In contrast, the Monkees’ TV show, modeled heavily on this movie, was often quite funny.) The superintendent who does a bad Cagney imitation and inexplicably begins every sentence with the words “So this is the famous….” left me staring at the screen blankly. This is quintessential British humor, revolving heavily around people’s nonchalant reactions to bizarre events. It’s a brand of humor that has great potential to be funny; here, it’s just strange, probably because none of the ideas are all that inspired. The idea of a tiger who likes Beethoven might have sounded good on paper, I suppose, but it doesn’t come together on screen. I suppose it could have been used as the setup for a funnier joke; instead, it’s used as the punchline. At least I was able to “get” that joke when I was a kid. Many of the other jokes involve references that went over my head, such as the line “It’s the brain drain: his brain’s draining.” Those sophisticated enough to know what the brain drain is are likely to be too old to appreciate such a pedestrian pun.

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The Beatles themselves do not emerge in this film as talented comic actors, to put it mildly. Their line readings are wooden, their comic timing is off, and their apparent attempts at improvisation are pathetic, as in their continual “ho ho ho”ing throughout the film. The Beatles were supposed to have been very funny on stage and in interviews, but none of that ability translates to the screen. It may not have been their fault. The characters they play are given no identifiable traits, and as a result they come off as interchangeable, except for Ringo because of his role in the plot. Instead of giving them distinct comic personas to play, the film turns them into straight-men who are the victims of a zany, insane world that’s conspiring against them. This is presumably what led the real Beatles to complain that the film reduced them to “extras in (their) own movie.”

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So why do I have so much affection for the film? Probably because I was just sort of enchanted by the events. The movie has a lot of the types of scenes that delight kids, like the aforementioned automated house, as well as a ton of weird gadgets. The various methods in which the Beatles attempt to remove the dreaded ring from Ringo’s finger is the best aspect of the film, plot-wise. It may not make me laugh, but there still is a certain pleasure in watching these scenes. Besides, I’ve always liked movies about Thuggees. Along with “Gunga Din,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and a somewhat darker film from 1988, “The Deceivers,” “Help!” convinced me that Thuggees were a real group existing in modern times. How disappointed I was when I grew up and eventually learned that the actual cult was destroyed by British forces in the early nineteenth century. “Temple of Doom” at least alludes to that fact, and bases its plot on the premise that the cult has secretly survived. “Help!” never explains how Thuggees could be around in the twentieth century; you just have to accept it.

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But the most obvious reason why I still like this film is the wonderful music. It actually has a better soundtrack, in my opinion, than “A Hard Day’s Night.” Among the songs that “Help!” popularized are not just the hits like “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love,” and the title song, but also lesser known tracks like “The Night Before” and “Another Girl.” The earlier film appropriately focused on their dance music. The songs from this film have a greater focus on harmony and musical virtuosity.

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Weird little throwaway film with great music

6/10
Author: kylopod (kylopod@aol.com) from Baltimore, MD
10 November 2005

Because my mother is a huge Beatles fan, I saw this movie a lot when I was a kid. It may look weak in comparison to “A Hard Day’s Night,” widely regarded as the “Citizen Kane” of rock musicals. But it’s an easier film for a kid to relate to. Instead of a realistic, ironic mockumentary about the lives of rock stars, it’s a harmless escapist fantasy that has precious little to do with the real Beatles. These are the Beatles of myth, the four asexual men who all live in the same house, which is supposed to pass for an automated futuristic type of home, at least to audiences in the 1960s. I suppose that as a kid I got a kick out of the idea of having a vending machine in one’s own home. Somehow, I never asked myself what the advantage of that would be, and the film never does, either.

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Looking back on the film as an adult, I have a hard time determining what it is I liked about it. Certainly, I can’t remember laughing at any of the jokes. In fact, I was vaguely aware that most of the jokes fall flat. (In contrast, the Monkees’ TV show, modeled heavily on this movie, was often quite funny.) The superintendent who does a bad Cagney imitation and inexplicably begins every sentence with the words “So this is the famous….” left me staring at the screen blankly. This is quintessential British humor, revolving heavily around people’s nonchalant reactions to bizarre events. It’s a brand of humor that has great potential to be funny; here, it’s just strange, probably because none of the ideas are all that inspired. The idea of a tiger who likes Beethoven might have sounded good on paper, I suppose, but it doesn’t come together on screen. I suppose it could have been used as the setup for a funnier joke; instead, it’s used as the punchline. At least I was able to “get” that joke when I was a kid. Many of the other jokes involve references that went over my head, such as the line “It’s the brain drain: his brain’s draining.” Those sophisticated enough to know what the brain drain is are likely to be too old to appreciate such a pedestrian pun.

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The Beatles themselves do not emerge in this film as talented comic actors, to put it mildly. Their line readings are wooden, their comic timing is off, and their apparent attempts at improvisation are pathetic, as in their continual “ho ho ho”ing throughout the film. The Beatles were supposed to have been very funny on stage and in interviews, but none of that ability translates to the screen. It may not have been their fault. The characters they play are given no identifiable traits, and as a result they come off as interchangeable, except for Ringo because of his role in the plot. Instead of giving them distinct comic personas to play, the film turns them into straight-men who are the victims of a zany, insane world that’s conspiring against them. This is presumably what led the real Beatles to complain that the film reduced them to “extras in (their) own movie.”

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So why do I have so much affection for the film? Probably because I was just sort of enchanted by the events. The movie has a lot of the types of scenes that delight kids, like the aforementioned automated house, as well as a ton of weird gadgets. The various methods in which the Beatles attempt to remove the dreaded ring from Ringo’s finger is the best aspect of the film, plot-wise. It may not make me laugh, but there still is a certain pleasure in watching these scenes. Besides, I’ve always liked movies about Thuggees. Along with “Gunga Din,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and a somewhat darker film from 1988, “The Deceivers,” “Help!” convinced me that Thuggees were a real group existing in modern times. How disappointed I was when I grew up and eventually learned that the actual cult was destroyed by British forces in the early nineteenth century. “Temple of Doom” at least alludes to that fact, and bases its plot on the premise that the cult has secretly survived. “Help!” never explains how Thuggees could be around in the twentieth century; you just have to accept it.

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But the most obvious reason why I still like this film is the wonderful music. It actually has a better soundtrack, in my opinion, than “A Hard Day’s Night.” Among the songs that “Help!” popularized are not just the hits like “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love,” and the title song, but also lesser known tracks like “The Night Before” and “Another Girl.” The earlier film appropriately focused on their dance music. The songs from this film have a greater focus on harmony and musical virtuosity.

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Another Crazy Beatles Outing.

8/10
Author: GuyCC from Las Vegas, NV
25 December 2000

God Bless the Beatles. They’re one of the few musical groups that still remain as fresh and entertaining even today. And that applies to their films as well. “Help!” is a lot of fun. Take the fab four with a goofy plot of Ringo being the target of religious sacrificial cult, add a handful of great songs, and that’s the movie. The one-liners in this film are still very funny, with plenty of “groaners” and the typical quick British wit. Really nice camera work, great sets (the Beatles’ apartment showcases clever diversity for each member’s personality) and just wild sub-plots throughout the film. (Paul’s tiny adventure and the tank chase comes to mind.) As I said before, the film’s main asset is the music, and one can’t help but find themselves caught up in the songs.

The strangest thing in the film is when it abruptly veers away from the cult chase to numerous songs and the Beatles just playing around. Even with a few more attempts on poor Ringo’s finger, it seems like everyone takes a break from the chase. It really doesn’t matter, however. The Beatles seem to be having a good time, and you can’t help but join in.

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“Help!” is a great showcase of Beatles music, fun writing and clever visuals. While not as great as “A Hard Day’s Night”, those who enjoyed that movie will be hard-pressed to find anything wrong here.

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