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Full-length feature films PDF Print E-mail

Filming Liverpool's Fab Four in full-length feature films began back at the very beginning of Beatlemania. As we see, the Beatles themselves were very taken by this idea. And there was a precedent for them in this regard: Elvis Presley - acknowledged by all to be the "king of rock ‘n' roll".

What's more, the Beatles, especially Ringo Starr, thought their being enlisted to take part in the making of films as the star performers to be a logical next step in the brilliant career of the Beatles. So what drew streams of cinema-goers to watch John, Paul, George and Ringo? It goes without saying that it was not their acting skills. No. Not everything ran smoothly here. This is why it has to be admitted that the success of these Beatles films largely relied on the fact they featured the Beatles themselves and that they included the group's old and new songs. The Beatles left us two full-length feature films, one film for TV, one full-length animated film/tale, as well as one documentary.

"A Hard Day's Night" (1964), 87 minutes. United Artists. The director was Richard Lester, the producers - Walter Shenson and Denis O'Dell (future director of "Apple Films" at the Beatles' company Apple Corps), and the screen-writer was Alun Owen. The starring roles were played by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, plus Wilfred Brambell, Victor ? [sic], Norman Rossington (playing the part of Neil Aspinall), John Junkin (Shaky) - he played the part of Mal Evans in the film, and Kenneth Haig.

This Fab Four's first film is about themselves, the onset of Beatlemania and their constant followers, swept along by Beatlemania. The film benefited greatly from the script created by Alan Owen, himself a Liverpudlian who was very familiar with "scouse" slang. John and Paul wrote some wonderful new songs specifically for the film. By the way, George met his future wife - the then model Pattie Boyd (Patricia Anne Boyd) on the "A Hard Day's Night" set.

Reminiscing later, John Lennon said that this film was an honest portrayal of their humdrum life on tour when Beatlemania was first dawning.

We should add that it cost 500,000 dollars to shoot the film, which achieved box office profits of 14,000,000,000 dollars!

"Help!" (1965) 90 minutes. A United Artists production.

The director was Richard Lester and the producer - Walter Shenson. The writers were Mark Behm and Charles Wood. The starring roles were played by John, Paul, George and Ringo, plus the popular British actor Leo McKern (High Priest Clang), Eleanor Bron (Priestess Ahme) and Victor Spinetti (he had already appeared alongside the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night"). Roy Kinnear, Warren Mitchell, Peter Copley and Dandy Nichols also featured in the film.

The second Beatles feature film is a musical comedy whose plot is based on a "cult" of religious fanatics in pursuit of the Beatles, or more accurately, Ringo Starr, who has on his finger a gold signet-ring which is a magic symbol to them. Ringo himself and the other Beatles, of course, suspect nothing of this and, obliged to protect themselves against the thugs and fanatics, elude them first among the stones of Stonehenge surrounded by troops of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, then at the Queen's court, followed by the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas.

There is, of course, a happy ending. Evil is punished and good triumphs. All in all, there is nothing particularly remarkable about the comedy. We do, however, see the Beatles themselves throughout the one-and-a-half-hour film. But this is not all; the main thing is that they provide the film with seven new fantastic Beatles songs: "Help!", "I Need You", "Another Girl", "The Night Before", "Ticket To Ride", "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" plus some wonderful shots of the Beatles performing these songs. (For more details see the chapter "Official Discography of the Beatles", the LPs of the record companies Parlophone (?) and Apple (Great Britain) and Vee Jay and Capitol Records (USA), and the "Help!" album, on page ...)

"Magical Mystery Tour" (1967) 50 minutes. (This was Paul McCartney's idea. A fantasy film for TV. There are black-and-white and colour images).

Directors: All the Beatles. Producer - Denis O'Dell for "Apple Films".

British viewers first saw this Film for TV on BBC TV on 26 December 1967. Paul thought up both the film's name and the draft plot on a plane when, in the United States, he flew from Los Angeles to Denver to see Jane Asher, where she was touring with the Bristol Old Vic theatre company, for her 21st birthday.

This film tells us the tale of the Beatles, in ? [sic] bus, painted with the words "Magical Mystery Tour", travelling together with other passengers (with Paul dreaming up these characters as well) and, as it were, "following their noses". This trip was filmed virtually from start to finish. In the film the Beatles themselves each played several roles, with Ringo particularly excelling himself in a "duet" with his Aunt Jessie, with their main roles being "Mysterious Magicians". Paul's brother, Michael, Mal Evans, and the Bonzo Dog Band also featured in the film alongside the Beatles.

It is as if "Magical Mystery Tour" is an original continuation of Sergeant Pepper. "This is chock-a-block with fantasy and miraculous dreams!" said Paul. However, critics condemned this directorial debut by the Beatles as a complete failure. On the other hand, though, there is no denying that over two million "Magical Mystery Tour" records were sold in the first month! So, the facts speak for themselves - the fans themselves greeted the "Magical Mystery Tour" ecstatically.

And, we think, they were right: what's more, during the film we can see our favourites with our very own eyes plus there are six interesting Beatles numbers here, four of which we hear for the first time! These are: "Magical Mystery Tour" (Paul), "The Fool On The Hill" (Paul), "Blue Jay Way" (George), and "Flying" - an instrumental song written by all four. The two other songs on this list of six - "Your Mother Should Know" (Paul) and "I Am The Walrus" (John) had already been published on a single (See the chapter "Official catalogue of mini-albums (E.P.s) from the collection of the Parlophone (EMI) and Apple record companies. Page ... 13. "Magical Mystery Tour" (2 E.P.s).

"Yellow Submarine" (1968); 85 minutes; this is a United Artists production, a full-length animated feature film/fantasy in colour.

The directors were: George Dunning and Charles Jenkins, and the producer - Al Brodax. The designers were: Heinz Edelmann and Dennis Rich. George Dunning, Fred Wolf, Bob Balser, Eddie Radage, Charles Jenkins and Jack Stokes also worked on the film. Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal (writer of the famous "Love Story") and Roger McGough wrote the script, and Lee Minoff the original story.

The following actors play the voices of the Beatles in this animated film: John Lennon - John Clive, Paul McCartney - Geoff Hughes, George Harrison - Peter Batten, and Ringo Starr - Paul Angelis. The film, whose theme is the eternal battle of good against evil, and in which the animated versions of the Beatles fight fantastic monsters using weapons such as Love, Music and Justice, was filmed in psychedelic colours, which were so popular at the end of the 1960s. It came about almost by chance; the Beatles had to meet their contractual obligations to the American film company United Artists, with whom they had a three-picture deal. This film - "Yellow Submarine" - named by many film critics as the "Beatles' best film performance", did not inspire much joy in the musicians themselves, who had little to do with its creation (unless you include their presence in the film in the form of animated characters).

"It's not us", said George Harrison.

"It's simply illustrations for our songs" - added Ringo Starr. However, leaving aside several old Beatles numbers, we do hear their four new songs here.

These are "All Together Now" (Paul), "It's All Too ?" [sic] and "Only A Northern Song" (both by George), and, considered the best by experts and musicologists, Lennon's "Hey, Bulldog". Throughout the film we hear George Martin's very interesting orchestral pieces played by his own "George Martin & His Orchestra" (see the chapter "The official Beatles LP catalogue from the collection of the Parlophone (EMI) and Apple record companies, Great Britain, page ... "Yellow Submarine"; or "The official Beatles LP catalogue from the collection of the Vee-Jay and Capitol Records record companies, page ..., "Yellow Submarine" (USA).

"Let It Be" (1970); 88 minutes; this is a United Artists production, a documentary, in colour.  

The director was Michael Lindsay-Hogg (also director of the British TV programme "Ready Steady Go"). The producer was Neil Aspinall (the Beatles' road manager).

The main characters in the film are John, Paul, George and Ringo and their guests? [sic] They are Billy Preston, Heather Eastman (Linda Eastman's daughter from her first marriage), George Martin and Mal Evans. For one month before this film was made, the Beatles played and filmed 96 hours of music and their studio sessions, and it was from this material, making up the skeleton of the future film, that Michael Lindsay-Hogg made the actual film "Let It Be". (Meanwhile, George Martin and sound engineer, Glyn Johns, used these 96 hours plus another 30 hours of Beatles recordings "to build" the subsequent "Let It Be", the final version of which was reworked and produced by Phil ? [sic]).

This was to be not only the last Beatles film, but also the last deal in general with United Artists. The film itself is first and foremost an attempt by Paul McCartney to restore the early Beatles atmosphere, when they were all friends with one another. We already know what the result of this was. "Let It Be" was not well-received by film experts or by Beatles fans. I do think, though, that this is an invaluable film for anyone studying the history of the Fab Four since it shows us the atmosphere between the Beatles, their session work and them playing on the Apple Corps roof at Saville Row, London, when they sang together for the last time and left us with a host of valuable musical material.

P.S. Among the Beatles films, there is one about them but which does not feature the Beatles themselves that is worth a special mention. This is the film "BackBeat" (19??) shot by the director [sic] and devoted to the tragic death of the "fifth" Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe. If you ignore a few inaccuracies about the lives of the Beatles, or ? [sic] , you can please yourself, in this period, this film provides us with an excellent illustration of the life and work of Stu principally - as the main hero of the film - and of his wife, Astrid, as well as of John, Paul, George and Pete Best and the background of their lives both in Great Britain and in West Germany.

All the young artistes who could be said to have delightfully embodied the icons for young Liverpudlians and Germans also have an incredible impact and thus conveyed the atmosphere of the lives of the then virtually unknown future Beatles to grateful television viewers and cinema-goers.

"The Beatles Anthology" - Director: Geoffrey (Geoff Wonfor) Apple Corps Ltd, 1995/ U.K.6 hours (360 minutes), produced by Chips Chipperfield, Executive Producer Neil Aspinall, director and scriptwriter Bob Smeaton.

This was a British TV series showing the Beatles' story in frames from the personal film archives of the members of the group, frames from the official film archive, and recollections of the Beatles themselves and their closest companions, Jools Holland and Bob Smith. Director - Geoffrey Wonfor, Directed by Bryony Granstoun, project manager - David Saltz.

Film footage put together by Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor back in 1970 for the documentary The Beatles - The Long and Winding Road, showing the legendary quartet working on the new "Let It Be" album (1970) which had also remained unseen because of disputes between the Beatles, was also used here. We note that this new film was bought by 110 TV companies and was watched by viewers in around 50 countries around the world.

Curiously, the name of the film was changed in Russia, and it came out under the new name: The Beatles, the Fab Four. It's interesting that it began to be shown here at almost the same time as it was shown in Great Britain and the USA (!) - in November - December 1995.

Note that the American version of this TV series is 35 minutes shorter than the British one. We should add that the British company PMI brought out a video version of this film consisting of eight VHS cassettes. Cat. No.: total publication: U.K.: PMI: MVN 4916253: October 1996. Cat. No. eight parts:


The story begins




Vol. 1

MVN 4916263

July 1940

- March 1963


Vol. 2

MVN 4916273

March 1963

- February 1964


Vol. 3

MVN 4916283

February 1964

- July 1964


Vol. 4

MVN 4916293

August 1964

- August 1965


Vol. 5

MVN 4916303

August 1965

- July 1966


Vol. 6

MVN 4916313

July 1966

- June 1967


Vol. 7

MVN 4916323

June 1967

- July 1968


Vol. 8

MVN 4916333

July 1968

- until the end
- i.e. until the break-up
of Liverpool's Fab Four

The serial has also come out on 8 laser discs and in DVD format. It remains to be added that this video version incorporates a lot of the video footage included in the TV serial.

Backbeat* - colour - 100 minutes - Gramercy Pictures, 1994/ U.K.; director Iain Soltley, screenwriters: Iain Soltley and Michael Thomas, producers: Paul Cowan, Stephen Wooley.

This film is devoted to the initial Hamburg period in the history of the Beatles and first and foremost to the five member of the group, Stuart (Stu) Sutcliffe, his story and relationships with the other members of The Beatles, as well as his love - the German girl - Astrid Kirchherr. The film premiered in London on 1 April 1994. It was fantastic, going on the reactions of the many who saw it, who noted the great accuracy exhibited by the actors for whom, of course, it was no easy matter to play the leading lights of contemporary pop and rock music, when any inaccuracy and insincerity in their acting could have killed the entire production.

These are the starring actors and the roles they played: Stephen Dorff (Stu), Sherill Lee (Astrid), Jan Hart (John Lennon), Gary Bakewell (Paul McCartney), Chris O'Neill (George Harrison), Scot Williams (Pete Best). Numbers from the Beatles' early period such as Money (That's What I Want), My Bonnie (Lies Over The Ocean), Please Mr Postman, Twist And Shout, Love Me Tender and many others so familiar to us from the "Hamburg" records also feature in the film.

* Backbeat or "offbeat" describes the accent on the offbeat, typical of jazz and rock music.

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