I was digging around my music DVDs/Blu Rays earlier and happened upon Imagine, the John Lennon documentary from 1988. I watched it first at the big cinema on Lime Street in Liverpool (the Cannon?) and then many times on video. It got me thinking about all the other Beatles related films (not including the 5 actual Beatles films) I had on videocassette in the 80s. I used to record anything Beatles related, like all the re-runs of Ready Steady Go, and the excellent Granada TV programme from 1984, The Early Beatles.
The daddy of them all was The Compleat Beatles. I couldn’t begin to imagine how many times I watched this one, but I certainly saw it as the definitive Beatles documentary at the time! It must be 30 years since I last saw it though, and all I can really remember is Gerry Marsden showing how to Merseybeat up a Hank Williams song. I always thought The Rutles was a spoof of this, totally overlooking the fact that it was made 4 years after The Rutles. It was only a few years ago that I saw the episode of All You Need Is Love on which it is actually based, or large chunks of it is at least.
The other one that I watched dozens of times was Birth of the Beatles, a biopic that flirted with the truth on occasion. It was lightweight fluff and the Beatles themselves tried to block its release, but I enjoyed it. A few famous faces in the cast, with Nigel Havers as George Martin, Nick Cotton as George Harrison and a bloke off Playschool and Jackanory as Brian Epstein. Again, I haven’t watched it for about 30 years, but this time I can remember pretty much the whole lot, although it was many years till I learned what mashuganas meant.
A film made around the same time as Birth of the Beatles was the American film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, starring Nancy Allen, Jimmy Olsen off Superman and the geeky bloke off Grease. It centred around a group of fans trying to sneak into the Beatles’ hotel in New York prior to their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis and is great fun.
I also had John and Yoko’s 1971 Imagine film on video (pre-recorded I think), but I had to be in the right mood to put that one on. And there was a TV movie in 1985, John and Yoko: A Love Story, with one of the McGanns as Lennon (I don’t think it was the same McGann that I saw in the play Lennon at the Crucible in Sheffield the same year) and Peter Capaldi as George Harrison. Playing George Harrison seems to have been a springboard to TV stardom.
Getting hold of the original Beatles films was harder, as they rarely appeared on TV. Eventually A Hard Day’s Night was released on video and then I got a double pack of Help! and Magical Mystery Tour. I taped Yellow Submarine off the telly, but I think it was missing the Hey Bulldog scene. And in the late 80’s I started seeing a girl whose brother had both Let It Be and Shea Stadium on tape, so I soon had badly copied versions of those.
The last one is something that I can’t find any evidence of its existence. It was a highly stylised biopic of Lennon made for TV in the mid 80s, as a tribute for some anniversary or other. I can’t remember much about it, but there’s a scene with a young Lennon being told a saucy rhyme by his Uncle George, and a scene with Jim Broadbent singing Crippled Inside. Google and YouTube hasn’t helped me on this one, but I’m sure somebody else must remember it.
Are there any other 70s/80s Beatles related films I have missed? And did anybody else seemingly spend the entire 80s sat in front of the TV with record/play and pause pressed down?