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Magical Mystery Tour (film)

Magical Mystery Tour (film)

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Encyclopedia
Magical Mystery Tour is an hour-long British television film
Television movie
A television film is a feature film that is a television program produced for and originally distributed by a television network, in contrast to...

 starring The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 (John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

, Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

, George Harrison
George Harrison
George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, guitarist, singer-songwriter, actor and film producer who achieved international fame as lead guitarist of The Beatles. Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison became over time an admirer of Indian mysticism, and introduced it to the other...

 and Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr was a member of another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in...

) that originally aired on BBC1
BBC One
BBC One is the flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution...

 on 26 December 1967. Upon its initial showing, the film was poorly received by critics and audiences.

Plot


The situation is that of a group of people on a British charabanc
Charabanc
A charabanc or "char-à-banc" is a type of horse-drawn vehicle or early motor coach, usually open-topped, common in Britain during the early part of the 20th century. It was especially popular for sight-seeing or "works outings" to the country or the seaside, organised by businesses once a year...

 bus (in a Bedford VAL
Bedford VAL
The Bedford VAL was a type of coach chassis built by Bedford Vehicles in the United Kingdom from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. It was unusual at the time for its multi-axle design, in a "chinese six" wheelplan, i.e. with two front steering axles....

 Panorama
Plaxton Panorama Elite
The Plaxton Panorama Elite was a successful design of coach bodywork built between 1968-1975 by Plaxton of Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. A wide-doorway variant called the Plaxton Elite Express was also built. Collectively, they are commonly referred to as the Plaxton Elite.It was preceded by the...

) tour, focusing mostly on Mr. Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
Richard Starkey, MBE better known by his stage name Ringo Starr, is an English musician and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for The Beatles. When the band formed in 1960, Starr was a member of another Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. He became The Beatles' drummer in...

) and his recently widowed Auntie Jessie (Jessie Robins
Jessie Robins
Jessie Robins was an English actress whose career lasted from 1958 to 1969. She was best recognised as Ringo Starr's "Auntie Jessie" In The Beatles' made for television movie "Magical Mystery Tour."-Work:...

). Other group members on the bus include the tour director Jolly Jimmy Johnson (Derek Royle
Derek Royle
Derek Royle was a British actor born in London, United Kingdom. His face was probably better known than his name to British viewers, but he acted in films and TV from the mid-sixties until his death...

), the tour hostess Miss Wendy Winters (Mandy Weet), conductor Buster Bloodvessel (Ivor Cutler
Ivor Cutler
Ivor Cutler was a Scottish poet, songwriter and humorist. He became known for his regular performances on BBC radio, and in particular his numerous sessions recorded for John Peel's influential radio programme, and later for Andy Kershaw's programme...

), and the other Beatles.

During the course of the tour, "strange things begin to happen" at the whim of "four or five magicians", four of whom are played by The Beatles themselves and the fifth by long-time road manager Mal Evans
Mal Evans
Malcolm Frederick 'Mal' Evans was best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr....

.

During the journey, Ringo and his Auntie Jessie argue considerably. During the tour, Aunt Jessie begins to have daydreams of falling in love with Buster Bloodvessel, who displays eccentric and disturbing behaviour. The tour involves several strange activities, such as an impromptu race in which each tour group member employs a different mode of transportation (some run, a few jump into cars, a group of people have a long bike they pedal, while Ringo ends up beating them all with the bus). The entire tour group also crawls into a tiny tent in a field, inside which is a projection theatre. There is a strange scene where the group walks through what appears to be a British Army recruitment office and are greeted by the army drill sergeant (Victor Spinetti
Victor Spinetti
Victor Spinetti is a Welsh comic actor.-Early life:Spinetti was born in Cwm, Ebbw Vale, Wales of Welsh and Italian heritage from a grandfather who was said to have walked from Italy to Wales to work as a coal miner...

). (Paul appears briefly as a desk sergeant, on whose desk rests a sign reading "I WAS you".) The film continues with the men of the tour group watching a strip show and ends with an old-style dance scene, to Your Mother Should Know.

The film is punctuated by musical interludes, which include The Beatles performing "I Am the Walrus
I Am the Walrus
"I Am the Walrus" is a 1967 song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips. The song was in the Beatles' 1967 television film and album Magical Mystery Tour, and was the B-side to the #1 hit "Hello,...

" wearing animal masks, George Harrison singing "Blue Jay Way
Blue Jay Way
"Blue Jay Way" is a song written by George Harrison; it was first recorded and released by The Beatles on their Magical Mystery Tour album and EP in 1967.-Origins:...

" while waiting on Blue Jay Way Road, and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band are a band created by a group of British art-school denizens of the 1960s...

 performing Vivian Stanshall
Vivian Stanshall
Vivian Stanshall was an English singer-songwriter, painter, musician, author, poet and wit, best known for his work with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, for his surreal exploration of the British upper classes in Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, and for narrating Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.-The great...

 and Neil Innes
Neil Innes
Neil James Innes is an English writer and performer of comic songs, best known for his collaborative work with Monty Python, and for playing in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and later The Rutles.-Personal life:...

's "Death Cab For Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie (song)
"Death Cab for Cutie" is a song composed by Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes and performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It was included on their 1967 album Gorilla.-Content:...

", sung by Stanshall.

Initial idea


In The Beatles Anthology
The Beatles Anthology
The Beatles Anthology is the name of a documentary series, a set of three double albums and a book focusing on the history of The Beatles. Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr all participated in the making and approval of the works, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the...

, John Lennon states that "if stage shows were to be out, we wanted something to replace them. Television was the obvious answer." Most of the band members have quoted that the initial idea was Paul McCartney’s, although he stated, “I’m not sure whose idea Magical Mystery Tour was. It could have been mine, but I’m not sure whether I want to take the blame for it! We were all in on it — but a lot of the material at that time could have been my idea.” Prior to the movie, McCartney had been creating home movies, and this was a source of inspiration for Magical Mystery Tour.

Production


The film was unscripted and shooting proceeded on the basis of a mostly handwritten collection of ideas, sketches, and situations, which McCartney called the "Scrupt". Magical Mystery Tour was ultimately the shortest of all Beatles films, though nearly ten hours of footage was shot over a two week period. The core of the film was shot beginning on 11 September and finishing on 25 September.

The following eleven weeks were mostly spent on editing the film from ten hours to 52 minutes. Scenes that were filmed but not included in the final cut include:
  • A sequence where ice cream, fruit, and lollipops were sold to The Beatles and other coach passengers,
  • John, Paul, George, and Ringo each looking through a telescope, and
  • Happy Nat The Rubber Man (Nat Jackley
    Nat Jackley
    Nat Jackley was an English comic actor starring in variety, film and pantomime from the late 1940s to the mid 1980s whose trademark rubber-neck dance, skeletal frame and peculiar speech impediment made him a formidable and funny pantomime dame.His later years were spent as a character actor in...

    ) chasing women around the Atlantic Hotel's outdoor swimming pool, a sequence that John directed.


Much of the film was shot in and around RAF West Malling
RAF West Malling
RAF West Malling was a Royal Air Force station near West Malling in Kent, England.Originally used as a landing area during the first World War, the site opened as a private landing ground and in 1930, then known as Kingshill, home to the Maidstone School of Flying, before being renamed West Malling...

, an airfield in Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 that had recently been decommissioned. Many of the interior scenes, such as the final ballroom sequence for "Your Mother Should Know", were shot in the disused aircraft hangars. The exteriors, such as the "I Am the Walrus
I Am the Walrus
"I Am the Walrus" is a 1967 song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips. The song was in the Beatles' 1967 television film and album Magical Mystery Tour, and was the B-side to the #1 hit "Hello,...

" sequence, and the marathon race, were filmed on the runways and taxi aprons. RAF Air Training Corps
Air Training Corps
The Air Training Corps , commonly known as the Air Cadets, is a cadet organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation and the Royal Air Force . It is supported by the Ministry of Defence, with a regular RAF Officer, currently Air...

 cadets can be seen marching in some scenes, and during "I Am the Walrus" an RAF Avro Shackleton
Avro Shackleton
The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force. It was developed by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber with a new fuselage...

 is seen orbiting the group.

The mystery tour itself was shot throughout the West Country
West Country
The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and the City of Bristol, while the counties of...

 of England, including Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 and Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, although most of the footage was not used in the finished film. The final striptease sequence was shot at Paul Raymond's Raymond Revuebar
Raymond Revuebar
The Raymond Revuebar was a theater and strip club at 11 Walker's Court, now The Box Soho, in the heart of London's Soho district. For many years, it was the only venue in London that offered full-frontal, on-stage nudity of the sort commonly seen in other cities in Europe and North America...

 in London, and the sequence for "The Fool on the Hill
The Fool on the Hill
"The Fool on the Hill" is a song by The Beatles. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney and recorded in 1967...

" was shot around Nice
Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

, France. The visual sequence for the instrumental "Flying" uses aerial footage which was shot on tinted film that had originally been intended for Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

's 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel...

.

The Magical Mystery Tour movie was made, but the hoped-for "magical" adventures never happened. During the filming, an ever greater number of cars followed the hand-lettered bus, hoping to see what its passengers were up to, until a running traffic jam developed. The spectacle ended after Lennon angrily tore the lettering off the sides of the bus.

Script


The script of Magical Mystery Tour was very informal. The Beatles gathered together a group of people for the cast and camera crew, and told them to "Be on the coach on Monday morning". The film was made up along the way. Ringo Starr recalled "Paul had a great piece of paper-just a blank piece of white paper with a circle on it. The plan was: 'We start here-and we’ve got to do something here...' We filled it in as we went along." Lennon recalled in a later interview, "We knew most of the scenes we wanted to include, but we bent our ideas to fit the people concerned, once we got to know our cast. If somebody wanted to do something we hadn’t planned, they went ahead. If it worked, we kept it in." At one point, Lennon had a dream in which he was a waiter piling spaghetti on a woman’s plate, so the sequence was filmed and included in the movie. Some of the older actors, such as Nat Jackley, were not familiar with the absence of a script, and were disappointed with the lack of one.

Criticism


The British public's reaction to the film was scathing. The film initially aired in the United Kingdom as a made-for-television film on BBC1. It was broadcast in black and white, although the film was shot in colour. The Beatles and the others they worked with on the film felt this was one of the main reasons it received bad reviews. George Martin, the band's producer said, “When it came out originally on British television, it was a colour film shown in black and white, because they didn’t have colour on BBC1 in those days. It looked awful and was a disaster". The film was shown in colour on BBC2
BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

 a few days later.

Hunter Davies
Hunter Davies
Edward Hunter Davies is a prolific British author, journalist and broadcaster, perhaps best known for writing the only authorised biography of The Beatles.- Early life :...

, the band's biographer, said: "It was the first time in memory that an artist felt obliged to make a public apology for his work." Paul McCartney later spoke to the press, saying: "We don't say it was a good film. It was our first attempt. If we goofed, then we goofed. It was a challenge and it didn't come off. We'll know better next time". McCartney also said, “I mean, you couldn’t call the Queen’s speech a gas, either, could you?” However, with the passage of time, McCartney changed his view of the production, saying: "Looking back on it, I thought it was all right. I think we were quite pleased with it." He also noted in The Beatles Anthology DVD that the film features the band's only performance of "I Am the Walrus".

In The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the "nonfiction novel" tells the story of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters...

, Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe
Thomas Kennerly "Tom" Wolfe, Jr. is a best-selling American author and journalist. He is one of the founders of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s.-Early life and education:...

 notes the similarity between this film and the exploits of Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey
Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey was an American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , and as a counter-cultural figure who considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. "I was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a...

 and The Merry Pranksters.

The film was spoofed in the film The Rutles
The Rutles
The Rutles are a band that are known for their visual and aural pastiches and parodies of The Beatles. Originally created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes as a fictional band to be featured as part of various 1970s television programming, the group recorded, toured, and released two UK chart hits in...

, which featured Eric Idle and Bonzo Dog Band
member Neil Innes
Neil Innes
Neil James Innes is an English writer and performer of comic songs, best known for his collaborative work with Monty Python, and for playing in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and later The Rutles.-Personal life:...

, as "Tragical History Tour" with songs like "Piggy In The Middle". The rock
band Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie is an American alternative rock band formed in Bellingham, Washington in 1997. The band consists of Ben Gibbard , Chris Walla , Nick Harmer and Jason McGerr ....

's name was inspired by the Bonzo Dog Band song in Magical Mystery Tour.

Distribution


The poor critical reaction to the telecast soured American television networks from acquiring the film, while its one-hour running length made it commercially unviable for theatrical release. It was not seen in commercial theatres in the US until 1974, when New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema, often simply referred to as New Line, is an American film studio. It was founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne as a film distributor, later becoming an independent film studio. It became a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1996 and was merged with larger sister studio Warner...

 acquired the rights for limited theatrical and non-theatrical distribution; it was not broadcast on American television until the 1980s in syndication. However, it was shown in 1968 at the Fillmore East in New York City as part of a fundraiser for the Liberation News Service. The critical reception in 1967 had been so poor that no one had properly archived a negative, and these later re-release versions had to be copied from poor-quality prints. By the end of the 1980s, MPI, through rights holder Apple Corps
Apple Corps
Apple Corps Ltd. is a multi-armed multimedia corporation founded in January 1968 by the members of The Beatles to replace their earlier company and to form a conglomerate. Its name is a pun. Its chief division is Apple Records, which was launched in the same year...

, had released the movie on video, and a DVD release followed many years later.

Songs


The songs in order of their use in the movie:
  1. "Magical Mystery Tour
    Magical Mystery Tour (song)
    "Magical Mystery Tour" is a song by The Beatles, the opening track and theme song for the album, double EP and TV film of the same name. Unlike the theme songs for their other film projects, it was not released as a single.-Composition:...

    "
  2. "The Fool on the Hill
    The Fool on the Hill
    "The Fool on the Hill" is a song by The Beatles. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney and recorded in 1967...

    "
  3. "She Loves You
    She Loves You
    "She Loves You" is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney based on an idea by McCartney, originally recorded by The Beatles for release as a single in 1963. The single set and surpassed several records in the United Kingdom charts, and set a record in the United States by being one of the...

    " (played during the marathon with a carnival-style organ)
  4. "Flying"
  5. "All My Loving
    All My Loving
    "All My Loving" is a song by The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney , from the 1963 album With The Beatles. Though it was not released as a single in the United Kingdom or the United States, it drew considerable radio airplay, prompting EMI to issue it as the title track of an EP...

    " (orchestrated, as background music)
  6. "I Am the Walrus
    I Am the Walrus
    "I Am the Walrus" is a 1967 song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips. The song was in the Beatles' 1967 television film and album Magical Mystery Tour, and was the B-side to the #1 hit "Hello,...

    "
  7. "Jessie’s Dream" (instrumental piece, not released on any audio recording)
  8. "Blue Jay Way
    Blue Jay Way
    "Blue Jay Way" is a song written by George Harrison; it was first recorded and released by The Beatles on their Magical Mystery Tour album and EP in 1967.-Origins:...

    "
  9. "Death Cab for Cutie
    Death Cab for Cutie (song)
    "Death Cab for Cutie" is a song composed by Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes and performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It was included on their 1967 album Gorilla.-Content:...

    " performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
  10. "Your Mother Should Know"
  11. "Magical Mystery Tour
    Magical Mystery Tour (song)
    "Magical Mystery Tour" is a song by The Beatles, the opening track and theme song for the album, double EP and TV film of the same name. Unlike the theme songs for their other film projects, it was not released as a single.-Composition:...

    " (part, once more)
  12. "Hello, Goodbye" (part, finale played over end credits)

Release history on VHS and DVD


USA
Year Company Format(s) Comments
1978 Media-Home Entertainment VHS/Betamax
Betamax
Betamax was a consumer-level analog videocassette magnetic tape recording format developed by Sony, released on May 10, 1975. The cassettes contain -wide videotape in a design similar to the earlier, professional wide, U-matic format...

Originally taken off the market due to a successful lawsuit filed in 1980, Media and Northern later reached an agreement for its re-release one year later.
1988 Video Collection/Apple VHS and Laserdisc
Laserdisc
LaserDisc was a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium. Initially licensed, sold, and marketed as MCA DiscoVision in North America in 1978, the technology was previously referred to interally as Optical Videodisc System, Reflective Optical Videodisc, Laser Optical...

With a digitally re-mixed and re-mastered soundtrack by Producer George Martin
George Martin
Sir George Henry Martin CBE is an English record producer, arranger, composer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Beatle"— a title that he often describes as "nonsense," but the fact remains that he served as producer on all but one of The Beatles' original albums...

1992 MPI/Apple Laserdisc
1997 MPI/Apple DVD First DVD release of Magical Mystery Tour
2003 Avenue One DVD Bootleg
Counterfeit
To counterfeit means to illegally imitate something. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product...

 of the MPI DVD.

UK
Year Company Format(s) Comments
1980s Empire Films VHS
1988 MPI/Apple VHS and Laserdisc With a digitally re-mixed and re-mastered soundtrack by Producer George Martin
George Martin
Sir George Henry Martin CBE is an English record producer, arranger, composer and musician. He is sometimes referred to as "the Fifth Beatle"— a title that he often describes as "nonsense," but the fact remains that he served as producer on all but one of The Beatles' original albums...

1997 MPI/Apple DVD First DVD release of Magical Mystery Tour

External links