Blu-ray
For Fans
3 stars
Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
For Fans

The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour

Street Date:
October 9th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
October 24th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
1967
Studio:
Capitol
Length:
53 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Considered by many to be the most successful musical group of all time, the history of The Beatles is a fascinating tale, filled with numerous artistic triumphs and a few missteps. The year 1967 might have seen them deliver their greatest examples of both.

Frustrated by fans who would scream through their sets rather than listen to them perform, The Beatles decided their 1966 U.S. tour would be their last and they would become a studio band. They were also "fed up with being The Beatles" as revealed in Barry Miles' Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, and all that that entailed. In response, McCartney came up with the idea of them pretending to be another band, which would allow them the artistic freedom to expand on the experimentation they began on Revolver." The result was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which has gone on to become of one the best-selling albums of all time as well as a critical sensation that continues to appear at the top of numerous list of "best rock albums."

In The Beatles Anthology documentary, John Lennon says that since the "stage shows were to be out, we wanted something to replace them. Television was the obvious answer." In September 1967, with McCartney taking the lead, they created what is now known as a longform video in 'Magical Mystery Tour.' The film first aired on December 26, 1967 on BBC1 and the reaction from the press and public was so bad, American TV networks passed on it. After watching it, I can't say I blame them.

Though it's less than an hour long, and it introduced six new Beatles songs, the segments between the songs are slightly unbearable. The scenes feel made up on the fly with little to no connection to each other, coming across like they just took their first ideas and went with them as best they could. In the commentary track, McCartney confirms my suspicions by stating they made it up as they went along. No surprise there, but at least he acknowledges it's indulgent.

A narrator (Lennon) introduces Richard Starkey (Ringo) and his Aunt Jesse (Jessie Robbins), who are taking a Sunday bus tour to see the sights with a group of folks. The tour heads into country and magic begins to happen. The first stop is a military office where McCartney is a commander and another soldier shouts gibberish at them. A jump cut takes everyone to a field where they eventually all get into a race. Later, they pose for a picture taken by a little person, and when he comes out from underneath the camera's cape, he has a lion's head for no particular reason. The tour also takes viewers to a lab where The Beatles appear as wizards who are watching the proceedings and to a striptease lounge where the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band plays their Elvis Presley-inspired number, "Death Cab for Cutie."

What works for 'Magical Mystery Tour' is the songs, which folks will surely skip to on repeat viewings. There is the title track, "The Fool on the Hill," and "Your Mother Should Know" by McCartney, "I Am the Walrus" by Lennon, "Blue Jay Way" by George Harrison, and the group instrumental "Flying." I would have given it a high score if it has just been music videos, but the rest of the material is quite a detriment.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Magical Mystery Tour' is a 25GB Region Free Blu-ray disc in a blue keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a six-page booklet containing a note from McCartney, photos, and credits.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The video has been given a 1080i/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.33:1. The film was shot on 16mm and the credits state the 2012 restoration used 16mm original materials, so apparently rather than a negative, the film was pieced together from different elements.

Right from the opening animated titles, the video presents bright colors in strong hues, though it is slightly out of focus. Reds, like those seen on the tour bus seats, are vivid, and whites, as seen in the tour bus uniforms are solid. Darker colors like brown and green are duller, and during "Blue Jay Way," the green foliage has a bluish tint. The black seen in suits are deep. However, when there's too much black on screen, it tends to crush and also diminish the shadow delineation, as seen in the last shot before the closing credits.

There are varying degrees of depth, detail, and grain throughout as a result of the different original materials and likely DNR use, which I suspect since the amount of grain is less than what I would expect from 16mm. Some scenes find objects having soft edges, and the more objects in a scene the more likely depth will be negatively affected. There's some banding during "Fool on the Hill" as the camera shoots directly into the sun and intentional degradation of the image during "I Am The Walrus."

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 Surround is near reference were it not for the non-music scenes. As it is throughout for the new Beatles songs, the title track immerses the viewer in music, sounding better than I've ever heard the songs before. The main vocals are front and center. The instruments come through with great clarity and are balanced well with the vocals and effects, even when the latter is intentionally distorted on "I Am The Walrus" and "Blue Jay Way." The LFE delivers a solid bottom end to the arrangements. This is a track that has moments of great dynamic range.

There's a nice bit of imaging during the race as the cars go roaring by, which also receives bass support. When Mr. Bloodvessel announces his love for the Aunt Jessie, a symphonic version of "All My Lovin" plays underneath and swells grandly in the surrounds. The bass of drums and strings can be heard on the LFE.

Lennon serves as offscreen narrator and his information at the beginning of the tour sounds flat and the echo effect doesn't help matters. In fact, much of the looped material sounds flat. Later when narrating the bus trip, a touch of distortion can be heard in Lennon's dialogue. Neither the vocals nor music during the performance of "Death Cab for Cutie" are very clear.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Director's Commentary by Paul McCartney – Fans will surely enjoy hearing McCartney reflect on the film and its creation. Aside what was mentioned above, he also states that the music is the high spot of the film and gets no argument from me. Though he acknowledges some of the 'Magical Mystery Tour' criticism as being valid, he closes the commentary by thanking the critics "for such kind reviews" and then laughs.
  • The Making of 'Magical Mystery Tour' (1080i; 19 min) – All four Beatles, including Harrison from 1993 and Lennon on audio, offer their remembrances, some of which understandably differ from one another.
  • Ringo the Actor (1080i, 2 min) – Starr discusses what he brought to his role in terms of acting and improvising.
  • Outtakes (1080i, 10 min) – Unused footage from the "Your Mother Should Know," "Blue Jay Way," and "The Fool on the Hill" segments is made available though offers very little.
  • Hello Goodbye Promo (1080i, 4 min) – Shot in black and white, the video is a mixture of the band in editing suite with footage of four people appearing in a series of jump cuts. The former may have been unique for its time, but is rather repetitive.
  • Deleted Scenes (1080i, 9 min) – Three scenes that didn't make the final cut. Directed by Lennon, "Nat's Dream" features one of the characters from the bus chasing after girls in a segment that is a cross between Jacques Tati and Benny Hill. "I'm Going in a Field – Ivor Cutler" finds the actor in his role of Buster Bloodvessel playing an organ in a field and repeating the title over and over. "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush – Traffic" is a music video of Traffic performing the song.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

This is such a frustrating release. I wish I could highly recommend it because there are certainly elements that deserve it, but with over half the film not really worth watching, combined with underwhelming video, casual fans would be better served getting the remastered soundtrack when it becomes available. Hardcore Beatles fans likely know what they're getting and will enjoy the remastered audio and new extras.

Technical Specs

  • BD-25
  • 6-Page Booklet

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English PCM Stereo

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Netherlands, Norwegian, Danish

Supplements

  • Director's Commentary by Paul McCartney
  • The Making of Magical Mystery Tour
  • Ringo the Actor
  • Meet the Supporting Cast
  • Three new edits of "Your Mother Should Know," "Blue Jay Way," and "The Fool on the Hill" featuring footage not seen in the original film.
  • 'Hello Goodbye' as featured in Top of the Pops 1967
  • Nat's Dream - A scene directed by John featuring Nat Jackley. Not included in the original film.
  • Ivor Cutler 'I'm Going In A Field' - Ivor performs 'I'm Going In A Field', in a field. Not included in the original film.
  • Traffic 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' - The filming of Traffic acting out their 1967 hit single 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush' was commissioned by The Beatles for possible inclusion in Magical Mystery Tour but was not used in the final edit.

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