Before discussing The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Memories DVD, it must be stated that there are absolutely no performances on the disc that were actually recorded by The Beatles themselves. While many of the songs from the classic Beatles album are approximated by relatively unknown musicians to set the stage for the piece, the rights to the Beatles’ recordings were not acquired by the producers of the film. That said, let’s review the film’s contents.
Victor Spinetti, long-time associate of John Lennon and the actor who played the Army Sergeant barking nonsensical orders in the Magical Mystery Tour film, is the narrator of this DVD release. His recollections, though tainted by his nearly worshipful love for his late friend, are very precise despite the passing of time. His anecdotes are peppered amid those of other Beatles associates and the residents of Devon and Cornwall who had a front row seat during the filming of The Tour. Commentary on particular sequences and the doings of “the lads” off-camera are offered up by the likes of Mike McCartney, Neil Innes and Spencer Davis. The chaos within The Beatles’ organization as they tried to follow the whims of the inexperienced filmmakers (mostly Paul McCartney) is discussed by Beatles Press Officer, Tony Barrow and Beatles Tour Manager, Tony Bramwell. Archival footage from the press and others trying to capture glimpses of the foursome’s antics is bedded beneath the guests’ remembrances.
Despite the poor reception of the film at the time of its release, it’s evident that all involved had a splendid time. Little thought was given to the exact nature of the bizarre content of the picture-in-the-making by those in awe of the godlike quartet. Magical Mystery Tour was filmed in 1967, almost immediately following the death of Brian Epstein. What the Memories DVD shows is a group of musicians trying to regain control of their organization and maintain the integrity and unity of their band. This documentary is intended for the hardcore Beatles fan and music historian. Those unfamiliar with the esoteric fringes of the machine behind The Beatles may be sorely disappointed by its content. For those readers still interested in watching, you’ll quite enjoy the kooky mind of Neil Innes, the spacey views of Mike McCartney, and the genuine reverence of Spencer Davis (who, at the time, was more of a peer than someone left behind during The Beatles’ ascendancy). At less than an hour’s running time (more if you watch the excellent bonus scenes), you won’t have lost much by hearing about these special Memories.
– Mark Polzin