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PCR #464  (Vol. 10, No. 7) This edition is for the week of February 9--15, 2009.

"Friday the 13th"  by Mike Smith
2008 Was A Year to Forget, But--December was a Month to Remember! Part 3  by William Moriaty
The Yellow Submarine Chronicles Part Seven: Many Years from Now  by ED Tucker
Top 20 Albums of 2008 part 1: #20-11 by Terence Nuzum
The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies by Chris Woods
A-$$-hole .... This Time It’s 4 Real .... Jagodzinski Likes McCown by Chris Munger
Michael Phelps .... Christian Bleeping Bale .... Movie Notes .... Where's Your Messiah Now? .... Owning History .... My Favorite Films, Part 2  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

The Yellow Submarine Chronicles Part Seven: Many Years from Now

Special Note: The Yellow Submarine Chronicles was originally scheduled to wrap up in December with this installment, effectively ending the series in the last month of the film’s 40th anniversary year. While researching the final portions of the article, I discovered someone connected with the film was located in Jacksonville, Florida and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get some first hand insights. This caused a delay while an interview was conducted and the conclusion was reworked and expanded to include it. This interview will conclude the series next week in part eight.

Following a less than Earth-shattering release in England and general box office success throughout the rest of the world in 1968, Yellow Submarine began a slow descent into relative obscurity. For the next few years, it was a favorite at matinee and revival screenings and a popular rental for college campuses, where the audience felt they could view it in the “proper” state of mind. By the mid-1970’s, the film had been syndicated in the United States and relegated to local movie programs across the country (like the Channel 9 Dialing for Dollars Movie where I watched it several times). These sightings became more and more infrequent over the years until it vanished almost entirely following some hastily scheduled screenings in the wake of John Lennon’s tragic death in 1980.

In 1981, Orlando classic rock radio station WDIZ held a Beatles Weekend promotion that culminated in a screening of Yellow Submarine (twice) and Let It Be at a local theater. After an entire week of Beatles music on the radio, I could barely stand the drive into Orlando. This gave me my first opportunity to see Yellow Submarine on the big screen and my first opportunity to see Let It Be ever. The theater went all out with Beatles decorations and a musical slide show during the intermissions. It was evident from the packed house that I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the chance to see these films in a theater over a decade after their original releases.

Yellow Submarine was only one brief moment in the monumental career of the Beatles but it was one that was singled out time and time again. In 1978, when former Monty Python member Eric Idle created the hilarious Beatles spoof, The Rutles, he included a special animated sequence for the Pre-Fab Four’s own Yellow Submarine Sandwich and even wrote a special tune for it, Cheese and Onions! When the television special was released on DVD, Idle revealed on a commentary track that, in order to make this segment as authentic as possible, they hired the animators of the original film (which was only ten years old at the time) and instructed them to spoof themselves. As dead on as the rest of the special is, this sequence is still a stand out.

The popular animated television show The Simpsons, has included numerous references to the Beatles during its lengthy run and several of those included the submarine. One recent episode featured a sequence with celebrities in Heaven and an irate John Lennon was shown using the famous vessel for transportation. In the rock documentary spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Dewey meets a hilarious, over the top, parody of the Beatles when they cross paths in India seeking enlightenment. Joining the Beatles on an acid trip, Dewey envisions both himself and them as very Yellow Submarine-like animated characters until he has negative thoughts and is attacked by a “giant trippy machete”!

During Yellow Submarine’s hiatus from the small screen, the video cassette recorder invaded homes across the country and revolutionized television viewing as we knew it. Early on, a few lucky collectors were able to swap marginal copies of rare late night screenings that helped satisfy the appetites of die hard fans. In 1987, MGM, who had acquired the United Artists film catalog, finally gave the film a proper release on home video. Unfortunately, the hefty suggested retail price of $59.95 for the VHS tape or laser disc made this unaffordable to the average Beatles fan. Due to a conflict between MGM and Apple over the musical rights, this home video edition went out of print only four years later and commanded an even higher price on the secondary market.

In 1998, for the thirtieth anniversary of the film, Apple Corps decided to finally give the film the treatment it deserved with a restoration for home video and limited theatrical screenings. The public reaction to this overdue reverence proved to be overwhelming and soon a wave of Yellow Submarine-mania was striking the country. For a film that had not set the world on fire during its initial release and that represented only one small corner in the vast hall of Beatlemania, Yellow Submarine had finally found its place in pop culture history.

The restoration of the film included the reinstatement of the Hey Bulldog sequence that had been missing since the first theatrical screenings. Home video bonuses included a feature length commentary with Art Director Heinz Edelmann, the original theatrical trailer, and a brief making of documentary from the '60’s, Mod Odyssey. This new edition was released on VHS tapes, laser discs, and a brand new format called DVDs - all at affordable prices.

Finally, thirty years after the fact, a major error was corrected and a new version of the soundtrack was released. While George Martin’s instrumental score for the film is inspired, it was deserving of its own album and should never have been pasted together with the Beatles’ music. The revised soundtrack featured all the Beatles’ songs used in the film, not just the ones created for it. Now fans could finally enjoy the musical aspects of the film separate from the visuals.

The popularity of the revived film was not lost on retailers. Companies quickly jumped on the Yellow Submarine licensing bandwagon and store shelves were soon stocked with posters, T-shirts, picture frames, coffee mugs, and even lava lamps bearing images from the movie. One of the most impressive tie-ins was a line of action figures designed by Todd McFarlane that convincingly rendered the animated characters in three dimensional plastic and became instant collector’s items. While the film had a decent amount of tie-in merchandise during its initial release, most of this had been produced in limited quantities and disappeared quickly, becoming highly sought-after collectibles. This new wave of consumerism eclipsed the original both in quantity and longevity and Yellow Submarine products can still be found in Beatles specialty catalogs to this day.

Coming next week in the final chapter of The Yellow Submarine Chronicles – A tale of two tales and an exclusive interview!

"Retrorama" is ©2009 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 ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.