With the first Beatles movie, A Hard Day’s Night, they had the good sense not to saddle the lads with anything that closely resembled a plot. Their 1965 follow-up is similarly devoid of a storyline but saddled with the unnecessary appearance of having a plot. The alleged narrative ends up accomplishing nothing but diverting attention away from the music and scenes of the Beatles doing what they did best: being the Beatles. There are a few moments in which the four boys get the chance to cut loose and in those scenes, Help! does manage to come to life. Alas, there are not enough of those.
For what it’s worth, the so-called story has something to do with Ringo coming into possession of a ring connected to a human sacrifice ritual for some unnamed eastern religion. And while the nationality of these “eastern” folks is never identified, if you are an overly sensitive person of Indian extraction, you might want to give this movie a pass. Certainly, the broad caricatures of the film’s chief villain (Leo McKern) would never pass politically correct muster these days.
There’s also a bit of business about two mad but bumbling scientists who believe the ring could be useful in their ill-defined plans for world domination, if only they could get proper funding from the government.
Most of this business just fills up time between the scenes when the boys start performing songs from the album that coincidentally bears the same name as this movie. The color performance footage of the Beatles alone makes this movie well worth having in your collection. The recently released DVD of this film features a gorgeous restored print with pristine sound. Fortunately, the chapter stops let you enjoy the musical interludes and conveniently skip the intervening fluff.
As a Beatles movie, Help! isn’t completely without merit. It’s amusing and diverting even when the music is not justifying its existence, but ultimately has no more substance than a well-shot home movie.
Now see what you’ve done with your filthy Eastern ways.