Most ‘60s movies about peace, love, and all that hippie stuff have dated pretty badly. But the mere mention of Blue Meanies (the movie’s outsized villains) is enough to bring a twinkle to the eye of any baby-boomer. And Yellow Submarine‘s stunning animation remains a treat to be savored again and again.
The story of this movie’s creation is full of ironies, the richest of which is that it’s regarded as a Beatles film. The Beatles’ likenesses and music are certainly exploited, but other than a cameo appearance at the movie’s finish, their involvement ended there. Their company, Apple, merely produced the movie as a way to help finish off their movie contract with United Artists.
The second greatest irony is that a film The Beatles sloughed off as a contractual obligation became, in its own way, as groundbreaking as their movie debut, A Hard Day’s Night (1964). The movie’s surreal images and eye-popping color are simply a feast, and the icing on the cake is one of the best cartoon soundtracks ever, stuffed with songs from The Beatles’ groundbreaking “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album and many of their other hit records.
The third greatest irony is that a movie in which The Beatles were minimally involved keeps coming back to haunt them. John Lennon’s son Sean has said he hadn’t known about his father’s musical legacy until a friendly neighbor screened Yellow Submarine for him one day. And thanks to the movie’s moment where Ringo Starr presses a forbidden button and is ejected from the submarine (“That’s the panic button,” the captain says afterward), the real Ringo is still stopped on the street by people who want to know why he pushed that stupid button.
Even the movie’s minor credits are worth noting. The film was produced by Al Brodax, who did the Beatles TV cartoon series in 1966. And one of the movie’s screenwriters was Erich Segal, who hit paydirt two years later with a little novel called Love Story,
I’m not sure how well all of this will play with anyone who’s unfamiliar with or apathetic about Beatles music. All I know is that few movies have given me greater pleasure from start to finish.