For some time, my favourite album from The Beatles was Magical Mystery Tour. Once my taste had improved, however, I realised that I was absolutely correct and that The Fab Four’s greatest efforts regarding their LSD-laden album was indeed the album that featured their greatest song, Strawberry Fields Forever. That’s a handful of bold statements to make in two sentences, but I stand by it. Looking to melt my mind a little more after a long day, I popped Magical Mystery Tour on, the movie tie-in to their 1967 album masterclass. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, although the visual and philosophical style of the album would surely seep into the fabric of this Bernard Knowles and Beatles directed film.
Barely clocking in at an hour, and thankfully so, Magical Mystery Tour has much in the way of insufferable content. Some moments try so desperately hard to be funny, but it comes across as an awfully thought out nightmare. Not nearly as funny or engaging as you’d expect from four artists who, at the best of times, were creatively free-flowing. To have expected more from this would most likely be a mistake, there is a swathe of behind-the-scenes factors to consider before even delving into the overall quality of this piece. Five directors behind the camera (technically), all of them chipping into their own individual story, and with their own unique agenda. The push and shove of the band comes to blows on screen, a stark contrast to the products they could churn out in the recording studio.
The Beatles channel some early Monty Python’s Flying Circus style here, but don’t get the execution quite right. There’s enough novelty and zany features to it to make it feel like a display of absolute randomness, but as a narrative piece, it falls apart. The third film the band put together, and it certainly feels like they’re getting too big for their boots. Doing away with conventional moments, and instead providing something that feels closer to loosely connected skits than an actual narrative. This would be fine if the skits themselves were funny, and the difference between randomness and humour is drawn with strikingly obvious markers here.
Nowhere close to the enjoyable, manic moments of A Hard Day’s Night, and I imagine far less engaged than Help!. A near-enough hour-long music video that doesn’t have all that much in the way of storyline. Improvisational, and you can tell. They may be fantastic musicians, but comedians and actors they are not. Snippets of songs that see Paul McCartney running through forests and interludes of a bus ride. You may as well listen to the album; the film doesn’t do justice to the talent found on that vinyl.