Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Beatles Videos

The Beatles Videos by Eugene Brenner

Due to their phenomenal popularity, the Beatles were photographed and filmed for almost every moment they spent in the public eye. In the 1960s, moving images were still recorded mostly on black and white film. So even though today we may say "videos" as a catch-all term, most of the Beatles' output was film. In the 1960s, it was news photographers who covered a Beatle press conference or interview, much like they would a news event.

There are hundreds of these short Beatles videos available for view on the internet. They reveal personalities that captured the hearts of young people throughout the world. (Even the USSR had its teenage Beatle fans. Record albums were bought on the black market and hid from public view and listened to quietly in darkened bedrooms). Paul was cute and charming, George was quiet and earnest, John was acerbic and impassioned, and Ringo was, well, Ringo.

The Beatles filmed "A Hard Day's Night" in 1964 at the height of Beatlemania. Directed by Richard Lester, the movie was filmed in black and white, not for aesthetic reasons but because it was cheaper. It did add to the quasi-documentary style of the film. It purported to chronicle a hectic day in the life of the Beatles, sprinting away from chasing fans and preparing to perform on television. Fans delighted in the zany comedy and the big theater sound of the many new songs. Critics were enthralled with the film's kinetic energy and the Beatle's wit and charm. Many compared the boys' antics to the Marx Brothers.

"Help" was filmed in 1965, this one in color. This was the first time that many fans saw their idols in color! The plot revolved around Ringo, a sacrificial ring and the evil cult intent upon snatching the ring from Ringo. Also directed by Richard Lester, this film is decidedly different from "A Hard Day's Night." There are no chasing fans and little time is spent with the individual Beatle characters. The early film was almost claustrophobic in its sets; this one features exotic outdoor locals including Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge, the Swiss Alps and the Bahamas. The Beatle wit came through loud and clear as in a scene where the John and Paul try to convince Ringo to cut off his finger to remove the stuck exotic ring. Paul quips, "You don't miss your tonsils do yer?"

Most critics thought the second Beatles film not as good as the first. The Beatles said subsequently that they felt they had little control over the film and were getting high a great bit of the time. The movie does have its charms, the new songs are of high quality and the color adds to the exotic locals.

Much later in 1970, the movie "Let It Be" was released. This started as a "get back to basics" chronicle with the band recording and performing songs live in the studio without the added overdubbing and effects so popular at the time (like the Beatles own "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"). The result was a dispirited film chronicling the decay of a once indomitable musical force. We see Yoko Ono sitting balefully in a corner behind John. Ringo seems bored as he's not needed in most recording sessions. George is peeved at a nagging Paul and tells him sarcastically, "I'll play what you want me to play..."

It wasn't until the 1980s that Beatles movies began to appear in VHS video. The copious "Beatles Anthology" documentary series was released in 1995. This video benefited from input and interviews with the remaining Beatles. The floodgates really opened up in the new century as DVDs became the dominant video medium. Documentaries made up the majority of the new titles, films about every facet of the Beatles' career from those who knew them and those who did not. Quality runs the gamut from very interesting and well done to those with vacuous content and poor editing.

The Beatles have left a rich video legacy. If you are a fan, it is a treasure trove. If the Beatles were way before your time, you can learn what all the commotion was about.

Gene Brenner provides a Beatles Video site with searches by album or individual artist. He is webmaster of a company that offers unique MySpace preppy layouts. He also buys and sells websites which makes him knowledgeable in several disciplines.

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