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Up Periscope Yellow – making the Yellow Submarine

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Author Al Brodax pens a terribly vivid recreation of the making of the 1967 Beatles movie ‘Yellow Submarine’. One could only call his memory as photographic as he recalls lunches and conversations and drink memos in perfect detail from 37 years ago. To say this is a must for any Beatles’ collector is a bit obvious, but the book goes deeper than that. Without giving away too much of the story, we learn this: Brodax was a producer at King Features working on Popeye cartoons, looking for an in with the whole Beatles phenom after seeing them on Ed Sullivan. The Beatles were, at the time, looking for a way out of their third picture obligation. So the Yellow Submarine was born, and it was a painstaking delivery.

What does come through is a totally different perspective of the fab four. We get to see them not as world idols of song… but as four co-producers weaving in and out of a storyline that they didn’t create, but were too busy to tamper with.

Some scenes that come back to me are all the brief momentary meeting with the Beatles themselves: Ringo running around perpetually taking pictures of walls, John Lennon frequenting the French restaurant just to watch them react to him adding ketchup to their lifeless (but prized) cuisine, we learn the key to Paul’s heart is to bring treats for his sheepdog, and George Harrison comes out as just the kind of guy I had always imagined he was.

The story is so meticulous, that it drags a bit at times. However, we get so much insight from the minutia of film making and the cartoon business (and the weight of the Beatles over your shoulder) that such inclusions bring value to the whole story. I must also confess I was hoping for more pictures, candid moments of the Beatles in the process. Then, I am reminded the Beatles actually had fairly little to do with the movie, contributing the music… but not even the voices.

I took this opportunity to watch the film with fresh eyes. Apparently, the Yellow Submarine has quite a market in the kids arena, and even stranger was filed in the ‘drama’ section of the local video megastore. My exposure to the story was in high school, emphasis on the high. Fans of the film and the Beatles would do themselves a favor to pick up the Brodax book, and get a real feel for London 1967.

After recently screening the DVD on my home theatre, I really got an appreciation for what a landmark the movie was. With the animation cleaned up and amazing sound, the movie is as powerful and innovative now as it was almost 40 years ago.

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  • http://calblog.com Justene

    This review was chosen for Advance.net. You will be able to find it on newspaper sites including Cleveland.com.