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Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Glows in Blu-Ray

Up for some Beatles? Mark Smotroff looks at two Beatles releases available on Blu-Ray


By Mark Smotroff

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Finally. The Beatles are preserving their legacy for future
generations.   It began with the release
of a restored Yellow Submarine this year…. and Paul McCartney’s stellar solo
album box sets last year. 

Magical Mystery Tour (MMT) on Blu-ray Disc (and DVD) is a
special event as the film had been ignored for so long — most fans had given
up hope that they would ever see a
good print of the 1967 hour-long made-for-TV movie.

What a treat to see a restored print off the original 16mm film
elements!

What a treat to HEAR the soundtrack cleaned up!

Contrary to many opinions, as a film — a work of art, and a
period statement by The Beatles — I feel MMT has aged surprisingly well…

  
IF you like Monty Python’s Flying Circus (and
films by their members like Terry Gilliam) you will grok MMT’s influence.  

  
IF you are not
into that sort of thing, MMT’s charm will be lost on you.

MMT is a comic acid
trip, a glowing technicolor daydream into the psyche of the Swingin’ ’60s.  This is an extension of Sgt. Pepper as The
Beatles don personas from ballroom dancers to the spiritual parents of The
Banana Splits.

It gets real weird and goofy, as a fun showcase for mad
oddballs (wizards, Mr. Bloodvessel, Jolly Jimmy, evil Vicars, height-challenged
wrestlers, etc.) sing alongs, dream sequences, largely improvised dialogue and
even bits of animation.    The sped up
race scene is classic wacky races; Ringo handles the MMT bus like a Porsche
while George buzzes around in his psychedelic Mini Cooper. 

MMT is mostly a set up for presenting then-new (now, classic)
songs to the world as lip synch, music video prototypes ( “Fool on the
Hill,” “Blue Jay Way” and the title track).  Production numbers like “I Am The
Walrus” and “Your Mother Should Know” sparkle.

How does it look? Amazing! 
This film has never looked
better and is a welcome change from the scratchy, faded DVD print that was
around for years.   Is it a
“demo-worthy” reference video? Er… not so much.  MMT looks way groovy for what it is, but
there is only so much you can expect from old 16mm film.

How does it sound, you ask? 
Real good. 

Just real good?  

Yes. Not fantastic.   

Here’s why: they didn’t do a fresh, complete sync of a new surround mix of at least the music
portions to the film.  My guess is that
they simply couldn’t, that original isolated dialogue and effects elements are
long lost.   Still, the 5.1 DTS HD Master
Audio and PCM stereo 2.0 tracks sound plenty full, crisp and enjoyable.  

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If you want to hear more immersive mixes of this era of Beatle
music, seek out the Deluxe Edition CD+DVD set of Cirque Du Soleil’s
“Beatles: Love” show which has a fantastic aggressive surround mix of
“…Walrus” on it.   The DVD of
Beatles Anthology contains “A Day In The Life” in true surround!

The high quality full-color, beautifully laminated MMT box set
is a treat for hardcore fans with Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film, a
lovingly made commemorative book and a fabulous repro of the original double EP
45 RPM soundtrack that was originally issued only in the UK (repressed in mono
off the newly remastered mono mix tapes).  
You even get a ticket for a MMT trip!

All that is missing is a nice rainbow-colored vinyl 180-gram LP
version of the US issue (in mono, of course). 
Perhaps we’ll get lucky  when the
new mono Beatle LP remasters come out in 2013.  
And hopefully before I die The Beatles will see it fit to put out a
comprehensive Blu-ray collection of all of their promotional films in complete
form, in 5.1 surround and high definition audio and video (not the snippets
shown on the Anthology box set).  Until
then, MMT on Blu-ray is now the best way to see – and hear – this period of The Beatles’ work.

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