Back in 1978, Eric Idle of 'Monty Python' fame, and Lorne Michaels of 'SNL' fame, got together and created a genre that we see often today in our theaters and on our TV sets. That genre is the mockumentary, which is basically a fake documentary that usually follows a fictional person, band, or event. It's set up the same exact way as a real documentary, complete with interviews, archival footage, and hopefully many laughs. And what better subject to cover or parody than one of the biggest bands of all time, 'The Beatles'. Or as they're known in this case, 'The Rutles'.
You might say that this film inspired 'This is Spinal Tap', all of Christopher Guest's movies, particularly 'A Mighty Wind', and many other films that dive into this great genre. Hell, with Spinal Tap and 'A Mighty Wind', these fictional bands have actually gone on a real tour and have released albums, which are pretty successful. But with 'The Rutles Anthology', which is a Blu-ray set of the original film 'The Rutles: All You Need is Cash' along with some extras and the follow up short film mockumentary 'Can't Buy Me Lunch', both of which are parodies of Beatles' songs, we see a very funny film that follows the lives and careers of the biggest band in the world, 'The Beatles' - I mean 'The Rutles'. The results are a heavy dose of that infamous British dry humor, which is hilarious, and a long line of A-List cameos from Bill Murray to Paul Simon to John Belushi, and even George Harrison.
The film itself is a series of comedy sketches made to look like a documentary that follows the career of 'The Rutles'. Eric Idle plays a reporter who follows the band around, trying to get interviews and stories. He also plays one of the members of The Rutles. There are also interviews with people about the band, which are played by famous people and other famous musicians.
But what really sells this film is the original music by Neil Innes, who actually plays one of the Rutles too. In typical Beatles fashion, we see performances on talk shows, in front of small crowds and big crowds, and everything in between. With songs like 'Hold My Hand' (I Want To Hold Your Hand), 'Ouch!' (Help!), and 'Piggy in the Middle' (I Am The Walrus), you are guaranteed to laugh.
Some highlights include Mick Jagger talking about how this band changed his life, the appearances of Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray. George Harrison shows up as a reporter, where things get a bit difficult, but will make you laugh. This film was made for TV and didn't do well at all when it aired in 1978. It actually had some of the lowest ratings recorded. But it did surprisingly well in the UK. However, over the years, this band and film have garnered a special cult following, which inspired the followup mockumentary 'Can't Buy Me Lunch', which is a shorter film with even more famous people talking about the band including David Bowie and Robin Williams.
In the realm of parodies, 'The Rutles' is one of the best. The attention to detail that captured a time and insane fandom of a band 10 years prior is rather remarkable. From the crazed fans screaming to get a glimpse of their heroes, to the songs, to the backstage pranks, to even a parody of Yoko and John, this film is spot on and hilarious. And The Beatles, being who they were, always making fun of themselves, quite enjoyed this homage to their lives. Hell, even one of them showed up in the film.
If you're not a fan of British humor, then I imagine this one will have to grow on you, which it will, since it is such a familiar subject. With some great comedy, excellent cameos and a great parody of 'Yellow Submarine' called 'Yellow Submarine Sandwich', you can't help but laugh and sing along with 'The Rutles'.
'The Rutles Anthology' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 and 1.33:1. When I say decent, I mean it's passable. This was shot on 16mm and made for tv in the 70s, so it's wasn't exactly the best equipment of the time. But it was made to be shot like this. So the details aren't always the sharpest it could be, with heavy grains and softness throughout. That being said, you might enjoy the way it looks now, as it looks like a lost relic and true to nature old documentary. Just don't expect crystal clear here.
Colors look somewhat well balanced, but has seemed to fade a bit over time. The film has been reframed too in its entirety from 1.33:1 to 1.78:1, thus having some talking head interviews look a bit cut off. There are some specks, dirt and hairs that crop up from time to time, but that only adds to the vintage look of the film in my opinion. But there are no major issues on this release, and the problems that are here, only seem to add to the mystique of the movie, besides the re-framing.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix as well as a LPCM 2.0 stereo track. Both sound very similar as the 5.1 is very front heavy, and not much sound is emitted from the rear speakers. The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, even with the thick British accents. There are no pops, cracks, or hissing here to mention.
The musical numbers sound great, but could have benefited from being in true 5.1 sound here. The dynamic range is wide and the LFE is well balanced. For being a music documentary or mockumentary, I wanted a fuller sound, but this does a decent job.
'The Rutles Anthology' is a keeper and a must own for fans of 'The Beatles', 'SNL', and 'Monty Python'. The music in this film is great and what a treat to have both 'The Rutles: All You Need is Cash' and 'Can't Buy Me Lunch' in the same set. Maybe somewhere down the road, this will be remade or be focused on a different band. The video and audio could have been better here though. And the extras are slim, but good. Recommended.