The Beatles – Yellow Submarine (EMI) DVD REVIEW

OKAY, GET IT over with. Laugh out loud. Yes, I’m reviewing a brand spanking frame-by-frame restoration of a 1968 movie on DVD, not Blu-ray. It’s what the record company sent me, and while I was tempted to go out and purchase what will amount to a decent step-up in picture quality, I’m not really too fussed.
The thing is, I like playing DVDs in my Blu-ray player, because a DVD, unlike a Blu-ray, doesn’t take a year-and-a-half to crank up and just, you know, work. And it still makes a good print look like a million bucks, so…
But what I really want to say, and simply have to get it out of the way, is just how utterly GREAT this movie is, especially now that it’s been restored. Had the colours been faded, or the soundtrack rendered thin and sibilant, I may not have enjoyed it as much, but am confident that I would still have given it the thumbs up.
But the fact that it looks and sounds amazing – and could have been minted just yesterday – improves the experience immensely, taking away one’s barriers to enjoying the thing for its inherent worth.
I’ve only ever seen extracts of Yellow Submarine, and was expecting (especially after reading the Rip It Up review, which made it seem unenjoyable and slightly nasty) it to be a flawed project that might require watching in small increments over several days. In fact, I sat down with the wife over Sunday afternoon tea, and we were both enthralled to its conclusion an hour-and-a-half later.
Really, this film is pretty much the ultimate example of psychedelia, and perfectly captures that moment in 1967/68 when creative endeavour was being very heavily influenced by LSD and other illicit substances, in a good way; and it also captures a peculiar and eccentric type of Englishness that has sadly long since disappeared from pop culture.
The story, such as it is, features animated versions of the Fab Four escaping from the Blue Meanies in a yellow submarine, undergoing a bunch of adventures, and returning to save the day. These adventures feature quite insane plot deviations that often drift close to surrealism and dada-esque art, and I guess that’s what loses some people. But really, the whole thing never slows down and is just so full of invention and surprise and humour and, of course, great Beatles songs, that I fail to see how anyone wouldn’t get off on it.
Heinz Edelmann’s animations are ingenious and ahead of their time, and clearly anticipate Terry Gilliam’s work for Monty Python a few years later, and even Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle. His sense of design, and the way these animations fit with the rhythm of the sounds and songs, is extraordinary. And the colours!
Experienced in good old stereo (yes, it is available to play in 5.1 through your home theatre) it sounded incredible, with the Beatles’ songs literally bursting from the speakers.
For the collectors out there, the package comes with a beaut booklet with production notes, stickers and film cells of each member of the Beatles.
I’m still reeling at how very, very good this film – which at the time was relegated to a TV-only release in some territories – really is. And it’s only 44 years old. GARY STEEL

Movie = 5/5
Visuals = 5/5
Sound = 5/5

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