Friday, July 18, 2008

It's All Too Much - YELLOW SUBMARINE at 40

As long as I have known and loved movies, there has always been YELLOW SUBMARINE.

As a kid, I have memories of watching the film from TV broadcasts when I was as young as 4 or 5. It was one of those films that I would always keep my eyes peeled for in the TV listings and I'd catch as many airings as I possibly could. When it hit videocassette in 1987 I was in the height of my own personal Beatlemania (that time when you discover the Beatles for yourself is usually a pretty wonderful time, isn't it?) and purchased a copy that I still happen to own. I remember an early morning hours airing on WNYC-TV in NYC on January 1, 1998 that I dropped everything to watch, even though I'd been up all night and already had the videotape. I saw the film theatrically for the first time at its 1999 re-issue and I still have a copy of the now out-of-print DVD that I'll refuse to sell if I ever grow hungry. Parting with YELLOW SUBMARINE is something I simply couldn't do. This is a film that has never failed to put a smile on my face, never once not entranced me and made me love life a little bit more. More so, I have always marveled at its creativity, its wit, its wondrous imagination, and, oh yeah, superb music. This is a film that, for me, is nothing but pure joy. To borrow a quote from the late, great John Peel, I love this film to the point of madness.

Listen, if you don't want to hear me gush on and on about the brilliance of YELLOW SUBMARINE then you should just click elsewhere, because this is going to get sloppy. We're talking super-excited puppy who's happy to see you excited here. So let's move on.

Aside from the obvious reason (The Beatles), YELLOW SUBMARINE is, to me, the ultimate example of a movie miracle. This film should not have worked at all. It was a contractual obligation film for The Beatles, who owed UA one more film in their contract and didn't want to concern themselves with movies after MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. They had little creative input and didn't lend their own voices to it, only agreeing to film their cameo at the end after they saw a rough cut and agreed that it was no embarrassment. They wrote and recorded four songs, one of which, George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", is my second favorite song of all time, but didn't contribute beyond that. But the creativity and genius of The Beatles put everyone else on their game, and everything in YELLOW SUBMARINE - the design, the animation, the script, the voice work, the choice of songs - is perfect. I don't perfect for an animated film, I just mean perfect. The dialog is endlessly quotable: "Bless you" "Should I sneeze?"; "I've never told anyone this before, but my cousin is the blue bird of happiness"; "I've got a hole in me pocket"; "I can't help it, I'm a born lever-puller"; "Frankenstein!" "Yeah, I used to go out with his sister" "His sister?" "Yeah, Phyllis"; "What's the matter, fellas? Blue Meanies?". No other movie looks like this one, and if anyone else ever tried to do so again they would just call it a rip-off. There's a wonderful, remarkable feeling to YELLOW SUBMARINE that I don't get from any other movie, one that makes me sort of actually understand the spirir of the sixties. I feel genuine peace and love from this film. If feel the power of music and art to change and it proves to me the importance of humor to everything in life. And there's some great tunes, too. I know how how effusive I'm sounding, but I don't care because I mean every word I'm saying.

YELLOW SUBMARINE quietly turned 40 years old yesterday, having opened in London on July 17, 1968. There were no celebrations anywhere, no blog-a-thons, no nothing to spread the word. I had hoped to screen the film this month at the Alamo Drafthouse's Saturday Morning Kid's Club, but I was told that MGM no longer owns the rights to it (they've apparently have shifted to, or been purchased by, Apple Films). The DVD, like I said before, is out of print, and there's been no indication of a re-release any time soon (although HELP! snuck out late last year). Most would probably just pass this off, but I think it's important to celebrate this anniversary, not only because of my love for it, but because YELLOW SUBMARINE has probably been responsible for more Beatle fans than most people realize. It was a huge influence for me, although growing up in my house I was going to be inundated by the Beatles, anyway, and I'm sure if you ask around a lot of people will tell you that YELLOW SUBMARINE marked their introduction to The Beatles. As part of its perfection, it's a movie that can be enjoyed by young and old, as timeless as THE WIZARD OF OZ and a lot funnier, and the more kids see it, the more the Beatles remain eternal. And I know this for a fact, as my dear friend Rebecca Vahabzadeh down in Houston has a 5 year-old who now loves The Beatles, all thanks to YELLOW SUBMARINE. I've seen this happen with others, too, and I have no questions that it will be repeated from now until there are no more movies. Of course, it would help for the film to be back in print, but that's up to Apple, and the sooner then better in this case, because we'll always need YELLOW SUBMARINE around. I sure know I will.


Marta said...

This is my most favorite movie of all time! Loved the gushing, by the way.

Claire said...

I happened on this because I have been madly searching for the Yellow Submarine DVD for my 5 1/2 year-old son. I Love Video said their copy is gone. So, my question is this: if you couldn't screen it at Alamo, could you do it privately? We've been making do with You Tube.