Yellow Submarine

I was only eleven when “Yellow Submarine” came out, so there was little interest in seeing the film when it played in theaters. I was deep into the Beatles, but only through their records and film “Help,” which I thought was a blast (at that time in my life I still hadn’t seen “A Hard Day’s Night”).

At eleven, I would have been too young to appreciate “Yellow Submarine.” The film was an extension of the time, and I really wasn’t into hallucinogens or pop art. ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsenyellowsubmarine
My idea of animation was “The Jungle Book” and “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.” I didn’t get the chance to see “Yellow Submarine” until the late seventies, which was definitely a different place and time. By that time I had already been exposed to Ralph Bakshi, whose “Fritz the Cat” and “Heavy Traffic” left a profound effect on me. Now here I was catching a midnight show of “Yellow Submarine” at a local theater, and if it had not been for the altered state I was in, I think I would have opted to go home or get a burger. Granted the film has a place in cinema history, but it really is dated, even for animation. “Yellow Submarine” is like the hippies that survived the sixties. They may still think they’re hip and cool, but actually they’re old and dated. Watching the film on DVD, I kept thinking how much I missed altered states. The animation is still something of a novelty, a Day-Glow affair that looks like a moving Peter Max poster. The story is inconsequential, but does contain some wonderful wit. Essentially the film is an excuse to play off the popularity of the band, and while the songs are still an asset, the wrap around feels like yesterday’s news. Even though The Beatles provided input and their songs, their cartoon counterparts were dubbed by different actors because the boys in the band tended to sound alike. The “Yellow Submarine” has been remastered, and looks pretty good but not nearly as vibrant as I remember it. An animated song, “Hey Bulldog” has been reinstated into the new version. I’m not knocking the film. In nostalgic terms, “Yellow Submarine” is a blast from the past. However, it’s a past that I just wasn’t part of. Now pass the bong and my love beads and leave me alone.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

The restored film looks okay but not very vibrant in its original 1.66.1 widescreen ratio. The colors look a little dingy, but the actual transfer seems sharp. The original negative also displays a little wear and tear. Blacks are sharply defined, while whites and grays look decent. Color saturation is okay, but for some reason I remember the color scheme being more rich. No real compression artifacts or noise.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

The film has been remastered in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround for DVD (there is also a mono soundtrack that duplicates the original theatrical experience), and for the most part sounds decent. The dialogue mix is low, forcing you to crank up the volume to compensate. There doesn’t seem to be any annoying hiss or distortion, but the 5.1 soundtrack doesn’t sound nearly as flamboyant as it should. Most of the rear speaker action is re-channeled front speaker sound fields, while surround effects are generally absent. Basses are so-so, while middle and high ends sound clean. To be honest, I actually preferred the music- only track, which features a full-bodied sound field with strong high and low ends and great clarity.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing, subtitles in French.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

MGM Home Entertainment spent a lot of time and effort on this DVD, and the results are a lot of fun. First up is the animated menus that are as much fun as the film. The main menu is especially a delight. Click your up arrow and you can highlight different sections of the “Yellow Submarine.” Click and get a little animated message or a musical cue. There are numerous choices, so keep poking around. Once you’re done, take a look at the 10-minute featurette on the making of the film, “The Mod Odyssey.” This featurette is priceless thanks to the participation of The Beatles. There is also a full-length audio commentary with John Coates, the film’s production coordinator who delights in reminiscing about another time and place. Check out the storyboard sequences that use a split screen to show you the difference between the drawings and the original film. There is also a series of pencil drawings and photos of the making of the film, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. I was fascinated by the brief yet energetic interviews, especially the one by author Erich Segal (too much caffeine?). Finally (I saved the best for last) there is a music-only track that serves as a great CD. The recent re-release of the film’s soundtrack is song based rather than score, so here is the perfect antidote for people who want both. I actually preferred watching the film with music-only track on. The music sounds full-bodied in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. Inside the DVD case is a booklet with interesting behind-the-scenes information.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

For Beatles fans, the DVD is a given. For others, it’s worth a look if you want a nostalgic trip back to the late sixties.

VITALS: $24.98/Rated G/90 Minutes/Color/36 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#907508

PATIENT: YELLOW SUBMARINE

BIRTH DATE: 1968

HMO: MGM Home Entertainment


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