Yellow Submarine George Dunning

Yellow Submarine George Dunning
Often the forgotten Beatles film (likely because of the lack of direct involvement from the Fab Four and the fact that its named after one of the group's silliest tracks), Yellow Submarine is easily the most distinctive and downright strange of their cinematic experiments. Originally released in 1968, and directed by Canadian animator George Dunning, this hand-animated tale chronicles a community called Pepperland that comes under attack by the music-hating Blue Meanies. The Beatles are dragged into the conflict when a sailor named Fred fetches them from Liverpool in a yellow submarine to bring them back to Pepperland to combat the Meanies. If it sounds like a wacked-out, psychedelic fantasy, it's because it is. Melding animation with real-life footage and stills, Yellow Submarine is essentially one of Terry Gilliam's Python animations set to the Beatles' music. And that's the lasting legacy of the film: while the story is a take-it-or-leave-it affair (if you buy in, it's a fantastical tale; if you don't, it's a self-indulgent romp), the animated sequences, featuring songs like "Eleanor Rigby," "When I'm 64" and, of course, the title track, are absolutely beautiful to watch. In that way, Yellow Submarine is actually quite similar to the Beatles' film debut, A Hard Day's Night, whose loose, goofy plot holds together a series of vignettes showcasing their music and personalities. With this latest remastered re-release, the film has never looked or sounded better. The original stills were individually cleaned by hand for the digital debut. Extras include a 1968 making-of feature, original storyboards and pencil drawings, as well as audio commentary from original producer John Coates, with contributions from art director Heinz Edelman. While certainly not the magnum opus in the Beatles' cinematic catalogue, Yellow Submarine is a unique and beautiful artefact of its period, with a timeless visual style that stands up decades later. Years of neglect and rights issues (especially concerning the music) have relegated the film to second-class status. Hopefully now it can take its rightful place in the Beatles' filmography. (Apple/EMI)