Sunday, February 6, 2011

Magical Mystery Tour: The Film

The chief Beatles fact for Magical Mystery Tour is that it was an hour long television program aired on the BBC in Great Britain on December 26, 1967. The film, starring all four Beatles, was deemed a disaster by the viewing public and media critics alike. The idea for the film and its plot is generally attributed to Paul McCartney.

Approximately ten to twelve hours of footage for the film was shot in less than a month's time in September, 1967. Much of the program was filmed at RAF West Malling, a decommissioned airstrip and its hangar. Other parts of the film were shot in Devon and Cornwall.

The plot was not heavily scripted, with the basic premise that a group of tourists was taking a "charabanc," or bus tour, to see the Blackpool lights. Beyond that, the plot, inasmuch as there is one, centers on Ringo and his Aunt Jessie, with Jessie falling in love with the bus conductor, named Buster Bloodvessel. The Beatles play passengers and, with roadie Mal Evans, magicians who cause strange things to happen during the tour. This is what causes the film to be more than a bit surrealistic and often depart from any meaningful central plot. The music punctuating the film's scenes is the soundtrack for the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour album.

Others in the cast were Derek Royle, who played the tour director Jolly Jimmy Johnson; Mandy Weet, who played the hostess Wendy Winters; Ivon Cutler, who played Buster Bloodvessel; and Victor Spinetti, who played an army recruiting officer.

The color film was aired in black and white the day after Christmas, which was also boxing day in Britain--not a great time slot even for a great film. The general consensus was that the Beatles had finally gone too far, with nothing substantive in the sometimes psychedelic montage of scenes. McCartney originally admitted it wasn't a decent effort, although in later years he stated that the film wasn't that bad, merely an avant-garde piece that was admired by many prestigious filmmakers such as Stephen Speilberg. The film was spoofed in the movie The Rutles.

The film was not seen in the United States until New Line Cinema showed it in select theaters in 1974. In the 1980s, ABC finally aired the film on American television. The film was later released in VHS and DVD formats.

Many, including McCartney, feel that the film is noteworthy since it shows the only performance of "I Am the Walrus," even though the Beatles do not play the song live but rather lip-sync the lyrics and pretend to play their instruments. The clip has become iconic among Beatles fans and is one of the more memorable scenes from the film.

Songs in the film not featured on the soundtrack Beatles album Magical Mystery Tour are "She Loves You," "All My Loving" (instrumental), "Jessie's Dream (instrumental), and "Death Cab for Cutie," performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.


Beatles Albums: Background and History
Beatles Biography
Beatles Connections: Official Websites for the Beatles Inner Circle
Beatles Discography
Beatles Films
Beatles General Discussion Topics
Beatles History
Beatles News
Beatles Roadies: Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans
Beatles Solo Discography
Beatles Songs Discussed on
Beatles Songs - Solo
Beatles Timelines
Beatles Trivia Quiz
Books About the Beatles
Books by John Lennon and George Harrison
Sites Related to Beatles History
Songs Covered by the Beatles
The Beatles Official Website
The Lennon Pages

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