It speaks volumes that of the five films made by the Beatles only one was directed by them (collectively speaking). The wait is over – Magical Mystery Tour (Apple Films, 10/9) arrives in a Blu-ray edition chock full of extras. MMT was originally seen on British television during the Christmas holidays in 1967, but in black-and-white (the film was lensed on film, in color). Americans saw the film in subsequent years but usually as a midnight movie or as part of a double feature no doubt necessitated by its 53-minute running time.
Magical Mystery Tour was the brainchild of Paul McCartney and he directed the hell out of it. A kind of free form narrative where anything goes, where a fat woman is the object of desire, and where songs burst into the story from seemingly nowhere. The tour the movie refers to is similar to excursions from the Liverpool of the Beatles’ youth, tours where people would get on a bus and get pissed while traveling to the English coast. Richard Starkey is listed as the Director of Photography, although he jokingly adds MPE after the credit. Of course MPE refers to an honorary ceremony where the Queen admits the bearer into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and if we’re to believe the legend the Beatles had taken LSD before their particular ceremony. Magical Mystery Tour by the way is somewhat of a trip with its constant weaving between the tour bus and strange restaurants and even stranger dance halls. Along the way the group even stops off at a strip club where everyone is treated to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band performing “Death Cab for Cutie.”
In addition to the title song the Beatles perform “The Fool on the Hill,” “Flying,” “I Am the Walrus,” and “Your Mother Should Know.” Extras include “Hello Goodbye” and commentary by Sir Paul. Also there’s a deleted scene of the group Traffic singing “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” A wonderful time is guaranteed for all.
Last Ride (Music Box, 10/16) hails from Australia and stars Hugo Weaving as a fugitive on the run from the law with his young son in tow. Any road movie set in the Australian Outback gets my immediate attention. Last Ride has its ups and downs but if you stick with the story the ride gets better at the end. The Lady (Entertainment One, 10/2) is more poignant than dramatic but the story demands attention. Starring an amazing Michelle Yeoh and directed by Luc Besson (typical strong lead and one-dimensional villains) The Lady tells the true story of human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. The government kept her under house arrest for nearly an entire generation. Movies like The Lady are medicine for the soul.
The World Series®: History of the Fall Classic (A&E, 10/9) is an exhaustive examination of every game in the world series from its humble origins in 1903 to 2011. I can’t recommend this four-disc set enough to sports fans as well as non-sports fans so complete is the information contained within. Remember there’s no regular television footage of games until the ‘50s, just newspaper photos and old people recalling the even older past. Sure we have newsreel footage in the ‘30s, but for instance there are only still photographs of Babe Ruth pointing to his called home run in the 1932 series. Going through the series year by year gives you an idea of what years the hall of fame players were actually present.
The first two discs are the documentary proper and cover the history of the game with narration from Bob Costas. The championship started in 1903 but skipped ’04 only to resume annually in ’05. Some games were actually called at a tie due to darkness; yes stadiums didn’t always have lights. Some of the topics covered included Merkle’s Boner from the 1908 series. Hey, I remember a teacher when I was in the 8th grade (a hundred years ago) and she used the word boner one day in class and she was using the word with its original meaning as a dumb mistake; naturally all the boys in class were laughing quietly to themselves. The documentary clocks in at roughly four hours, and you know what? Extra-innings games last longer and contain less information.
Frankly I was riveted by what I was watching at least until around the 1968 series, which includes footage of Bob Gibson and was aptly called the year of the pitcher. Then a strange phenomenon occurred, because ’68 would be about the time I really started to follow the game as a young lad. After then I still understood the rules but rock music, phenomenology, cinema and girls soon eclipsed my general interest in the national pastime. I anxiously watched the latter part and sure the important shots are there. Like the guy parachuting into the stadium during the sixth game of the ’86 series, or the earthquake during the ’89 series, right before the start of the third game resulting in a ten-day delay.
It’s the two discs of extras that really up the ante. First there’s a photomontage of programs and scorecards from 1903 through the last year. It’s amazing to see the influence of art forms of the 20th century like art deco and constructionism being used for sports artwork in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Another extra has back-to-back footage of the last play of every series from the 1950s to the present.
– Michael Bergeron