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article imageReview: The Beatles 'Help!' is now available on Blu-ray Special

By Mindy Peterman     Jun 25, 2013 in Entertainment
Fans have waited a long time for the Beatles much-heralded sophomore film outing to get the Blu-ray treatment. The exceptional quality of the print is proof that this was something worth waiting for.
Here is a bit of good news for Beatle fans: Help!, the Beatles second film outing has finally been released on Blu-ray. The film, which hit theaters in 1965, a year after A Hard Day's Night, was arguably the more ambitious (if not the better) of the two. It was filmed in color and had an actual storyline as opposed to the black-and-white, day-in-the life romp that was A Hard Day's Night.
Help! was released as a two-DVD set in 2007. The extras included in the 2007 release are also available in this Blu-ray edition, but the film itself has been restored to something greater than its theatrical and DVD glory.
The quality of this Blu-ray edition is certainly extraordinary. The footage is as sharp and clear as if the print was created only yesterday. Here are the technical details: the video is 1080p23.98 AVC video and the audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 & PCM Stereo (48kHz/24 bit). Even if you are not well-versed in this sort of techspeak, the Blu-ray is sure to impress.
To more fully appreciate the release, a look at the extras is essential. "A Missing Scene" features an interview with actress Wendy Richard, who was in a scene cut from the final print. She recounts how young she was and also how she was disappointed that she would not get to be onscreen with the Beatles. The footage for this scene is gone but, fortunately, stills have survived and we do get a look at them.
The most informative and fascinating piece in the set is "The Beatles in Help!", a 30-minute documentary from 2007, which details the making of the film. With John, Paul, George and Ringo as Help's iconic leads, it is easy to overlook those whose essential contributions to the film are not always recognized. Richard Lester, of course, has generally gotten his due for his directorial expertise and how he shaped the film into a humorous, intelligent piece. But there are others without whom the film would have been lacking. These unsung heroes include Eleanor Bron, whose understated and hilarious turn as Ahme brought espionage, intrigue and a hint of romance to Help! In the documentary, Bron says she wasn't all that familiar with the Beatles when she won the role and was amazed by the screaming girls who found their way to the shoot any way they could. Betty Glasow, the film's hair and makeup artist, reveals how she would honor fan requests for a lock of Beatle hair. Wistfully she recounts how she still has a lock of John Lennon's hair along with his autograph that reads, "To Betty With Hair, John Lennon".
According to Neil Aspinall (the Beatles personal assistant who died in 2009) there was, as rumors have suggested, an enormous amount of pot-smoking on the set. "Red eyes everywhere," he quips. Also interviewed are Beatle stunt doubles and Julie Harris, the film's costume designer.
Another fascinating extra is "The Restoration of Help." This piece takes the viewer behind the scenes for a look at how the film restoration process works. The job of cleaning and restoring the decades old print was demanding and exacting. Because of the age of the original film, the restoration needed to be done frame by frame over the course of two years. We are shown "before" and "after" shots of a worn, dirty image verses a newly restored one and the improvement is remarkable.
If you already own the DVD version of Help!, you already have these extras. But you may still want to invest in the Blu-ray version. The quality of the print is worth the price and it is safe to say you will never see this film looking any better.
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