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The Beatles: Will You Read My Book? (May 2016): Beatles Films, DVDs, and Websites

By Paul O. Jenkins

Beatles Films, DVDs, and Websites

The Beatles made five films during their eight years together.  A Hard Day’s Night, their first, was a smash hit in the UK and the United States and helped to revitalize the moribund British film industry.  Stephen Glynn’s A Hard Day’s Night and Ray Morton’s A Hard Day’s Night (released in the “Music on Film” series) are both useful treatments of the movie many describe as the Citizen Kane of rock films.  Yellow Submarine, an animated film made without any input from the Beatles but loosely based on their song, was another triumph.  In his Up Periscope Yellow, Al Brodax, the film’s producer, provides a breezy, behind-the-scenes view of how the film came to be made.  Help! was a less successful follow-up to A Hard Day’s Night and has received little scholarly attention.  The documentary Let It Be set out to capture how the Beatles worked in the studio; instead it portrayed the beginning of the band’s dissolution.  In the “Rethinking British Cinema” series, The Beatles Movies by Bob Neaverson provides an excellent overview of each of the group’s films, and a solid analysis and defense of Magical Mystery Tour, the home movie the Beatles released to an underwhelmed UK audience in 1967.  Roland Reiter’s The Beatles on Film is less important, but it does include information on the US cartoon series The Beatles, which aired on ABC from 1965 to 1969.

Among the most important Beatles DVDs is Anthology, a set offering the eleven-hour television documentary series the surviving group members put together in 1996.  The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit is an excellent reminder of the impact the group had on a country still reeling from the assassination of its president a year earlier.  Its producers cleverly include no narration, letting the sounds and images tell the story.  Composing the Beatles Songbook is an effective exploration of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership.  Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records serves as a nice primer on the group’s attempt to establish its own record label.  Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a groundbreaking portrait of the Beatles’ lead guitarist, who eventually established himself as a skilled songwriter.  Both Imagine: John Lennon and LennoNYC are heartfelt, if not entirely objective, documentaries on the band’s founder.  The former provides a somewhat reverential overview of Lennon’s Beatles and solo years, showing all sides of the man; the latter focuses on Lennon’s struggles to establish himself as a solo artist and US citizen.  Also interesting is John Lennon: Love Is All You Need, which includes extensive interviews with Cynthia Lennon.  The U.S. vs. John Lennon depicts how the singer’s activism brought him unwelcome attention from the US government.  On the lighter side is All You Need Is Cash (better known as The Rutles), created by Monty Python’s Eric Idle, which neatly satirizes the group’s rise to fame—and found favor in the eyes of the originals.

Of the hundreds of online resources on the Beatles, a few are worthy of mention here.  The Beatles, the official site of the Beatles, provides access to all their music through streaming services all over the globe.  BeatleLinks takes the visitor to all conceivable things Beatles, from music and books to history and interviews to discussion forums.  The Beatles Ultimate Experience is a Beatles treasury, offering, among much else, “The Beatles Interviews Database,” where visitors can find transcripts of interviews with the Beatles from 1962 to 1984.  And The Internet Beatles Album features links to some important articles and provides good historical information on the band.

Works Cited: Books