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DVD Review: Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison

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The immediate question with something as outlandish and outrageous as this, is how exactly does one approach it? And the answer, is an equally obvious one.

That would be with a grain of salt and then some. On a purely dark comedic sort of level, this shit (and I do mean shit in the most literal sense of the word) is pure gold.

Whether the Beatles themselves had anything to do with the “Paul Is Dead” rumors which initially began spreading like wildfire in 1969 around the time of the release of Abbey Road or not (and my own suspicion is that they didn’t), there is no question that these stories, however briefly, created quite a weird firestorm at the time.

Honestly, you really had to be there.

As a teenager, I can even recall myself buying into the whole “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy theory, fueled by the numerous “clues” placed on Beatles album covers and even within the songs themselves.

Personally, I have no idea who exactly came up with the whole thing (and again, I don’t think it was the Beatles themselves).

But at the time it was pure genius. Whether by joke, accident or design, the various “clues” placed on Beatles albums dating back as far as Rubber Soul are actually quite convincing for a minute when they are added up — at least if you were a very impressionable twelve year old boy back then, as I was.

If you play back the very end Of “Strawberry Fields Forever” for example, it really does sound like John Lennon says “I buried Paul.” Lennon has since claimed the line was actually the rather innocently nonsensical “Cranberry Sauce”.

The thing is, if John was really grieving over Paul, how do you explain a song like “How Do You Sleep” — because if I’m not mistaken, Lennon sounds quite royally pissed at Paul in that one.

But hey, what about the funeral procession on the back cover of Abbey Road? What about that “28IF” license plate? Or Paul being barefoot, and George wearing a gravediggers uniform? Or the backwards masking heard on “Revolution #9″ from the White Album (“turn me on, dead man”).

Or about how Paul “blew his mind out in a car,” — a lyric heard on “A Day In The Life” said to be about how Paul McCartney lost his life in a 1966 car accident?

Questions, Questions, Questions…

The thing is, such things as deciphering these various “clues” were a lot of fun back then — especially if you happened across a completely obsessed twelve year old Beatles fan like I was.

But seriously? Get real. The only guy who read this much into Beatles lyrics back then was Charles Manson, and the circumstances of that are a matter of rather tragic, but unfortunately historical record.

Most of us have since long gotten over it. But as unbelievable as it may seem, there are some people who still take this shit quite seriously. For all I know, Charles Manson is probably one of them. But my suspicion is that Joel Gilbert, the guy who made this DVD, isn’t.

Gilbert is a guy who has made a number of unauthorized Bob Dylan DVD’s, where he mostly goes around dressed as a mid-period Dylan wannabe trying to fill in the blanks on things like Bob’s “Jesus years.” On this DVD, he even sneaks in some of that Dylan devotion in the extras included.

But beyond that, Gilbert takes the whole “Paul Is Dead” myth to ridiculous and honestly, quite humorous lengths. And it is in that spirit, that Paul McCartney Really Is Dead should be taken.

Because honestly, when put into that context this DVD is actually a lot of fun. Based upon a mysterious, clandestinely delivered tape from someone purporting to be a badly voiced George Harrison on his deathbed, a fairly convincing case for the “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy is actually made during the early parts of this DVD — at least until they get to the badly scripted parts about British intelligence agents named for Beatles songs like “Maxwell.”

By the time “Lovely Rita” turns out to be a young Heather Mills who lost her leg in the 1966 car accident which purportedly killed Paul, and she subsequently blackmails “Fake Paul” (or “Faul”) into marrying her — any minuscule shred of credibility this film may have had is tossed completely out the window.

I mean, we all know that Heather was kind of a bitch and all — but was she even alive in 1966? And as an adult to boot?

Things get a little less tasteful when the deaths of both Harrison and John Lennon are attributed to the ongoing “Paul Is Dead” coverup. And in the case of John Lennon, I can almost buy into it — though not for any conspiracy theory involving the supposed death of Paul McCartney. Lennon’s assassination enters into more something like the Manchurian Candidate realm — at least if you actually subscribe to that sort of thing.

But for the most part, this is where Joel Gilbert’s Paul McCartney Really Is Dead crosses into becoming something truly ridiculous. That said, as long as you don’t take it too seriously, the premise here is sort of entertaining, in a darkly humorous sort of way.

I also have to admit that it had me kind of going for a minute there. Just don’t tell anybody, okay?

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • marthamydear

    I just saw the film at a free screening. Anyone in the audience over 30 was laughing and shaking their heads. However I object to the fact that this movie is an uncredited rip-off of two books that detail the true origins to the “clues” about Macca’s supposed death- “The Walrus Was Paul” and Turn Me On Dead Man.” Pick up one of these two books and don’t give this jerk a penny. I hope he gets sued.

  • Davido

    I’m over 50 and remember all too well the “Paula Is Dead” hoopla. I never bought it then. What a croc!

  • Greg Barbrick

    I don’t know. “The Girl Is Mine” with Michael Jackson, Give My Regards To Broad Street, the marriage to Heather Whatsername?

    Are you sure this isn’t a Paul imposter?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’d bet you my copy of Duran Duran’s Arena to your Band On The Run that he was no imposter…questionable artistic choices notwithstanding of course.

    -Glen

  • JC Mosquito

    I almost bought this at my local WallyMart tonight, til I remembered that Paul only went missing for years, finally coming back just in time to replace his replacement and record the wunnerful Flaming Pie album.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Ha! Yeah he’s made a few good ones since too…”Memory Almost Full” and that Fireman record are both pretty decent. Not bad at all for a dead guy…

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    By the way, you’re telling me the DVD distributor actually got this into WalMart?

    Having worked for smaller indie type labels in the past, I’m fairly stunned if that’s true…WalMart is notorious for being pretty picky about what they’ll actualy stock. That is, unless you’re just trying to sell me a story similar to the one presented in this film…

    -Glen