Venue: St. James’ Church
Date: Saturday 16th March
Made in England by The Beatles
Cast: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
Ivor Cutler (Mr Bloodvessel), Jessie Robins (Ringo’s aunt), Victor Spinetti (army sergeant), Derek Royle (Jolly Jimmy), Nat Jackley (Rubber Man), Mandy Weet (hostess), George Claydon (photographer), Nicola (little girl), Shirley Evans (accordionist), Maggie Wright (starlet), Jan Carson (stripper), The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (band in strip club)
Production: Denis O’Dell, Assisted by: Gavrik Losey, 1st Assistant [Director]: Andrew Birkin, Director of Photography: Richard Starkey
By the end of 1967, The Beatles had achieved a creativity unprecedented in popular music. Their triumphant summer release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was both avant-garde and an instant hit. It went straight to No.1 in June and remained there for the rest of the year. They immersed themselves in the fiercely radical art of the new counter culture and decided to make a film on their own terms, not as pop stars but as artists. However, was their adoring public ready for the move?
The film featured six new songs: ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, ‘The Fool on the Hill’, ‘Flying’, ‘I Am the Walrus’, ‘Blue Jay Way’ and ‘Your Mother Should Know’.
Magical Mystery Tour is a surreal take on the British working class tradition of a coach trip to the seaside, featuring an eccentric cast of characters, some played by professional actors. Other passengers included friends, associates and people they’d just invited along for the ride. In September, they set off from London and headed west to Cornwall where most of the film was shot.
The film was broadcast in black and white at 8:35pm on BBC One on Boxing Day 1967 to a family audience expecting a frothy entertainment in the style of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! It followed a Petula Clark special and preceded a Norman Wisdom feature film. While the music itself had been rapturously received in the form of a double EP high in the charts, the response to the film from the establishment TV critics and the majority of the 15 million adult viewers was negative to the point of vitriolic in some cases. As a result the film was not broadcast in the US and had only limited distribution elsewhere.
The film has been fully restored to the highest technical standard with a remixed soundtrack. Properly presented for the first time, Magical Mystery Tour comes out of the shadows and onto the screen.