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Blu-ray Review: Magical Mystery Tour

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Released by Capital Records in November, 1967, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album was an 11-track LP including the six-song soundtrack to the band’s 1967 film of the same name. Originally appearing on the BBC, the movie did not do well with either critics or fans. Perhaps it was the lack of color (it was broadcast in Black and White) that proved disastrous for the colorful psychedelic and surrealistic feel of the movie.

EMI has released the fully-restored Magical Mystery Tour to DVD and Blu-ray. The sketchy plot follows The Beatles and a group of ordinary travelers as they go on a psychedelic bus tour.

The original idea for the movie came about when Paul McCartney remembered mystery tours from his childhood in Liverpool where people took bus trips without knowing their final destination. Wanting to recreate that, The Beatles  wrote a basic story outline that started with a hand drawn pie chart. They recorded songs, found actors and a few friends, and then set off in a brightly colored bus toward the southwest coast of England. The dialogue for the most part was improvised and no one on the bus knew their ultimate destination.

Richard Lester (the director of the first two Beatle’s feature films) may have been responsible for Magical Mystery Tour‘s very loose structure. He said, (according to the insert that comes with the Blu-ray) “They should make their next film themselves, just the way they make an album. I mean that it should grow organically rather than having a professional cult or film making superimposed upon it.” 

The silliness of most of the scenes is in keeping with the psychedelic culture of the time (1965-1969). Many of the songs have references to drugs and drug use including “Roll up! Roll up!”  Psychedelic rock was influenced by the psychedelic drug culture and its attempts to enhance the effects of psychedelic drugs.  Paul McCartney, himself, stated, “Because those were psychedelic times it had to become a magical mystery tour, a little bit more surreal than the real ones to give us a license to do it. But it employs all the circus and fairground barkers, ‘Roll up! Roll up!,’ which was also a reference to rolling up a joint. We were always sticking those little things in that we knew our friends would get; veiled references to drugs and to trips. ‘Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away,’ so that’s a kind of drug, ‘it’s dying to take you away’…” 

Magical Mystery Tour features the songs “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool On The Hill,” “Flying,” “I Am The Walrus,” “Blue Jay Way,” and “Your Mother Should Know.” There really isn’t any continuity from one scene to another and a majority of the scenes don’t follow any logic. 

Besides the draw of the music, I didn’t really get much out of the movie. It reminded me a bit of Monty Python with no apparent meaning except to be silly.  If you’re a huge fan of The Beatles or psychedelic rock, this movie is probably something you’ll enjoy. For anyone else, I would probably pass.

The movie is 53 minutes long. The picture restoration and the improved, remastered soundtrack are really fantastic and do not show their age at all. The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour features DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and PCM stereo. There are  many special features, and it is loaded with unseen footage which will appeal to fans of the Beatles. Special features (53 minutes) include:

  • A Director’s Commentary by Paul McCartney
  • “The Making of Magical Mystery Tour” features interviews with Paul and Ringo, along with other cast members and crew. It also includes unseen footage.
  • “Ringo the Actor” features Ringo Starr reflecting on his role in the film.
  • “Meet the Supporting Cast” is a feature on the background and careers of Nat Jackley, Jessie Robins, Ivor Cutler, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Victor Spinetti, George Claydon, and Derek Royle.
  • Three new edits of the performances of “Your Mother Should Know,” “ Blue Jay Way,”  and “The Fool On The Hill” are included, all featuring footage not seen in the original film.
  • “Hello Goodbye,” is shown as featured on “Top of the Pops” in 1967.  The Beatles allowed the BBC to film them in the edit suite where they were working on Magical Mystery Tour. This was then turned into a promo by the BBC, who shot their own additional footage. It was then broadcast on “Top of the Pops” to mark the “Hello Goodbye” single going to No. 1 in December 1967.
  • “Nat’s Dream” is a scene directed by John featuring Nat Jackley and not included in the original film.
  • Ivor Cutler performs “I’m Going In A Field,” in a field. This scene was not included in the original film. I particularly enjoyed the haunting sounds of his piano performance in this feature.
  • 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 included in the final edit.
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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.