“. . . a rolly polly 60’s film. . .”

30 04 2009

I’m just settling in to watch Magical Mystery Tour for about the dozenth time.  It just occurred to me that I had written a review of this oft-criticized film elsewhere.  This may seem cheap to re-hash my own work, but I like the review so I’m putting it here, on my music blog, where it belongs.


In the Anthology series, Paul McCartney used this phrase to describe what the Beatles (Paul, mostly) were trying to create with Magical Mystery Tour. The resulting product, shown in black and white on TV in Britain, was widely panned. Some critics went so far as to say that the film was proof that the Fab Four had lost their shine.

Magical Mystery Tour was certainly no great cinematic work. In fact, it’s of virtually no consequence to anyone other than hard-core Beatles fans or stoners that like its psychadelic bent.

Whatever it lacks, it has a surreal, quirky charm that makes it worthwhile. Some scenes are just plain bizaare, like the dream sequence in which John Lennon, a mustachioed waiter in a posh restaurant, shovels a table full of spaghetti onto a fat lady’s plate. Not surprisingly, Neil Innes of Rutles fame (or infamy, if you prefer) is in the The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who performs the song “Death Cab for Cutie” — recognize the name, kids? — while a dancer does a striptease. Only in trippy movies like Magical Mystery Tour, or its cousin, the Monkees’ Head, can you see stuff like that.

Most of the movie is nonsense but some scenes are quite funny. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect if you asked a pot smoking pop group to put together a Monty Python episode.

If nothing else, the movie is, more or less, like an hour show of Beatles videos. Nowhere else can you see videos of “Fool on the Hill,” “Your Mother Should Know,” and “I am the Walrus.” You know that can’t be bad!





2 responses

6 10 2012
Pat Myers

Really enjoyed it just now. It more or less set the whole visual style for Monty Python before Monty Python or even Spike’s Q series. I’d seen it as a kid and found it too disjointed and confusing. 30 years later it feels a lot more fun.

1 01 2013

I just watched it again two nights ago because I got the restored Blu-ray version for Christmas. I like the movie quite a bit. If you measure it as some kind of film, I’m not sure you can say a whole lot of positive things about it. If you see it as a one-off Beatles musical special, it works much better. I still like it. It beats the crap out of Help! the movie.

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