Film and Documentary

HELP! The Beatles Movie

From the start, The Beatles second movie, Help!, is wildly different from their initial offering, A Hard Day’s Night. It’s from the same director, Richard Lester, and John, Paul, George, and Ringo star in this full-color, wild and crazy farce. The basic plot of Help! is the group struggling to record their new album while trying to protect Ringo from a sinister cult and a pair of mad scientists, all of whom are obsessed with obtaining a ring.

It seems Ringo is the proud owner of a sacred giant ruby ring, but it’s never really explained how? He’s stalked by a fanatical religious cult, who must sacrifice any human wearing the ring. They pursue the Beatles for most of the movie, setting bizarre traps in the Fab Four’s gimmicky high-tech mansion, and even attacking them at “safe” havens like the Police Constable’s office and Buckingham Palace. Since the uncanny ring refuses to come off Ringo’s finger, the lads consult a mad scientist. What do you know? He starts chasing Ringo as well, claiming that with the ring he and his doofus assistant can rule the world. All through the movie, one of the cult followers is apparently a double agent, enamored with Paul, who tries to help the boys. They start in England and end in the Bahamas.

While the plot itself is rather thin and silly, the music is superb! Songs like Help!, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away and Ticket to Ride make this movie one to watch, if only for the music. Other great songs in the film are You’re Gonna Lose That Girl, I Need You, The Night Before, Another Girl, She’s a Woman, I’m Happy Just To Dance With You, You Can’t Do That, and From Me To You.

The Beatles later said the film was shot in a “haze of marijuana.” According to Starr’s later interviews “A hell of a lot of pot was being smoked while we were making the film. It was great. That helped make it a lot of fun … In one of the scenes, Victor Spinetti and Roy Kinnear are playing curling: sliding along those big stones. One of the stones has a bomb in it and we find out that it’s going to blow up and have to run away. Well, Paul and I ran about seven miles, we ran and ran, just so we could stop and have a joint before we came back. We could have run all the way to Switzerland. If you look at pictures of us, you can see a lot of red-eyed shots; they were red from the dope we were smoking. And these were those clean-cut boys! Dick Lester knew that very little would get done after lunch. In the afternoon we very seldom got past the first line of the script. We had such hysterics that no one could do anything. Dick Lester would say, ‘No, boys, could we do it again?’ It was just that we had a lot of fun – a lot of fun in those days.”

Paul recalled with fondness, “We showed up a bit stoned, smiled a lot and hoped we’d get through it. We giggled a lot. I remember one time at Cliveden (Lord Astor’s place, where the Christine Keeler/Profumo scandal went on); we were filming the Buckingham Palace scene where we were all supposed to have our hands up. It was after lunch, which was fatal because someone might have brought out a glass of wine as well. We were all a bit merry, and all had our backs to the camera and the giggles set in. All we had to do was turn around and look amazed, or something. But every time we’d turn round to the camera there were tears streaming down our faces. It’s OK to get the giggles anywhere else but in films because the technicians get pissed off with you. They think, ‘They’re not very professional.’ Then you start thinking, ‘This isn’t very professional – but we’re having a great laugh.’”

The Beatles said the film was inspired by the classic Marx Brothers film Duck Soup; it was also directly satirical of the James Bond series of films. At the time of the original release of Help! its distributor, United Artists, also held the rights to the Bond series. Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].