Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: 'Magical Mystery Tour' DVD

The Beatles were so naïve when they filmed Magical Mystery Tour that a pie chart sufficed as a script. They weren’t even aware they needed to use clapboards! That error caused its share of troubles while editing their home movie, as Paul McCartney says in his director’s commentary on this new DVD. That naïveté was also the target of the merciless critical drubbing the film received upon its airing as a BBC1 Boxing Day special in 1967. How could such creators of quality music think they could pass of such crap on their loyal public? What charlatans!

 45 years on from Beatlemania’s initial intensity, Magical Mystery Tour plays surprisingly well. It is, as the critics charged, indulgent, but that can be forgiven at a tight little 53 minutes well divided by six Beatle tunes. There’s no story to speak of, and the tour isn’t particularly magical or mysterious, but its hard to get bored, what with Victor Spinetti’s babbling sergeant, The Bonzo Dog Doodah Band’s uproarious performance of “Death Cab for Cutie”, Jan Carson’s stripping, Jessie Robins’s scene-stealing bickering with Nephew Ringo, and the precious opportunity to spend some time with the Fabs in their post-Sgt. Pepper’s psychedelic splendor. The five-minute romp bookended by Spinetti’s capering and “Flying” is the only spot that really sags. Otherwise, Magical Mystery Tour is a nice collage of music video randomness and 1967 weirdness.

Since the film is so brief, it’s only good value that this DVD should be fattened up with a generous selection of extras. The most substantial is Paul’s commentary, and it’s interesting to hear him talk so much about such an odd item in The Beatle’s overly familiar bag of tricks. There’s a 20-minute documentary with new interviews with Paul and Ringo, Bonzo Dog Neil Innes, and others who were along for the ride. The doc is neat, though it whitewashes the negative reaction that met the film. There’s a video for Traffic’s “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” not included in the film that would have been preferable to the aforementioned romp. There are alternate edits of three musical sequences, a short featurette in which Ringo watches the film on his laptop, and a couple of cut scenes, one of which was directed by Lennon and plays like a Benny Hill bit. The most fascinating extra may be the 11-minute “Meet the Supporting Cast” in which we see Jessie Robins playing some jazzy drums. A smiling Ringo deems her kit-work “far out” and “pretty hot.” He isn’t wrong 

Get the Magical Mystery Tour DVD at Amazon.com here:
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