Reviewed by: Brett Willis
When I first saw this film as a teen, I loved every minute of it (except for the minutes I didn’t see but only listened to the music of because I was busy with my date). Now as a Christian for 30 years, having been converted from a life of sex, drugs, Eastern mysticism and revolutionary politics (which was my own responsibility, but was taught to me by the Beatles and their counterculture), I agree with what my parents were saying back in 1964—the Beatles’ music, their lifestyle and beliefs, and the mindless worship they received from their fans, were one of the greatest disasters that ever hit the Western world.
When the Beatles and British-style Rock first came to the U.S., everyone was caught off-guard. Parents knew something was wrong but had a hard time saying exactly what. For several months, the Beatles sold two-thirds of all singles and albums in the country and held the top four or five spots on the hit charts. This film can’t be understood apart from the Beatlemania phenomenon, which it accurately portrays.
There is no plot in the usual sense, just a collage of two “typical” days in the lives of the Beatles as they get ready for a concert. Several characters including Paul’s grandfather (who reads girlie magazines) and the Beatles’ managers are fictional; Brian Epstein, Robert Stigwood and other real life behind-the-scenes personnel are not seen. Slapstick, sight gags and silly situations hold this film together in between the musical sequences, but its primary purpose was to give Beatlemania a shot in the arm and to promote a new album. Why the 1999 re-release? Probably a combination of money and social change, just like always.
Some of the songs are well-written in a technical sense (intricately chorded and harmonized), and the sexual references are somewhat obscure. By 1967, much of the Beatles’ newer music had become a case-study in sex, drugs and revolution, and was electronically engineered to simulate a drug trip in the listener. Those with Christian wisdom had recognized the danger long before that stage was reached. Even MAD Magazine, in a piece on the Ten Commandments, used a photo of a Beatles concert to illustrate “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.” I hope today’s parents still have that discernment, both for themselves and for their children.