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Written By:

John Higgins

The late 1960s are starting to look very much like the latest historical period that Hollywood is keen to reflect on, given that Quentin Tarantino’s tenth film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will be released in August 2019, around the fiftieth anniversary of the Manson murders, which claimed amongst them Chinatown director Roman Polanski’s then-wife Sharon Tate.

You can also anticipate that Michael Wadleigh’s Oscar-winning documentary Woodstock – 3 Days of Peace and Music will possibly be getting the inevitable big-screen 4K treatment and a possible 35mm reissue next year like it did in 1994 for the twenty-fifth anniversary, when it got a Six-Track Dolby Stereo remastering.

Another eagerly anticipated half-century anniversary takes place on July 8th 2018, when the British Animated classic Yellow Submarine returns to cinemas for a day in a brand-new Digital 4K release. Given the heightened and renewed interest in all things Beatles due to the recent appearance by Paul McCartney on James Corden’s Late Show Carpool Karaoke, you can predict that new interest from fans old and new will peak through a chance to see one of the key entries in their short but sweet filmography.

Viewed today, when compared to the earlier Beatles films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, which were pure showcases for the bands irreverent humour and musical prowess, Yellow Submarine emerges as part art-house animation and concept experiment.

Although the title lends much to the tenth studio album, which was released a good few months after the London Premiere of the film in July 1968, in January of 1969.

You could have also titled it Sergeant Pepper v The Blue Meanies, as key songs from the legendary 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band make their way onto the canvas here, including the title track and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

The plot is slight – Pepperland is a happy musical-appreciative undersea nation that is suddenly tainted by the arrival of the evil Blue Meanies, with nothing on their mind other than to cause stagnant inertia. The Lord Mayor of Pepperland sends pensioner sailor Old Fred in the Yellow Submarine of the title on a mission to bring back reinforcements – and recruiting you-know-who.

However, the actual mission gets sidelined along the way as the Fab Four end up in weird and wonderful situations, meeting a weird creature of rhyme, Jeremy Hillary Boob PhD (voiced by Dick Emery) and encountering all manner of strange sea-worlds.

The context in which the film was released is clear – the height of experimentation and free-love that personified some of the Beatles’ later recordings. Essentially, the film is an excuse to hear some of those legendary recordings. Some elements don’t quite make much sense, but you end up forgiving that because the music is the real strength – and that is well and truly when Yellow Submarine comes to life.

Younger audiences might look on this with uncertainty in this age of social media and technological revolution and might not recognise the contribution to world music in an age when quick fix careers via Simon Cowell’s TV-fests seem to be the norm.

However, this remains as it has done for the last five decades a hugely enjoyable experience, with an innovative animation style that is in turn both unique and strikingly realised. Fans of the style of Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and Gerard Scarfe, responsible for Pink Floyd’s The Wall artwork, will revel in the images on display here.


John Higgins

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