Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Mystery Partly Explained

by Frederick James

There's never been a Television Show quite like it! And I doubt if there will be again until The Beatles make another TV film NEXT year!

The story begins with RINGO and his Auntie Jessie (played by heavyweight actress JESSIE ROBINS) deciding to go on a Mystery Tour. They buy their tickets from a little shop where the sales assistant is a jolly chap with a ridiculous R.A.F. moustache and a distinct resemblance to JOHN! While all this is happening the soundtrack is brimming over with brand-new Beatle sounds in the form of the show's fast-rocking title number "Magical Mystery Tour."

The MAGIC bit means that the film is never limited to realistic happenings. With MAGIC around the most fantastic scenes can be pounced upon the amazed viewer at a moment's notice. Incidentally we ARE allowed to see where all the magic is made. Now and again the cameras leave the coach tour to show us the bubbling test-tubes, mysterious maps and magical telescopes of The Magicians' Secret Laboratory--manned by five extraordinary folk in bright red and yellow gowns and high pointed hats. Five? Yes, the big guy in the background looks suspiciously like MAL EVANS!

So the coach tour begins and we're introduced to the bus driver (Alf), the Hostess (MANDY WEET), the Courier (DEREK ROYLE) and passenger-type people ranging from comedians NAT JACKLEY and IVOR CUTLER to actress MAGGIE WRIGHT and "Little Man" GEORGE CLAYDON. What a marvellous bunch of Magical Mystery Tour companions!

The second song we hear is PAUL'S simple, very tuneful ballad "The Fool On The Hill." Later there's a special spot for GEORGE'S "Blue Jay Way" (he's seen sitting cross-legged on a pavement in thick fog!) and all the other numbers including the Twenties-tinted finale song "Your Mother Should Know."

Most Spectacular

Perhaps the most spectacular of all the song sequences is that which has The Beatles plus the entire cast involved in "I Am The Walrus." In last month's Book I expect you saw the Competition Page which showed a photograph of all four Beatles covered from head to toe in furry animal suits. THAT is just one small part of the "Walrus" scene.

But you mustn't get the impression that "Magical Mystery Tour" is just a long parade of songs. There are plenty of strong comedy items. For me one of the most hilarious is set in a curiously out-of-date Army Recruiting Office where a smartly uniformed Major McCartney(!) watches VICTOR SPINETTI giving a fair impression of a parade-ground sergeant who demonstrates (amongst other things) the right way to defend yourself against an aggressive cow.

There's a beautiful touch of "human interest" in a scene in which JOHN and GEORGE are sitting on the bus talking to a bright little 5-year-old girl named Nicola. This--and most of the dialogue involving The Beatles with professional actors and actresses--is unscripted. Instead of demanding that the cast should learn written lines, The Beatles discussed each bit of talking with the people concerned, told them what they were supposed to be doing and what their various reactions should be AND THEN LEFT THE ACTUAL WORDING TO THEM.

The lack of a script let all the actors relax because it didn't matter too much what they came out with and they hadn't got to keep stiffening up and remembering precise sentences to say. You'll see how well this approach works when you watch Ringo having an argument with Auntie Jessie or Little George taking photographs of Maggie The Lovely Starlet. And the late-night homeward-bound sing-song on the bus couldn't have been rehearsed to such perfection in a month of blue moons! Nice touch to include accordionist SHIRLEY EVANS in the cast for this and various other scenes!

I could tell you much more--but I'm not supposed to give away TOO MANY secrets. For the rest--well, "Magical Mystery Tour" will be on your home screens in just a few weeks from now and (as the boys have said themselves) it has Something For Everybody. Dream sequences, a Hollywood-scale Finale, a load of great songs, a marvellous guest appearance of THE BONZO DOG DOO DAH BAND in a Strip Club scene, and (wait for THIS) a marathon race which includes RINGO DRIVING THE "MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" BUS!

Don't know about YOU but I'm booking my seat for NEXT year's tour right now before the rush!

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