From left to right: Ringo, Paul, John (playing piano), George. Just in case.
Superintendent: Oh come on now lads, don't be windy, where's that famous pluck?
John: I haven't got any, have you George?
George: Did have.
Paul: I have had.
Ringo: I will have! Lead on!
In the mid-1960s, The Beatles
were the hottest thing since sliced bread. The four guys from Liverpool not only topped the charts with their music, but they topped the box office with their movie A Hard Days Night
in 1964. So, in 1965, they, director Richard Lester, and producer Walter Shenson got back together to make another movie for United Artists
. The result was Help!
Unlike its predecessor (though more like Richard Lester's non-Beatles films), Help!
was a surreal and literally colorful action adventure parody and a homage
to United Artists
' most successful film series at the time, James Bond
. Its plot was ahead of its time — real James Bond
films wouldn't be so nonsensical for another decade.
The plot involves a cult from "the eastern country" (presumably but not definitely India) and loosely based on the Thuggee
who make sacrifices to their goddess, "Kaili". The person to be sacrificed wears a large ring with an enormous ruby in it. Unfortunately, the cultists find out at the ceremony that the girl who was supposed to be sacrificed mailed the ring to Ringo Starr
, who is now wearing it. So, the cult scrambles to England to get the ring.
The problem is, nobody can get the ring off Ringo. Thus, the deadline for the ring going to its original sacrifice passes, and Ringo is now the official sacrifice for the cult.
In their attempts to get the ring off Ringo, the Beatles approach two mad scientists. The mad scientists fail to get it off, and the Beatles cease co-operating with them. By this point, the scientists have decided that it's their ticket to world domination. This leads to a chase which leads the Fab Four and both sets of their pursuers to the Austrian Alps, Salisbury Plain (near Stonehenge), Buckingham Palace and The Bahamas.
Note: the Beatles often weren't sober while making this film. They had recently discovered marijuana. This had an obvious effect on their performances. However, Richard Lester was probably sober. Whatever the cause, the result was a Random Events Plot fondly remembered
to this day for its shameless campiness
. The Help! Cult Soundtrack
to it is also held in high regard for hit material such as the Title Track
, "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", "Ticket To Ride"' and "Yesterday" (which was on the album, but not in the movie). The soundtrack album has its own entry
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: Clang's pronunciation of "Beatle" as "be-A-tle" (rhyming with "Seattle").
- Afraid of Needles: George passes out at the sight of a syringe.
- Age Progression Song: "Help" has Lennon sing that when he was younger than today he never needed any help, but nowadays when he's older he's more insecure.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The shrinking potion
- All Animals Are Domesticated: The tiger that is sent to attack Ringo at the pub is actually from a zoo and won't attack Ringo if he has 'Ode to Joy' sung to him.
- As Himself
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Clang's conversation with Bhuta on the train.
- Audience Participation: The film has been called "The Rocky Horror Beatles Show" at some conventions (most notably Beatlefest Chicago), where screenings are frequently interrupted by audience members counting the number of times John dials the phone and handing out sticks of Wrigley's spearmint gum during the "Paul on the Floor" segment.
- Bad Bad Acting: The Beatles indulge in this occasionally, particularly any time they're supposed to be acting like they're having a carefree, fun time and instead just deliver the most stilted laughs humanly possible. (as mentioned above, they were usually stoned, to the point that many times they disregarded memorizing the script at all)
- Big Damn Movie: Granted, anything with the Beatles in at the peak of their power is fairly awesome anyway, but then you throw in the British Army's tanks surrounding the band playing near Stonehenge accompanied by Stuff Blowing Up, the stadium of people singing 'Ode to Joy' to calm a tiger. That last one may just be a shot of Stock Footage, but it's still epic.
- Bigger on the Inside: The Beatles' house looks like 4 separate townhouses from the outside, but it is all one big room.
- Also, it is Colour Coded Characters. John = red, Paul = white, George = green, Ringo = blue.
- In other words, it's a Cool House!
- It is a Cool House indeed, because each Beatle has his own quirk to their room: Ringo has several vending machines, John has a bookshelf and his bed is in a pit in the floor, Paul has an organ which surfaces from the floor, and George has a bed of grass complete with a gardener!
- There was also a deleted scene that showed that one of them also had a cow in a cupboard used for free milk.
- Also Bigger on the Inside was the Eastern temple when it was brought to the Bahamas under a beach.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Ringo tries to escape from the tiger pit:
- And before that, there was...
- Brick Joke: About halfway through the film the scientists' bomb goes off and breaks a hole in an ice rink, with a cross-channel swimmer emerging from beneath and asking the way to the White Cliffs of Dover. He can be seen at the end emerging on a beach in the Bahamas and being redirected again by the Beatles.
- British Royal Guards: A small battalion of marching guardsmen immediately collapses mid-march after inadvertently getting hit with Knockout Gas.
Ringo: It must be their tea break.
- Buffy Speak: "Hey, it's a thingie! A fiendish thingie!"
- Captain Ersatz: Kaili = Kali.
- Caption Humor: Comedic captions and intertitles abound in this.
- Clingy MacGuffin: The ring.
- Comedic Sociopathy: John, most notably, but really all of them; at some point, each suggests cutting Ringo's finger off (John does so holding a steak knife and says it would be like "having a tooth out"), and George, Ringo and John's complete non-reaction when Ringo supposedly squashes Paul.
- Comically Missing the Point: Ringo, in a possible Call Back to A Hard Days Night. "What are you doing?" "Posting a letter."
- Crazy-Prepared: The cult dons (sometimes) elaborate disguises and rigs up Scooby-Doo-like traps in places they anticipate the Beatles will wander into.
- Crowd Song: The Ode to Joy from Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, in German.
- Cover Song: Dizzy Miss Lizzy, written by Larry Williams.
- Dartboard of Hate: The opening credits — the Beatles are on a movie clip, and Clang throws darts at the screen whenever Ringo or the ring is visible.
- Deadpan Snarker: Each of The Beatles.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Two lagers and lime, and two lagers and lime."
- Deus ex Machina: Sort of.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: John's line, "No doubt about it, we're risking our lives to preserve a useless member!" (In context, it's about Ringo's ring finger, which isn't necessary to his drumming but which he refuses to part with; taken with the Running Gag of Ringo's reputation, it sounds as if the line is meant to refer to Ringo himself as the useless member of the band.)
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Paul heard the melody of "Yesterday" in a dream. At first he thought it was an existing song, but it turned out he thought it up himself, so he recorded it, become the most often covered song in human existence.
- Excited Show Title!: Out of necessity, since the title "Help" was already taken.
- Extreme Omnivore: Both John, who's not averse to a little seasoning in his soup (even if it's a season ticket), and George, who at one point takes a giant bite out of the cymbal that he's holding.
- Fake Nationality/Fauxreigner: All the cultists from 'the East' are played by English actors. This is Lampshaded when the Beatles visit the Indian Restaurant "seeking enlightenment as to rings" from someone from "the mystic East" but quickly learn that everyone working there is English.
Ringo: He's from the West!
No, the East... Stepney.
- Probably most blatant in the "hand dryer ripping off the boys' clothes" scene.
- Also, naked Paul?
- Paul on the beach in tight t-shirt and jeans further qualifies.
- Fingore: The others can't understand why Ringo won't let them just cut off his finger.
- Flanderization - The film versions of the band were supposed to exhibit exaggerated versions of their own personalities: John as a snarky smartaleck, Paul as a smooth lady killer, George as a miserly spendthrift, and Ringo as... well, Ringo. Most of this gets lost in the finished version, though.
- Whereas A Hard Days Night showed the band as individuals, Help! now shows them as one band living in the same house with four separate doors.
- Friend to All Living Things: Algernon claims to be this.
Algernon: I work better with animals. They trust me, you see. I should have gone into vivisection.
- Funny Background Event: George spends most of the movie doing funny or awkward things in the background, like putting things in his pockets in the jewelry shop or eating his cymbals in the Alps.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, a song In the Style of... Bob Dylan addressing homosexuality.
- Heel-Face Turn: Ahme.
- Human Sacrifice
- Irony: While the Beatles were too stoned off their head most of the time during recording this film they do have a song aptly titled Act Naturally.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Getting accidentally injected with the shrinking serum results in "The Exciting Adventure of Paul on the Floor".
- In the Style of...:
- "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" is very Dylanesque.
- "I've Just Seen A Face" is pure country.
- Intermission: It's about seven seconds long and is entirely a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
- Latex Perfection: The other Beatles for Ringo, to set traps for the cultist. How that was actually managed boggles the mind.
- MacGuffin: The ring. It has no power in and of itself, but others sure think it does.
- Mad Scientist: Professor Foot. Lampshaded by John when he says "This is absurd! You're nothing but a trite, hackneyed mad scientist!"
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Rajah, the famous Bengal tiger man-eater that corners Ringo, can be rendered completely calm by a performance of "Ode to Joy." Why? He was a gift from the Berlin Zoo where he was reared on "the classics."
- No Sense of Direction: The Beatles' Road Manager Mal Evans, does a cameo as a swimmer who has this, looking for the White Cliffs of Dover while under some ice (in Switzerland — just roll with it) and again at the end in a Brick Joke in the Caribbean Sea.
- Nostalgia Filter: "Help", thinking about "when I was younger, so much younger than today. I never needed anybody's help in any way" and "Yesterday", referring to the time "when all my troubles seemed so far away".
- Only Sane Man: Ahme is the only person with any lick of competence in the movie, and she seems rather exhausted by it.
- Outside Ride: George climbs on the roof of Foot and Algernon's car to save Ringo, even managing to stay on after their repeated attempts to ram him off.
- Performance Video: It's a musical, and we get to see most of the songs performed.
- Pinball Protagonist: All four Beatles for much of the film.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Ringo, sometimes aided and abetted by George.
- Police Are Useless: Subverted. While the Royal Guards seem to be a literal bunch of Redshirts (who get knocked out by gas, trapped in weightlessness, etc), and seemingly play this trope straight (as also seen by the fact that they never turn up for such things as restaurants and private homes getting invaded), it all suddenly changes once the Beatles actually decide to go to the police. Indeed, in the third act the police actually ends up saving the Beatles. Twice (British and Bahaman police respectively)!
- The Power of Love: Most of the songs are about this topic.
- Product Placement: John is seen reading his own book A Spaniard In The Works in his house.
- Punk in the Trunk: Ringo, courtesy of Foot and Algernon. Lucky, George is there to rescue him, having run away in terror earlier in the scene.
- Random Events Plot: The Beatles just run from one country to another and encounter surreal events.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The Beatles have admitted they more or less wanted a paid vacation, which is why they suggested some of the film's more exotic locations (The Bahamas, the Alps). Also, the song Help! perfectly summarized Lennon's feelings about the whole Beatlemania at this point.
- Reality Subtext: Paul says to Ringo "Well, you didn't miss your tonsils, did you?", referencing the fact that Ringo had a tonsillectomy earlier that year.
- Reliably Unreliable Guns: The idiot "scientist" and his assistant have a recurring problem: none of their equipment works when it needs to, leading the assistant to invariably blame whatever country the object in question came from. As a result, this trope pops up twice: once with a "cheap" English pistol, leading them to bemoan their lack of a Luger, and once with their American-built time-slowing ray, leading them to cause a short due to the difference in voltage.
- Running Gag:
- John: "Getting nowhere, are you, jeweller/mad scientist/superintendent?"
- People and things being referred to as "The famous X" ("the famous Beatles", "the famous Ringo", "the famous ring", "the famous temple", and so forth) primarily by the Superintendent, although the Beatles themselves as well as the written narration pick up on the trend.
- Say My Name: After Ringo is kidnapped in the Bahamas, the other three Beatles go about looking for him, shouting his name the whole time.
- Scenery Porn: The film does look good, with lush scenery from the Alps, the Bahamas, and Stonehenge.
- The version of "Help!" used in the movie's opening credits and on the American soundtrack starts with a snippet of the James Bond theme; in the film itself, a parody of said theme plays as Clang and his cult prepare to pursue the Beatles in their car. In another scene, Bhuta distracts a chef by imitating Oddjob's hat toss attack.
- One of the orchestral cues is appropriately titled, "Another Hard Day's Night".
- As John and Ringo walk down the sidewalk to mail a letter, John is heard reciting the first few lines to his In His Own Write poem, "I Sat Belonely". He also is shown reading his second book, A Spaniard in the Works, at the beginning of the film.
- Step Up to the Microphone: "Yesterday", which was performed by Paul solo, without the other group members involved.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The cultists fire away and eventually do manage to take out the tank the Beatles were riding in. Luckily, the Beatles were no longer in it when it was hit.
- Take Over the World:
- The main reason the mad scientists want the ring.
"With a ring like that I could, dare I say it, rule the world! I must have that ring! Algernon, the laser!"
- Later lampshaded, when Foot begrudgingly deduces that they probably couldn't interest anyone in the ring to begin with.
- Take That: Scotland Yard gets one.
Chief Superintendent: So, this is the famous Beatles.
John: So, this is the famous Scotland Yard.
Chief Superintendent: And how long do you think you'll last?
John: Can't say fairer than that—Great Train Robbery, eh, how's that going?
- Those Two Bad Guys: Secondary villains Foot and Algernon, a somewhat bumbling mad scientist and his assistant who are out to get the sacrificial ring in order to Take Over The World... somehow.
- Throw It In: Part of the "Ticket to Ride" sequence, which the directors considered beautiful, was marred by the presence of telegraph poles in the background. Attempts at removing them failed...and then someone had the idea of superimposing musical notes over the wires in time with "I think I'm going to be sad..."
- Took a Level in Badass: George in the Bahamas. After spending the entire time messing around in the background, cheating at cards, and just sort of going with things, he fights off four cultists and very nonchalantly leaps on top of the scientists' car to rescue Ringo.
- Toplessness from the Back: Ahme's sister taking a bath in Part Two.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
- The people in the Indian restaurant seem pretty undisturbed by the sight of a number of cultists strangling, kidnapping and replacing the staff.
Man (as his waiter is dragged off): Oh, rather a jolly place!
- The Beatles seem rather undisturbed as well, at least until they see Ringo's hand nearly get chopped off. Of particular note is John's complete nonchalance over finding items in his food, the result of the chefs being knocked out during its preparation.
John: What's this?
Ringo: It's a season ticket. What did you think it is?
John: Oh, I like a lot of seasoning in me soup.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The gardener from George's room is not seen again after playing the flute in "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away".
- What the Fu Are You Doing?: Ringo during a fight scene. Everyone else pretty much ignores him.
- You Look Familiar: Victor Spinetti and John Bluthal also appeared in A Hard Day's Night.