Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Prime Time: Yellow Submarine (1968)

Having been a big fan of The Beatles for many years, I am sometimes surprised when I remember that I haven't seen many of their movies. Then again, they're not celebrated for their acting skills. Then again, it's The Beatles. Anyway, I finally watched A Hard Day's Night a year or two ago, and I really enjoyed it. It was time for me to check out Yellow Submarine, wondering how I had somehow never watched it in my youth.

It only took a few minutes to see why I never watched this before. Despite the colourful and surreal visuals, it isn't aimed at younger viewers. Strangely, considering the storytelling form and the voice cast used, it doesn't feel as if it is aimed at fans of The Beatles either. And then it starts to work as intended. And while it works, it starts to feel like it knows exactly who it is aimed at, which is a group of people who don't mind their classic pop tunes interspersed with silly jokes and psychedelic visuals. So, y'know, Beatles fans.

The story is simple enough. Pepperland falls to an attack by the Blue Meanies (who are blue and, well, mean). An elderly sailor, Fred, takes the yellow submarine and heads off to find the people who may be able to help the land. The Beatles. They have been in Pepperland for a long time anyway, in the guise of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, so will surely be able to defeat the Blue Meanies and save Pepperland. The fab four travel through various seas, and songs, meeting a variety of characters en route to the inevitable final battle.

Although The Beatles are used when it comes to recorded songs, and they make a very brief live-action appearance at the very end of the film, their animated representations are voiced by Paul Angelis (Ringo & George), John Clive (John), and Geoffrey Hughes (Paul). All three men do a good job, with Angelis showing even more range in a number of different roles. Peter Batten also spends some time voicing George, although I couldn't point out who is responsible for the voice in individual scenes. Dick Emery and Lance Percival are the two other main voice actors, and both have fun with their work.

Heinz Edelmann is the man with the main vision, leading the animation and design, and his work is well utilised by director George Dunning, also working with the story idea from Lee Minoff (who helped to write the screenplay with a few others, springboarding from the famous song).

Throwing viewers in at the deep end, no pun intended, this is a movie experience that takes a while to warm up to. Stick with it, however, and you are rewarded with a whole cornucopia of gags and sly references (the sheer wealth of them makes this eminently rewatchable) while being drawn into a wonderfully offbeat and imaginative world. If you ever get the chance to see this on the big screen then do so, I promise you that it will be well worth it.

To state the obvious, those who are not fans of The Beatles may find the whole thing slightly less enjoyable. But who wants to go through life not being a fan of The Beatles?


You can buy yellow on blu here.
Americans can dive in here.

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