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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Yellow Submarine

MOVIE REVIEWS

YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968)

Featuring the voices of Paul Angelis, John Clive, Dick Emery, Geoff Hughes, Lance Percival and Peter Batten, with a special guest appearance by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Screenplay by Lee Minoff and Al Brodax and Jack Mendelsohn and Erich Segal.

Directed by George Dunning.

Live action Beatles sequence directed by Dennis Abey.

Distributed by Apple Corps/United Artists.  89 minutes.  Rated G.

 

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Yellow Submarine

You know that Yellow Submarine is of lesser importance in the Beatles’ film canon because Ringo Starr sang the title track.  In fact, of the classic films by the Fab Four, such as A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Let It Be, Yellow Submarine is probably the most derided, though it is not looked down on quite as badly as the unintelligible TV-special film Magical Mystery Tour.

The truth is, Yellow Submarine is not really a Beatles movie at all.  The band had very little to do with the movie beyond the fact that it was released by their Apple studio and the band offered up a brace of classic tunes to be played on the soundtrack. 

It does not even claim to star John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – instead coyly suggesting in the opening credits that the film was starring “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  There is a simple reason behind that.  The guys don’t provide their own character voices, though they did agree to appear in a very brief filmed cameo appearance at the very end of the movie as a contractual obligation.

Instead, Yellow Submarine is an extremely psychedelic animated film loosely (very loosely) based on the band’s music.  

Written by a committee of four outside scribes (including, oddly, the soon-to-be best-selling novelist Erich Segal of Love Story fame), Yellow Submarine is a wild and crazy psychedelic fever dream.  The story – or at least as close to a plot as there is – has the Fab Four (or reasonable facsimiles of them) drolly trying save the good people of Pepperland from the oppressive cartoon threat of Blue Meanies, dangerous flying gloves, killer clowns and giant apples.  

It is very colorful and full of wonderfully imaginative visuals, but eventually the film’s surreal British eccentricity gets a little bit overwhelming.  It’s sort of like being forced to sit through an entire season of Monty Python’s Flying Circus but having all of the comic bits cut out, just getting a wall-to-wall run of Terry Gilliam’s illustrated breaks.

However, every time the cartoon mayhem gets oppressive, they cue up a classic tune, including the title track, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “All You Need is Love,” “Nowhere Man” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”  Of course, all of those songs were previously recorded for earlier Beatles albums.  The five songs recorded specifically for the project are more obscure, including “Only a Northern Song,” “Hey Bulldog” and “It’s All Too Much.”  Of the new tracks, only “All Together Now” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” became fairly well known. 

In general, the animation has little to do with the songs they are illustrating, but they add a colorful and dreamlike element to the songs.  Not only that, other unused Beatles songs are riffed on in the pun-filled screenplay, including “Help!,” “Fixing a Hole” and “A Day in the Life.” 

Nearly 45 years on, Yellow Submarine very much looks and feels like a product of its time.  However, if nothing else, it is an interesting and imaginative anachronism, and it is never a complete waste of time to spend an hour and a half with this great music.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 5, 2012.

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Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 5, 2012.

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