In a Nutshell: The story of the Beatles
told in an hour without their music.
Decades after they disbanded, the Beatles are still incredibly popular,
and die-hard fans aren't hard to find. Catering to that crowd, Eagle
Media has released The Beatles: From Liverpool to San Francisco,
a chronology of the bands movements interspersed with TV interviews and
footage of the Fab Four that are all in the public domain. Unfortunately,
the thing that made the Beatles so popular, their music, is nowhere to be
found and the interviews are mere snippets, making this a rather drab
After giving a one or two sentence synopsis of their childhood and early
days, the film takes up the story of the Beatles in 1963 as their first
album is about to be released in England. It then proceeds to chronicle
the bands movements and dates in the recording studio and on stage.
Calendars appear on the screen filled with dates and events, which are
then broken up by small sections of interviews, images of mobs of hysterical
girls, and images of the boys getting on and off planes. Lots and
lots of footage of the group getting on and off airplanes. They continue
in this methodical manner until the groups break up in 1970.
As far as documenting the Beatles phenomenon, this wasn't very good.
Though a narrator links the segments together, this offers no insight as
to why they were so popular or how they were dealing with this fame.
There are huge gaps in the story too. The album Let it Be and Apple
Records aren't mentioned, and neither is the internal strife within the
band. In the later years, when the group did their best work, they
made fewer and fewer appearances and so this era flies by rather quickly,
giving the impression that this was a less important era for the band.
The thing that is really surprising for a documentary that is based
solely on public domain recordings is that they didn't use the full interviews
that they uncovered. One of the better sections comes near the end
when they present several minutes of an interview the group did in the
US during their last tour. This would have been a much better film
if they strung together all of the interviews and appearances with title
cards stating the date and place instead of just showing 30 second clips.
Someone who doesn't know the Beatles isn't going to gain an appreciation
of their music from this, and even a casual fan doesn't need to be told
over and over that they were very popular.
The two channel audio was mixed. The narration was crisp and clear,
but much of the vintage footage had hiss and other background noise.
With only a couple of exceptions the Beatles are easy to hear and understand
(the accent not withstanding.)
Most of the program comes from old TV interviews and some of them are
a little rough. As a rule, the fullframe image has a lot of scratches,
spots and a good amount of grain. Some of the footage is pretty dark,
but the contrast is usually good. A little less than average for
film of this age it's still not too hard on the eyes.
The extras are actually more interesting than the movie itself.
There are 20 minutes worth of local TV coverage of the Beatles phenomena.
Though the Fab Four themselves aren't in these, they are interesting none
the less. There's an interview with the DJ who started the ruckus
over John's assertion that they were bigger than Jesus, a bit with a KKK
member who threatened to disrupt a concert, and a few others. If
these are presented without narration or comment, and I wish the feature
would have been constructed in the same way.
This disc does have some rare footage of the Beatles, but they are only
clips. Presenting entire press conferences or news coverage of the
group would have been more interesting by far. These short clips
only give you a glimpse of the groups charm, and leave you wanting more.
Granted, most of the questions that they were asked at the beginning of
their career were pretty stupid, but even an insipid interview would be
better than the endless shots of yelling girls with dubbed screams and
images of the group on the stairs leading off a plane. Die hard fans
may want to rent this, but everyone else should Skip It.