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Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Beatles In Review: 'Help!' (1965)




The Beatles second feature film was filmed in a "haze of Marijuana" according to Paul McCartney. Indeed, it took several takes to get a scene right due to the Beatles' frequent fits of giggles. Richard Lester was also increasingly annoyed by Paul's tinkering with a song that he was writing on a conveniently placed piano. "If I hear that once more I'll have that bloody piano taken away! What's it called, anyway?" Lester fumed one day "Scrambled Eggs" Paul replied. 'Help!' had a plot line that centred around Ringo, due to his acting in 'A Hard Day's Night' being roundly praised. Ringo had been sent a ring by a fan who was mixed up in an Eastern cult and apparently she cannot be sacrificed to the dreaded "Khali" without the ring so Clang and his minions, including the lovely Ahme, leave for London to get Ringo and chaos breaks out with the Beatles being chased all over the world by the Cult, Two mad scientists and Scotland Yard.

Paul realizes he's accidentally touched a part of the girl he didn't mean to.
By the time Help began filming the Beatles were bonafide world-wide superstars so their box office success with this movie was assured. Despite them being stars of the movie, the band felt like more time was being spent on the supporting cast, which included Leo McKern as the villainous 'Clang'. McKern would go onto find a place in the hearts of the British public as London Barrister Horace Rumpole in the ITV series 'Rumpole of the Bailey' and Eleanor Bron, who it is rumoured had an affair with John during filming. "We felt like extras in our own fucking film!" Lennon complained in an interview years later. Eleanor Bron gives a slightly over the top performance as the double agent Ahme but she serves her purpose.
Fans line up to see the film at a Cinema in Chicago, 1965.

It is generally felt that 'Help!' is a rather disappointing follow up to 'A Hard Day's Night' but I think some of the sequences showcased the Beatles' talent for oddball comedy and the Monty Python Team were watching and listening closely. Victor Spinetti saved the day when the film showed signs of flagging, putting in a wonderful performance as the mad scientist Professor Foot, along with his "fiendish semi-human assistant" Algernon, played with genius subtlety by Roy Kinnear, who's perhaps better remembered for his turn as Veruca Salt's father in the 1971 musical 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory'.

All in all this movie was like Elvis' movies. An excuse to see the Beatles in action and in colour.

Sadly though, some of the cast are no longer with us; John Lennon, George Harrison, Leo McKern, Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear, Patrick Cargill, Peter Copley & Alfie Bass.

Cast:

The Beatles - Themselves
Leo McKern - "Clang"
Eleanor Bron - "Ahme"
John Bluthal - "Bhuta"
Victor Spinetti - "Professor Foot"
Roy Kinnear - "Algernon"
Patrick Cargill - "Superindendant Gluck of Scotland Yard"
Peter Copley - "Jeweller"
Warren Mitchell - "Abdul"
Alfie Bass - "Doorman at Indian Restaurant"
Bruce Lacey - "Lawnmower"

L-R: John Lennon, George Harrison, Leo McKern, Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear, Patrick Cargill, Alfie Bass & Peter Copley.

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