Help! [1965]

Director: Richard Lester
Stars: The Beatles
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Musical
Rating: G (General Audience)
Runtime: 149 minutes

After the worldwide success of A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles and director Richard Lester reunited for a follow-up film, Eight Arms to Hold You. Well, that wasn't the final title; a pleading Lennon-McCartney tune provided the catchier handle: Help! A loose semispoof of the globe-trotting James Bond pictures, Help! has always been considered a somewhat disorganized comedown from its predecessor; but it presents "the famous Beatles" even more clearly as the English cousins of the Marx Brothers. The plot has an Eastern religious cult declaring that the new ring on Ringo's finger is the key element in a human sacrifice; they will stop at nothing to obtain it. Meanwhile, a mad scientist (crazed Victor Spinetti, who also appeared in A Hard Day's Night and Magical Mystery Tour) believes that if he has the ring, he could--dare we say it?--rule the world. The songs, including "Ticket to Ride" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," are filmed with gleeful ingenuity, in locations such as the Bahamas, an Austrian ski resort, and the Salisbury Plain. The relentless nonsense becomes nearly the equivalent of a swinging-'60s Alice in Wonderland: for instance, Paul shrinks to the size of a gum wrapper, John fishes a season ticket out of his soup, George wears a top hat on the ski slopes, the lads sing the "Ode to Joy" to a lion. Oh, and the film is dedicated to Elias Howe, "who in 1846 invented the sewing machine." Brilliant. --Robert Horton

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