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 Plotfondly remembered to this day for its shameless campiness.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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)!
Politically Incorrect Villain: One wonders how the Beatles viewed this film's Indian stereotyping after their experiences in India with the Maharishi three years later.
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).
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 time-slowing ray, leading them to curse "American rig."
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.
Shout-Out: 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.
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.
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. He jumps on the back of the scientists' moving car to rescue Ringo in the boot.
This is probably the most glorious moment in the whole movie. 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 a car and rescues Ringo.