HELP! Director Richard Lester Remembers The Beatles

HelpIf any director is synonymous with swinging England of the 1960s, it would have to be Richard Lester (even though he is actually an American who went to work in London). His string of hits extending into the 1980s includes The Knack …and How to Get It, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum , How I Won the War, Petulia, The Three Musketeers, Robin and Marian and Superman II.

But he would be in the history books even if he had only ever made the two features starring The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Help! These movies expanded the witty/silly image the lads from Liverpool used to charm the American media in their interviews, giving it a visual equivalent that was unlike anything mainstream movies had ever seen. It’s no wonder that he was dubbed “the father of MTV” by MTV itself.

Lester gave a rare interview to the London Times in conjunction with the long-awaited first-time release of Help! on DVD next week. Explaining that he retired from filmmaking in the early 1990s (his last movie was the Paul McCartney concert film Get Back) because he didn’t want to have to deal with digital technology, Lester dips into his storehouse of memories of working with the Beatles. He talks about how the Fab Four’s inherent silliness was expanded while they were filming in the Bahamas by their discovery of the local weed, what endeared them to his three-year-old son, and how they treated the Lord who let them use his estate to film the Buckingham Palace scenes. It’s funny stuff that makes me wish Lester did a commentary track for the DVD; guess we’ll have to be satisfied with the 30-minute documentary that’s included in the two-disk set.

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