When the Beatles decided to roll up for their “Magical Mystery Tour” back in 1967, they assumed they would be able to make their own movie without any snags. As any Fab Four fan knows, things didn’t quite go as planned.
“The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour Memories” is a documentary that recalls the improvised, often nutty atmosphere that surrounded the making of the film. To its disadvantage, neither Paul McCartney nor Ringo Starr participated in this film (although Paul’s brother Mike is present), and the film doesn’t include any clips from “Magical Mystery Tour” or soundtrack cuts (a sound-alike band plays tunes that sort of ring of the classic soundtrack, but not quite).
But what is present more than compensates for the lack of any “official” trappings. Victor Spinetti, who played the gibberish-shouting Army sergeant in the film, serves as a jolly narrator. Witnesses to the film’s creation, including the police constable who appeared in the film’s opening credits and the various functionaries in the Beatles’ organization (fan club president, press officer, tour manager) offer their own anecdotes. There is also an appearance from Neil Inness, who was part of the Bonzo Dog Do Da Band that performed “Death Cab for Cutie” in the film’s stripper club sequence.
So what do we learn from the film? Well, the Beatles were down-to-Earth blokes who enjoyed mingling with everyday people. They also made the best of bad situations – when they showed up at a hotel without reservations, they had no problems sleeping in a shabby annex building rather than in the more upscale main building. And they were masters of filmmaking improvisation, setting up scenes and pulling together props and costumes at moment’s notice.
While everyone connected with this documentary casually overlooks the fact that “Magical Mystery Tour” was an inane mess, and the less-than-pleasant aspects of the story (Paul shooting the “Fool on the Hill” scene without the other three Beatles, the cancellation of an NBC air date based solely on the harsh reviews of the BBC broadcast) never get on camera.
But who needs to be reminded of unpleasantries when talking about the psychedelic trippiness of this musical mayhem? The general consensus from those gathered for this documentary was that the experience was a once in a lifetime blast. And, damn, you can’t help but envy those lucky bastards for being part of it all.