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Thread: Help!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Beyond Help

    The director of two Beatles� films, Richard Lester, reveals the laugh lines left by the Fab Four

    Wendy Ide



    The fifth Beatle � it�s a sobriquet bestowed on a series of individuals who, over the years, got close enough to the Fab Four to be irradiated by their celebrity. For three years in the mid-Sixties, Richard Lester, the director of A Hard Day�s Night and Help!, found himself close enough to the eye of the hurricane to earn auxiliary Beatle status.



    On the eve of a DVD reissue of a dazzlingly restored print of Help!, Lester muses on the impact of Beatle-mania on those caught in its slip-stream. �I suppose for everyone who has been through it, however briefly, you�re never as innocent as you were before. I keep the drawbridge up even now, when my son is better known in the business than I am.�



    It�s a typically self-effacing comment from a man whose diverse career includes the Goons� television show, The Knack . . . And How To Get It, Petulia and Superman II and III. Fans in the industry range from Steven Soderbergh to Brad Bird, Hal Hartley to Martin Scorsese. His work with the Beatles was so inventive and so influential in carving out the vernacular of the modern music video that he was named �the father of MTV� by the channel. Famously, Lester immediately wrote back asking for a paternity test.



    Lester witnessed first hand the voracious press attention that surrounded the Beatles in the mid-Sixties and how they coped with it. �They were very protective of each other. If somebody was feeling off, the others would kind of compensate and surround them. It was a very warm thing to see.� Who was most likely to get depressed? �I think that the one that seemed to be suffering at the time probably was Ringo. But they all dealt with it in different ways.�



    Although associated with the British film industry, Lester was in fact born in Philadelphia. Something of a child prodigy, he started school at the age of 3 and went to university at 15, where he found himself surrounded by people �three years bigger, smarter and better dressed�. Disillusioned by his course in clinical psychology, Lester spent his time playing the piano and perfecting the ultimate martini.



    A television director by the age of 19, Lester left America. �I felt that there was a huge world that I felt more in tune with. I went to Europe and lived by my wits for about a year.� He arrived in Britain by a happy accident six months before the launch of ITV, when TV directors were in demand.



    A stint directing three series of the Goons� television show was good grounding for Lester�s collaboration with the Beatles, who shared with him a taste for the surreal and the downright silly. �If the film holds up,� Lester says of Help!, �it�s probably because silliness doesn�t date.� It was a silliness that, certainly during the filming of Help! in the Bahamas, was assisted by the Beatles� consumption of vast quantities of the local herb.



    �I didn�t demand a standard of professionalism and get stroppy with them,� says Lester. �If they wanted to indulge in certain substances, well, that�s fine.� He�s quick to put things into perspective however. �They weren�t lying in some sort of stupor, it�s not heroin that we�re talking about. They were giggling.�



    Lester recalls a seven-hour transAtlantic flight during which the Beatles were higher than the aeroplane for most of the journey. �The boys were giggling, and my son was three at the time. And there�s nothing a three-year-old likes better than to see people laughing, so he laughed for seven hours as well. At that time, it was very popular for Paul to be given teddy bears by his fans. So suddenly, a little tractor pulling two wagon loads of teddy bears turned up in front of the plane. My son just disappeared for the rest of the journey under this mound of teddies.�



    Lester has been retired from film-making for about 15 years, a decision he says that was prompted partly by the advent of digital technology. �I don�t understand computers and I�m a terrible neo-Luddite. I snarl when I go past my wife�s computer. I don�t own a mobile phone.�



    Watching Help! again for the first time in 35 years � the restored print was screened at the San Sebastian Film Festival � was a bittersweet experience for Lester. �I deliberately don�t see the films. It�s painful. I�m constantly trying to correct them. I said once, long ago, that looking at one�s films is like a series of tombstones held together by editing tape.�



    Lester is a consummate story-teller, and he clearly enjoys revisiting the memories that the film arouses. Scenes purporting to be at Buckingham Palace, he recalls, were shot at the home of Lord Astor, who was then bed-bound, convalescing from a heart attack.



    The crew of Help! decided to organise a relay race around the boxwood maze in the gardens, causing much derision from the Beatles. Lord Astor was sufficiently interested to offer a prize to the winning team � a bottle of vintage champagne from his cellar.



    �Come lunchtime, everybody has changed into their trainers. Suddenly the Beatles have turned up, the gun goes off and they wipe the floor with the lot of them. Then we all trooped up to collect the prize which John immediately rejected, �Forget that, can I have a try on your oxygen?� So they all sat around on his bed, chatting, and finished his bottle of oxygen.�

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Country: United States wearysloth's Avatar
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    I always preferred Help over A Hard Day's Night - it's that surreal Intermission bit that gets me every time...



    "Take this hastily scribbled note, hastily to acting Lance Corporal Bhuta. Off!"

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    And they showed the pan-and-scanned ratty print version I already own. Will have to invest in the DVD to see the film with decent colour and the correct framing.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by D Cairns
    And they showed the pan-and-scanned ratty print version I already own. Will have to invest in the DVD to see the film with decent colour and the correct framing.
    That's disappointing, I recorded it hoping it was going to be a nice new widescreen print. Oh well, I'll just tape over it and get the DVD.



    Bats.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: UK Joe Fraguela's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    That's disappointing, I recorded it hoping it was going to be a nice new widescreen print. Oh well, I'll just tape over it and get the DVD.



    Bats.
    Very disappointting. One would have thought that they could have shown a crisper, polished print. Oh well, the DVD release will be on christmas list.

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    HELP, but how could anyone regard this dogroll as their favorite Brit film. A curiosity piece from when they were just entertainers making a fast buck instead of gurus telling the world through a pot haze how to blow bubbles and be reborn a fur coat. I preferred John L when he was just a randy Northern git to his philosophical soapbox cum the worst Japanese since Tojo.



    Clara

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clara Bow
    HELP, but how could anyone regard this dogroll as their favorite Brit film. A curiosity piece from when they were just entertainers making a fast buck instead of gurus telling the world through a pot haze how to blow bubbles and be reborn a fur coat. I preferred John L when he was just a randy Northern git to his philosophical soapbox cum the worst Japanese since Tojo.



    Clara
    In my opinion "Help" does not come even close to "A Hard Day's Night" for laughs, song content and pure entertainment.



    Yeah, yeah, yeah.



    Dave.

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    Paul always said "we were just four rockers". The politics and plastic were invented by us.

    I agree with you clara

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    I'm surprised the new print is being aired so soon after its release, but will watch again no doubt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clara Bow
    HELP, but how could anyone regard this dogroll as their favorite Brit film.



    Clara
    Yeah (pun intended)... well... HELP is a collection of farcical skits melded together by an apology for a loose plot wrapped in THE GREATEST MUSIC EVER!! It's like a naughty puppy who's just too lovable to be spanked for its misdemeanours...and in whom a chord (pun intended) from our soul resonates apologetically, but resoundingly!



    P.S. I'm a Beatles fan!

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Beatles film shows its true colours





    Help! is restored to its Sixties glory - with a little assistance from a red phone box and �700,000



    Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent

    Sunday November 25, 2007

    The Observer



    Meticulous restoration projects are usually reserved for artifacts from high culture: a damaged Michelangelo figure, for example, or one of the handful of oils by Vermeer. Yet one of the most careful and expensive conservation projects of recent years has been devoted to returning a popular British film to its rightful glory.



    The original, vibrant colours of the 1965 Beatles' film Help! are to be brought to the public eye once again tonight when a revitalised version is screened for the first time. The results of 11 months of work may surprise those who think they can remember what the 1960s looked like. At a cost of �700,000, the company the Beatles founded, Apple Corps, has given Help! an almost eerily fresh and contemporary look.



    Article continues

    Hidden details and forgotten visual jokes have emerged from the shadows of a film which is still credited with inventing the music video. A restoration team working in London and California has cleaned 40 years of dirt and scratches from every frame and the colour distortion has been corrected.



    The key to unlocking the true tones of the original footage was the British pillar box. Once those who were working on the faded and broken celluloid reels had found scenes including a post box and a traditional red telephone kiosk they were able to use the shade as a template for the level of colour. 'A pillar box doesn't change colour. We all know that. It was bright red then and it is bright red now,' said film restorer Claire Ferguson. 'We knew from looking at this and from looking at the de-graded grey of the policemen's helmets in the film, which should be pure black, that the rest of the colour had to be adjusted to fit.'



    The overall effect is a much lighter, more glamorous film. The spectacular costumes worn by actress Eleanor Bron, which include a striking pink leather trouser suit, are also shown to renewed effect. 'You don't often work on something with this level of attention to detail or that budget,' said Ferguson. 'We have worked out that something like 13 million individual spots of dirt have been taken away, but all the time the team had to walk the line between allowing the real colours to show through and not making it look unreal. I would say it now looks very much as it did when it was premiered at Leicester Square.'



    Ringo Starr was shown the restored film in Los Angeles a week ago. 'I really remember Help! with lots of joy,' he told The Observer. 'Our attitude was that we're making our second movie and it's in colour - wow! The film has been cleaned up and re-graded so the colour looks beautiful.'



    Help! followed closely on the heels of their first film, A Hard Day's Night, made in black and white. Both made history by going into profit before they opened in the cinemas because of the success of their soundtrack albums. Both were directed by Richard Lester and share plots that revolve around Ringo, the best actor of the four Beatles.



    Starr puts much of the enduring appeal of the film down to the talent of its director. 'Dick was great because we really loved his humour and he enjoyed ours,' he said. 'He knew how to make a movie and we just knew how to be four lads from Liverpool doing our stuff. And he surrounded us with all those great actors - Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear - which really helped us.'



    Director Martin Scorsese, a big fan of the 'deadpan humour' of the film, has also hailed the re-release. 'With Help! Lester went even further with editing and camera movement than he had with A Hard Day's Night.'



    The scenes shot in the Alps to the backing of 'Ticket to Ride' are widely hailed as the reference point for all music videos since. Lester once received a formal notice from MTV telling him that he was seen as the natural father of the form. Lester is recorded as writing back immediately to request a blood test.



    The director said this month that he and the writers wanted to call the film Help, but another film already existed with the same title. The addition of the exclamation mark meant the band were legally free to use the name and John Lennon and Paul McCartney set about writing a title song. 'That afternoon, John and Paul borrowed the studio piano and started work. By the next morning, they played the finished song to us and recorded it the next night,' said Lester.



    The 75 year old co-creator of the Superman film franchise, was born in America, but has lived in England since 1955 and has 'a British passport, a British wife, British children.'



    This year he said: 'Now, I don't want to make another film in the slightest. Forty years is enough.'



    Apple Corps is about to start the slow restoration process of the Beatles' 1967 film, Magical Mystery Tour, but no date has been set for its release.



    The restored version of Help! is to be shown on BBC4 at 7pm tonight.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    I still think HELP ! pales in comparison to AHDN, however much the PR men try to hype it up.....AHDN was a ground breaking movie, but HELP! is a tired collection of visual cliches (but the songs are good....)

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    I do think that John Lennon could have been a very good actor, if that is what he had wanted. No doubt he was a musical genius and if around today would not be recording tripe like Macca.

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    There are a few gems in the canon of Mt Thumbs Aloft

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    A great movie - one of the best

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    The movie is okay - and quite fun - the Beatles by their own admission were not actors and in the case of "Help!" they were co-stars in their own movie. BUT, as always with Beatles films, the song sequences are FAB! "Ticket to Ride" is pretty iconic...

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    I don't have a preference for either film... they're both just fantastic. The songs are fabulous in both.



    Do you prefer "The Nutcracker" over "Swan Lake"? "The Magic Flute" over "Don Giovani"? "LaBoheme" over "Madame Butterfly"? And it's in such company that these two films will rank when critics discuss music centuries from now...

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