Film: Magical Mystery Tour
's third film, and definitely the weirdest
The film starts out as Mr. Richard Starkey
, who is constantly bickering with his aunt, purchases a ticket to the titular mystery tour. Once on the tour bus... stuff happens, allegedly
at the whim of "four or five magicians," and in the end everyone goes to a strip club.
Basically, the Beatles and a bus full of other people drove around for two weeks, wrote the script on the way, filmed things on a whim
and hoped something magical would happen. It didn't work.
Legend has it that many of the incidents and complications that plagued the shoot were more interesting than the film itself.
It was envisioned for theatres, but instead aired on BBC 1
on December 26, 1967. This hurt the film because that particular channel wasn't airing in colour yet. (Even if it had appeared on BBC 2, which was
airing in colour, very few viewers owned colour sets.) It was especially bad for the "Flying" sequence, which was simply filmed abstract colour-shapes... So the project became their first flop, signalling all the events that would eventually lead to the band's break-up in 1970. As time went by Magical Mystery Tour
has been re-appreciated as a charming time document with surreal comedy that was ahead of it time. Its Cult Soundtrack
has been Vindicated by History
too, for having some of the band's greatest hits, including "The Fool on the Hill", "I Am The Walrus" and the Title Track
. The soundtrack album has its own entry
Magical Mystery Tropes:
- Alice Allusion: The title of I Am The Walrus itself is an Alice Allusion to the Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland, making it an accidental Villain Song, because he wasn't aware that the walrus was the villain in the song.
- Alliterative Name: Buster Bloodvessel, Jolly Jimmy Johnson and Wendy Winters.
- Animal Motifs: The band members are dressed as a walrus and eggman during the performance of I Am The Walrus, in reference to the album cover of Magical Mystery Tour.
- As Himself: Rather an odd example. Ringo Starr plays himself, but the other three are just sort of there. Then all four of them appear as magicians.
- Artistic Stimulation
- Aluminium Christmas Trees: Possibly for American viewers and anyone born after... well, about 1967. Bus tours to a 'mystery' location were a fairly common feature of British holidays in the 1950s and 60s (between most people holidaying by train and most people either buying cars or being able to afford foreign travel.) Mystery tours actually usually departed from busy holiday resorts to nearby places of interest that the tourists might not have known.
- Bigger on the Inside: The little tent that everyone on the bus piles into, which contains an impromptu theatre that shows George Harrison performing "Blue Jay Way".
- Brick Joke: Lennon sings he is the walrus in "I Am The Walrus". Little Nicola (a character from the movie) however claims, according to the booklet of the album, he is not. The answer was finally solved with "Glass Onion" on The White Album, where John sings: "And here's another clue for you all/ the walrus was Paul." In "God" from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band he again changed the identity, by saying: "I was the walrus. But now I'm John."
- Broken Record: "Blue Jay Way" ends with variations of a certain phrase being repeated 18 times. The phrase? "Don't be long."
- The Cameo: That's the The Bonzo Dog Band singing "Death Cab for Cutie"note with stripper Jan Carson.
- Not so well known today, but performance poet and songwriter Ivor Cutler as Buster Bloodvessel.
- Censor Box: Near the end of the striptease scene.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: "The Fool On The Hill" about a strange, reclusive man living on a hill, disliked by the others as being a fool, yet world wise.
- Concept Video
- Continuity Nod: The score has orchestral versions of "She Loves You" (during the Marathon scene) and "All My Loving" (during one of the Imagine Spots with Aunt Jessie and Buster).
- Dance Party Ending: After the aforementioned striptease.
- Determinator: The film project was reportedly taken to get the Beatles' minds off of the loss of Brian Epstein and keep the group united. It would not be the last time a project was started to "keep the group united".
- Dream Sequence: Several, including one that involves John Lennon serving a woman spaghetti with a shovel, based on an actual dream John Lennon had had.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Victor Spinetti, who played roles in the previous two Beatles films, plays a comical, proto-Pythonesque version in one scene.
- Drunken Song: Ringo, with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." He gets everybody on the bus to join in.
- Everything Is Better With Penguins: Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna in "I Am the Walrus".
- Fanservice: Why else would everyone go to a strip club at the end?
- Faux Symbolism: Deliberately invoked with "I Am The Walrus," written after John received a letter from a student who attended Lennon's old primary school about an English master there who was forcing his students to analyse the band's Word Salad Lyrics. Upon finishing the song, complete with his classic "first-thing-you-see" lyrics, Lennon turned to his friend and said "let the fuckers work that one out!". The completely random and nonsense line "semolina pilchard" is a reference to semolina pudding and pilchard sardine cans, according to John's childhood friend, Pete Shotton circa 1983. Another interpretation is that it is a Take That to Moral Guardian Detective Norman Pilcher, who was more fanatical about arresting pop stars on drugs charges than about smaller things like actually following the rule of law, and had arrested both John and George on separate occasions.
- Le Film Artistique: It borders to one.
- The Fool: On the Hill.
- Force Feeding: What Aunt Jessie was dreaming about.
- Gainax Ending: Inverted: the ending (in which The Beatles and various others dance to "Your Mother Should Know") is perhaps the only normal part of the entire movie.
- Grief Song: The fade-out of "I Am the Walrus" has lines from a radio broadcast of William Shakespeare's King Lear, where Edgar murders a character named Oswald.
- Hilarity Ensues
- Hippie Bus: The tour bus.
- I Am the Noun: "I Am the Walrus".
- Instrumental: "Flying", which only has a la la la la chorus.
- I Will Wait for You: "Blue Jay Way".
- Last Note Nightmare: The dissonant swirling effects at the end of "Blue Jay Way".
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The most complete edition of the 2012 re-release of the movie contains the film on Blu-Ray and DVD (with a bunch of extras on them, including a DVD Commentary by Paul McCartney), a book containing photos and information about the film, and a reproduction of the original double-EP that served as the soundtrack in the UK. Oh, and a ticket to go on the Magical Mystery Tour.
- Little People Are Surreal: Throughout the film, a little person is the tour's photographer. Several more appear during the "Marathon" sequence.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: "Talking perfectly loud", according to "The Fool on the Hill".
- Mind Screw: Every frame of this movie.
- Momma's Boy: "Your Mother Should Know".
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Richard B. Starkey. In real life, Ringo doesn't even have a middle name!
- Narrator: John Lennon narrates, for reasons best known to himself.
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: The fool in "The Fool On The Hill" lives alone on a hill, while the other villagers dislike him and call him a fool.
- No Ending: After the sequence for "Your Mother Should Know", the film just goes to credits with no proper ending.
- Nostalgia Filter: "Your Mother Should Know" is nostalgic for a song "that was a hit/ before your mother was born", and the sequence featuring it is reminiscent of a scene from a 1930s musical.
- Only Sane Man: "The Fool on the Hill".
- People in Rubber Suits
- Performance Video
- Punny Name: Buster Bloodvessel.
- Random Events Plot: This is a movie where things just...happen.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Blue Jay Way" was written when George was waiting in his house 'Blue Jay Way' in Los Angeles for press journalist Derek Taylor.
- Road Movie: The film in a nutshell.
- Sampling: "I Am The Walrus" samples a BBC radio production of King Lear.
- Scatting: "La la la la la la" in the otherwise wordless "Flying" and "Da da da da da da da da da" in "Your Mother Should Know".
- Scenery Porn: The visuals accompanying "The Fool on the Hill" and "Flying".
- John singing "There's No Business Like Show Business"
- Received one from the British Ska revival band Bad Manners, whose singer, born Douglas Trendle, adopted the Stage Name Buster Bloodvessel.
- And the "Tragical History Tour" segment of The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash.
- The background music in the dream love sequence between Aunt Jessie and Buster Bloodvessel plays the melody to "All My Loving".
- The title of "I Am The Walrus" is an Alice Allusion to the Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland, making it an accidental Villain Song, because Lennon wasn't aware that the walrus was the villain in the song. This also makes it a Continuity Nod to "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was also inspired by the novel. Carroll's image appears on the album cover of "Sgt. Peppers" too. "I Am The Walrus" tells us we should have seen "them kicking Edgar Allan Poe", who was also present on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the way. The line about "yellow matter custard" is a reference to a playground nursery rhyme that goes "Yellow matter custard, green slop pie, All mixed together with a dead dog's eye, Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick, Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick". Near the end a radio rendition of William Shakespeare's King Lear can be heard.
- Special Guest: The band in the strip club is the The Bonzo Dog Band, a band whom Paul had worked with as a producer.
- Spoken Word in Music: "I Am The Walrus" famously includes snippets from a BBC radio production of "King Lear". John Lennon drones out "cran-berry sauce" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever". "
- Step Up to the Microphone: George Harrison sings lead on "Blue Jay Way", which he wrote.
- Surreal Music Video: "I Am The Walrus".
- Troll: John wrote "I am the Walrus", thrown together from abandoned song ideas and Lewis Carroll scenes, specifically to mess with people who would pore over his lyrics for hidden meanings.
- World of Chaos: Everywhere the Beatles drive, some surreal mayhem is taking place. "I Am The Walrus" really cuts the cake.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "I Am The Walrus" was intentionally written to be this, as Lennon got fed up with crazed fans trying to find hidden and far-fetched clues in their music.