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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #401  (Vol. 8, No. 48) This edition is for the week of November 26--December 2, 2007.

"Enchanted""  by Mike Smith
DVD Review: HELP!  by ED Tucker
Robert Sandsmark - R.I.P., DVD Grindhouse: "Rats...Night of Terror"  by Andy Lalino
Metal Health....Mr. Karloff....House of Dark Shadows to DVD?  by Matt Drinnenberg
I Know They Have Hannauka Songs, I've Heard Them .... Giving Up His Day Job .... Ho Ho Honolulu .... Hogan Knows Best? .... And So This Is Christmas .... Passing On .... Andy's Challenge .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 35: Next Week!  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

DVD Review:

Released By: Apple / EMI
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Number of Discs: 2
Approximate Running Time: 149 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Theatrical Trailers, Radio Spots, Interviews With Cast And Crew, Restoration Documentary
Suggested Price: $29.98

The Source:
In 1965, the Beatles teamed up again with director Richard Lester to produce their second film in a three picture deal with United Artists. Unlike the previous year’s offering, A Hard Day’s Night, which was an exaggerated documentary on a day in the life of a world famous rock band, Help placed the Fab Four in a more conventional movie plot. Heavily influenced by the James Bond film series and the traditional British comedies Lester was fond of, the Beatles second big screen outing is a marvelous mixture of slapstick comedy, humorous puns, pop culture references, and some catchy tunes!

The Fanboy Factor:
A Hard Day’s Night had been a carefully crafted experiment that proved the Beatles could support a feature film. As long as a new song was performed every so many minutes, the scenes in between were basically irrelevant. Richard Lester took a bold step with Help by attempting to utilize the Beatles as actors as well as musicians. Fortunately the roles they play are no more than caricatures of themselves as viewed by the general public. Lester wisely padded the remaining cast with experienced comedy actors like Leo Mckern, Victor Spinetti, Eleanor Bron (in her second feature), Roy Kinnear, and Alfie Bass (in an almost unrecognizable turn as an English doorman at an Indian restaurant). Once these characters are dropped into a plot involving a missing sacrificial ring, a mad scientist, and ineffectual authorities, there is more than enough excitement to fill the screen even without the musical segments. The final product is a fast paced romp filled with witty banter and some great tunes. It is also very obvious in retrospect how this film served as the blueprint from which The Monkees television series was created!

The Product:
In 1997 and 2000, MPI Studios released DVD editions of Help but both were quickly withdrawn under mysterious circumstances (reported to be rights issues) that left fans puzzled and bootleggers overjoyed. Now, after ten years of rumors and anticipation, fans finally have what most consider the Beatles best theatrical effort on DVD but was it worth the wait? The answer is both yes and no. The film itself looks incredible (check out the “sheet music” on Paul’s organ that can now be clearly recognized as Superman comic books!) and will most likely set a standard by which future restorations will be measured. The two disc set contains a very good selection of bonus material but these extras do not live up to the level of quality set by the restored motion picture. The major misfire in the group is a segment listed as “A Missing Scene Featuring Wendy Richard” on the packaging and advertising. This turns out to be a discussion of a missing scene with some of the cast and crew including Wendy Richard, but the actual scene is never shown and only represented by photographs! There is also no mention anywhere of other missing footage including some that made it as far as the theatrical trailer but isn’t present in the finished film. The two documentaries on the making of the movie and the restoration are well done but participation by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr is sorely missed. The other extras including trailers, radio spots, and an enclosed booklet are all very nice and the packaging and menu design is excellent. Unfortunately the omission of the missing scenes and behind the scenes footage that has been circulating among fans for decades gives the impression that, even after ten years in the making, this is still an unfinished product.

The Bottom Line:
This standard edition set is worth the price for the feature film alone and the included bonus material is exactly that – a bonus. Beatle fans can finally see this film in a beautifully restored version that literally pops off the screen with color and detail. A deluxe edition is also available that includes a book and reproductions of the poster and lobby cards but at a list price of $134.99 it isn’t likely to be a hot item. Stop worrying, Help! is on the way – now when do we get Let It Be?

"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.