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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Help! (1965)

While the Beatles were one of the most influential groups in musical history, I hadn't realised just how much they'd contributed to the world of film. Help! is a surreal romp that directly predates things like the Monkees' film Head but also has a solid slot in the progression of British comedy after the Goons and especially Spike Milligan but before Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The story here has to do with a Kali worshipping cult run by Leo McKern who are unable to continue their human sacrifices because they are no longer in possession of the necessary sacrificial ring. It seems that nobody can be sacrificed unless they're wearing the ring, but the victim sent it in a fan letter to the Beatles and it now adorns the finger of Ringo Starr. So the leaders of the cult travel to England to retrieve the ring, and potentially use Ringo as their next victim. A couple of rogue scientists join the chase too so that they can rule the world using the power of the ring.

What makes the film so enjoyable is the surreal lunacy of the whole thing, especially while the Beatles themselves remain completely matter of fact about everything, even when they're in mortal danger or theyr'e discussing the advisability of just cutting off Ringo's finger. Interspersed are a number of Beatles performances from an era before rock videos. Everyone is obviously having fun and that's certainly the way to see the film. Enjoy the songs, the lunacy, the camera angles, the locations and enjoy the thought that was given into the surreal traps. Danger Mouse was definitely paying attention.

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