Monday, September 06, 2010

All You Need Is Cash

All You Need Is Cash (also known as The Rutles) is a 1978 television film that traces (in mockumentary style) the career of a fictitious British rock group called The Rutles. As TV Guide described it, the group's resemblance to The Beatles is "purely – and satirically – intentional."

The film was co-produced by the production companies of Eric Idle and Lorne Michaels, and directed by Idle and Gary Weis. It was first broadcast on March 22, 1978 on NBC, earning the lowest ratings of any show on American Prime time network television that week. It did much better in the ratings when it premiered in the UK on BBC2 less than one week later.

The music and events in the lives of the Rutles paralleled that of The Beatles almost to the letter, spoofing many of the latter's career highlights. For instance, the animated film Yellow Submarine is parodied as Yellow Submarine Sandwich, and the song "Get Back" became "Get Up And Go." Songs from the film were released on an accompanying soundtrack.


All You Need Is Cash was one of the first films of its kind, and an inspiration for the successful Rob Reiner cult comedy film This Is Spinal Tap which followed in 1984.

According to commentary on the DVD, George Harrison showed Idle a rough cut of the Beatles produced film that would later turn into the epic Anthology documentary, so "All You Need is Cash" has an "Anthology" feel to it - though it would be decades before "Anthology" was finally released.

The Rutles were played by Idle, John Halsey, Ricky Fataar, and Neil Innes. The band had originally appeared in a sketch on Idle's program Rutland Weekend Television. The sketch was later re-broadcast on the American TV show Saturday Night Live. For this film, Fataar replaces David Battley who had appeared as Stig O' Hara in the original sketch.

All You Need Is Cash is primarily a series of skits and gags that each illustrate a different part of the fictional Rutles story, closely following the chronology of The Beatles' own story. The cohesive glue of the film is the acclaimed soundtrack by Neil Innes, who created 19 more songs for the film, each an affectionate pastiche of a different Beatles song or genre of songs. 14 of the songs were released on a soundtrack album with elaborate packaging (The CD version subsequently added the six songs omitted from the original vinyl album.) The album was both critically and commercially successful and was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Comedy Recording of the year. The orchestrations and arrangements for the Rutles recordings were made by noted film composer John Altman.

The film is also notable for its many cameo appearances by a cross-section of both British and American comic talent, including those with ties to Monty Python, Saturday Night Live and the lesser-known but directly-related Rutland Weekend Television. Perhaps the most noteworthy cameo is by George Harrison (who had earlier appeared as himself on the Rutland Weekend Television 1975 Christmas Special). Harrison plays a TV journalist conducting an interview outside the headquarters of Rutle Corps, oblivious to the stream of people coming out of the building carrying items stolen from the office; a reference to the Beatles' famously plundered Apple Boutique (and Apple Headquarters itself, where even the roof lining was looted). The interview ends abruptly as the microphone is stolen out of his hand.

The film also features cameos from Idle's fellow Python Michael Palin, several SNL cast members including Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Dan Aykroyd (as well as SNL writers and occasional performers Al Franken and Tom Davis), Bianca Jagger as Dirk McQuickly's wife Martini, Ronnie Wood as a Hells Angel, and Mick Jagger and Paul Simon as themselves. The film is notable for bringing together British and American comic talent in a way that has seldom happened before or since. The Beatles publicity was also parodied. Before the film was broadcast, areas of London had posters saying "The Rutles are Coming" analogous to "The Beatles are Coming" poster which announced their arrival in a town.

The program fared better on its British debut on BBC television. The film's cult status grew from the success of the soundtrack album, and after the release of the film on the comparatively new medium of home video.


* Eric Idle as Dirk McQuickly / Narrator / Stanley J. Krammerhead III,Jr., occasional visiting professor of applied narcotics at the University of Please Yourself Ca.
* John Halsey as Barry Wom (Barrington Womble)
* Ricky Fataar as Stig O'Hara
* Neil Innes as Ron Nasty
* Michael Palin as Eric Manchester, Rutle Corp. Press Agent / Lawyer
* George Harrison as The Interviewer
* Bianca Jagger as Martini McQuickly
* John Belushi as Ron Decline, the most feared promoter in the world
* Dan Aykroyd as Brian Thigh, ex-record producer who turned down the Rutles
* Gilda Radner as Mrs. Emily Pules
* Bill Murray as Bill Murray the K.
* Gwen Taylor as Mrs. Iris Mountbatten / Chastity
* Ron Wood as Hell's Angel
* Terence Bayler as Leggy Mountbatten
* Henry Woolf as Arthur Sultan, the Surrey Mystic
* Ollie Halsall as Leppo, the "fifth Rutle"

Subsequent re-releases

The show has been released on DVD, originally in a 66-minute version incorporating cuts for syndication, later in a "special edition" restored to its full length of 72 minutes and with extras including a commentary by Idle. The full-length version replaces a spoof newsreel voice-over by Idle with an American-sounding announcer. All You Need Is Cash received positive reviews and has a 90% at Rotten Tomatoes.

The soundtrack was reissued on CD. It included additional tracks from the original TV sessions remixed in stereo by Neil Innes. Innes, Fataar and Halsey returned in 1996 to record The Rutles Archaeology, but without the involvement of Eric Idle.


A sequel titled The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch was produced in 2002.


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