In the second half of the 1960s, the Beatles had already made two films full of comedic escapades and quick-witted mischief.
Both from 1964 A hard day’s Night and 1965 To help! had been well received by fans and critics alike, but the same couldn’t be said for the band’s third foray into the world of cinema, in 1967. Magical Mystery Tour.
It is difficult to describe the plot of Magical Mystery Tour, especially because there really isn’t one. A group of friends and family embark on a bus journey, and various strange events ensue thanks to a cohort of “magicians” – four of whom are played by the Beatles themselves and the fifth by their long-time road manager. date Mal Evans. The film is designed to be structureless – a stream of consciousness that could best be compared to Ken Kesey’s journey with the Merry Pranksters – underscored by the songs that would appear on the Magical Mystery Tour album.
When the 52-minute film first aired on UK televisions on December 26, 1967, it understandably confused viewers. “It wasn’t the kind of thing that we could do a warning before and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, what you’re about to see is a figment of our imagination,'” Paul McCartney said in 2012. Magical Mystery Tour Revisited“and believe me, at this point, they’re pretty sharp.”
Ringo Starr blamed McCartney. “It was really Paul’s idea,” he said.
Watch a trailer for ‘Magical Mystery Tour’
When filming began on September 11, 1967, McCartney did indeed have an idea — many of them in fact, but not a definitive script. Instead, he brought a hand-drawn pie chart with sketched out possibilities for the movie, which he dubbed a “scrupt.”
They had benefited from the help of co-producer Denis O’Dell, who had worked as an associate producer on A hard day’s Nightas well as 1967 how i won the war with John Lennon. (O’Dell would go on to direct Apple Films for the Beatles in 1968.) But the lack of a clear plan doomed the project from that first day.
“We knew most of the scenes we wanted to include, but we tailored our ideas to the people involved, once we got to know our cast,” Lennon later admitted. “If someone wanted to do something we didn’t plan on, they went ahead. If it worked, we kept it.”
The bulk of the work ran until September 25, with many scenes filmed at Royal Air Force West Malling, a disused military airfield in Kent. The ballroom scene of “Your Mother Should Know” was set in an old aircraft hangar, the sequence of “I Am the Walrus” was filmed directly on the runway. In another location clue, cadets from the RAF Air Training Corps parade.
Pretty much everything was fair game, as assistant producer Gavrik Losey told the Guardian in 2012. “There was no one there whistling and tapping their feet and saying, ‘Do this and do that. “”
Watch “I Am the Walrus” from “Magical Mystery Tour”
Bills quickly skyrocketed, especially around the very expensive “Your Mother Should Know” scene, but McCartney deemed it necessary. “The big prop was this big grand staircase that we danced on, that’s where all the money went: in this particular shot on this grand staircase,” McCartney recalled in Many years from now. “I said, ‘Damn, you gotta get the Busby Berkeley ending,’ and it’s a good sequence. Just the fact that John dances, which he did easily. You can tell by the funny expression on his face that he wasn’t forced into anything.”
Such an elaborate and disorganized approach ensured things went wrong from time to time, Losey confirmed. “Like when the generators went down before the dancers in the formation had to go home,” he said. “Bribes had to be produced and photos signed. They were Come Dancing dancers, the real thing, brought in from Newcastle, Cardiff and Birmingham. We had about 20 buses. The Beatles were a great calling card .”
Most of the filming was completed in two weeks, but the editing process, which began on September 25, took much longer than expected at 11 weeks. In the end, around 10 hours of material had to be whittled down to 52 minutes.
However, in at least one case, a song could not be associated with the random images available. Editor Roy Benson ended up associating repurposed B-52 aerial footage from 1964 Dr Strangelove with the instrumental “Flying”. He was able to do this because he had access to Shepperton Studios, where Dr Strangelove had been filmed, although it would have upset director Stanley Kubrick.
Magical Mystery Tour didn’t charm viewers when it first aired – first in black and white, then in color – but it offered a unique visual representation of the Beatles’ boundless creativity and their continued role as icons. of pop culture. “It remains a very interesting observation of English society,” Losey added, “from the point of view of four very bright guys who had the money to pay for it.”
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