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Beatles Anthology [5 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:04/01/2003
The Beatles Anthology project (ultimately comprising audio, video, and book aspects) initially reached the public during the week of Thanksgiving 1995, with the first of three two-hour television specials broadcast Sunday, November 19, followed by the first of three two-CD sets of outtakes of the group's recordings released Tuesday, November 21. The TV portion continued on Wednesday and concluded on Thanksgiving. The second CD set was released in March 1996, with the third coming in October, while in September the VHS version of this video set was released. (A coffee-table book was published in 2000.) It expanded enormously on the original TV broadcast, which ran six hours including commercials. The home-video version had eight episodes, each running between 71 and 81 minutes, for a total length just short of ten hours, which just about doubled the running time. (The 2003 DVD reissue contains five discs, with two episodes per disc, plus an 81-minute bonus disc containing extra material.) At the longer length, the story is the same, a roughly chronological history of the Beatles from their beginnings in Liverpool, England, to worldwide fame and their breakup at the end of the 1960s. Except for brief newsreel-like recitations, there is no overall narrative, just interviews with the three Beatles then still alive (John Lennon's comments are culled from his numerous press interviews over the years), along with three key associates: Neil Aspinall (who began as their roadie and went on to run their company, Apple); Derek Taylor (their press representative); and George Martin (their record producer). As a video autobiography, the film shares the advantages and disadvantages of autobiographies, in general. On the plus side, there is lots of rare footage of the Beatles performing and, of course, their music is used extensively. On the minus side, there are occasional factual errors; there is little historical perspective (for example, there is no discussion at all of the development of the Beatle haircut and its effect on their career and on men's grooming, though this matter is addressed briefly in one of the segments on the bonus DVD); and, in telling their own story from their own perspective, the Beatles largely ignore other perspectives. They do not, for instance, ask dismissed drummer Pete Best for his side of the story. Lennon's remarks are characteristically incisive, while Paul McCartney comes off as a charming self-promoter, Ringo Starr is relentlessly sunny for the most part, and George Harrison can be smug and sarcastic. The group's history was well-documented on film, and much of that film has been obtained and used, so the viewer gets a good look at what happened. With ten hours to fill, the story unfolds gradually, with frequent stops for full-length musical segments, excerpts from radio shows, and studio chatter. This is not really the place to start in learning the Beatles' story; frequently, the interviewees provide details on a story they assume viewers already know the gist of, rather than explaining the basic facts. But it is, of course, a treasure trove for Beatles fans, providing large amounts of rare and previously unseen audio and video material on the group. The bonus DVD adds to this particularly by providing extra footage of Harrison, McCartney, and Starr together in 1994-1995, reminiscing and playing some impromptu tunes.

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    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (11 out of 11)


    The Beatles Anthology 7: June '67 to July '68
    The Beatles Anthology: June '67 to July '68 finds the band continuing to create great music while simultaneously revealing the first seeds of their painful dissolution. Utilizing rare archival footage, interviews produced specifically for this documentary, and a cornucopia of music, this episode of The Beatles Anthology begins with the band performing "All You Need Is Love" on the Our World global satellite television spectacular. Led by George who had abandoned LSD for religion, the band become involved with transcendental meditation and that movement's founder, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They travel to India with the Maharishi. When their time in India comes to an end, the film provides a montage of the time spent there to the haunting "Across the Universe." While there, Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies. The film offers a poignant montage of Epstein to the strains of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." The band returns home and begins work on a new film, Magical Mystery Tour. The band bristles at Paul's take-charge attitude. This documentary features extensive clips from the movie including performances of "Fool on the Hill," "Your Mother Should Know," "I Am the Walrus," and the title track. The boys begin recording The Beatles, better known as The White Album. They send a video for "Hello, Goodbye" to The Ed Sullivan Show. They form Apple in order to manage their business affairs and open the Apple boutique, featuring artwork and clothing. There are clips of the musical artists that were signed to Apple during this time including James Taylor and Badfinger. The Yellow Submarine film is released. This episode concludes with John meeting Yoko Ono, and her subsequent appearances in the recording studio. The band must adjust to this new person in the studio. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 5: August '65 to July '66
    The Beatles Anthology 5: August '65 to July '66 follows the band from one of their performing highs to one of their two most disastrous international incidents. This episode opens with five numbers from their famous performance at Shea Stadium ("Twist & Shout," "I Feel Fine," "Baby's in Black," "I'm Down," and "Help"). Utilizing interviews produced specifically for this documentary, rare archival footage, and lots of music, part five of The Beatles Anthology shows the deterioration of the band's enjoyment for playing live. Although John, Paul, George, and Ringo do get to meet Elvis Presley, they grow more and more impatient with giving concerts. They are unable to hear themselves over the screams of the crowd, and it dawns on the bandmembers that people are coming to see them and not hear them. Their songwriting takes a decidedly introspective turn with the release of Rubber Soul. There is also an explanation of how the distinctive cover for that album came to be. The band is introduced to LSD, and John's songs on Revolver show the effects. Overwhelmed by the number of television appearances they are asked to do, the band begins creating music videos and sending those to the television shows. You see the promotional clips for both "Paperback Writer" and "Rain." This episode ends with the band in the Far East. Their performances at Japan's Budokan are a disappointment for them because they cannot recreate the studio effects employed on the Revolver songs. They realize that their level of their musicianship is suffering because of their dislike for performing. Finally, the band offends Imelda Marcos by not attending a state dinner. The band is forced to flee the country after a flurry of hostile press. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 4: August '64 to August '65
    The effects of endless attention and the first backlash against the band are the subjects of The Beatles Anthology 4: August '64 to August '65. Utilizing interviews produced specifically for this documentary, archival footage, and a wealth of music, episode four of The Beatles Anthology opens with the band on its second U.S. tour. The beginning of the episode is chock full of live clips, press conferences, and screaming girls. The boys begin to bristle at the lack of freedom they have on the road, but do get to meet one of their idols, Bob Dylan. The release of Beatles for Sale, as well as performances of "I'm a Loser" and "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" show Dylan's influence on the band's writing. Clips from their second movie, Help, are interspersed with recollections about making the film as well as an explanation that the band's drug of choice shifted from alcohol to marijuana during this time. The band's growing depth as songwriters is explored when Paul, George, and Ringo discuss how autobiographical the song "Help" was for John, as well as when Paul discusses the creation of "Yesterday." The band also discusses George's growing talent as a songwriter. The first scandal hits the group when they are awarded the Medal of the British Empire (MBE). Many feel they are undeserving, while others feel that the reward bestowed by the crown for good service to the country is meaningless. This is the first occasion where the Beatles face bad press. This episode ends with the boys being introduced by Ed Sullivan at their historic Shea Stadium concert. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 1: July '40 to March '63
    The birth of the Beatles, both individually and as a group, is the focus of this first installment of The Beatles Anthology. Utilizing archival footage (some never before shown to the public), interviews produced specifically for the production, and lots of music, the viewer is treated to an explanation of the home life of each member of the Beatles as well as an explanation of the musical influences (Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly) which led them to perform. Interviews and still pictures document the day Paul McCartney joined John Lennon's band the Quarrymen, as well as the day George Harrison came aboard. Soon the band finds itself playing strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. While there, Astrid Kirchnerr takes the famous photographs of the band that appear as a framing device throughout this episode (as people join the band they appear in the photograph and as they leave they dissolve away from it). Part one ends with the boys' triumphant return to the Cavern Club in Liverpool, and Europe just days away from being swept up by Beatlemania. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 2: March '63 to February '64
    Beatlemania sweeping through Europe is the topic of The Beatles Anthology 2: March '63 to February '64. Utilizing interviews produced specifically for this documentary, lots of recorded music, and a wealth of rarely seen television performances dating from the period, this episode follows the Fab Four as they achieve fame and success in their native England. Highlights include their Royal Command Performance before the queen, made famous by John Lennon asking the common people to clap and the people in the good seats to "rattle you jewelry." This episode traces the beginning of their chart success in England, culminating in their first British number one hit. The audience is treated to interviews explaining why the band did not want to go to America until they had a number one hit there, something that happened three weeks before their arrival in the States. The second episode of The Beatles Anthology ends with the boys in the air, being informed that a gigantic crowd is waiting to meet their plane when it lands at JFK International Airport. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 3: February '64 to July '64
    The Beatles Anthology 3: February '64 to July '64 documents Beatlemania sweeping through the United States and the making of the Fab Four's first feature film. Opening with their landing at JFK International Airport, this episode features archival footage, new interviews produced specifically for this documentary, private home movies from bandmembers, and lots of music. Much time is spent on the band's first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Viewers are treated to "All My Loving" while fans scream. From there you see three numbers performed at a concert at the Washington Coliseum: "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "Please Please Me." That is followed by home movies of the boys spending a few days in the sun in Miami juxtaposed with their recording of "I'll Follow The Sun." After a second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the band makes a triumphant return to England. The band makes the film A Hard Day's Night, and John Lennon releases his first book, John Lennon In His Own Write. The band sets out on a world tour which Ringo Starr must drop out of due to illness. Episode three of The Beatles Anthology ends with the boys attending the world premiere of A Hard Day's Night. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 6: July '66 to June '67
    The Beatles Anthology: July '66 to June '67 follows the band through 12 months that start poorly with international backlash aimed at the Fab Four, but ends with their finest artistic achievement to that point. Archival footage, interviews produced specifically for this documentary, and an abundance of music are used to tell the story of this emotionally draining period. After escaping the debacle in the Philippines where they offended the Marcos family, the Beatles must face hostile press in America where John's remarks about being more popular than Jesus sparks outraged protest. The band continues to tour in the face of death threats and a growing hatred for the stifling aspects of life on the road. They play Candlestick Park in San Francisco, which turns out to be their last public concert. To commemorate their decision to retire from touring, the documentary offers a montage of performance highlights throughout their stage career to the strains of "For No One." Each of the individual Beatles spends time pursuing private interests. John acts in How I Won the War, George goes to India and learns the sitar, and Paul scores a film. The four reconvene at Abbey Road studios to begin work on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They release "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane," both of which were intended for the album, as singles. The band discusses the genesis of the thematic concept for the album and the songs on it. There is an extended discussion of how "A Day in the Life" was constructed, featuring photographs of the orchestra utilized on the recording in Abbey Road. The band receives an almost instant approbation when Jimi Hendrix plays the opening track of the album at a concert in London just two days after the album was released. A minor scandal hits the band when Paul discloses to a reporter that he has taken LSD. This episode of The Beatles Anthology ends with the boys on a boat searching unsuccessfully for a Greek island they can buy to get away for a while. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

    The Beatles Anthology 8: July '68 to the End
    The Beatles Anthology: July '68 to the End utilizes rare archival footage, interviews produced specifically for this documentary, and a healthy amount of music to tell the emotionally painful story of the band's breakup. This episode begins with Ringo, believing the band doesn't care about him anymore, quitting the Beatles. The three others assure him he is a valuable member of the group and he returns to the fold. The band continues to produce The White Album, but are more often working as individuals in the studio and not as a cohesive band. There is a discussion about that album's place in history. The Apple boutique closes. That public failure is followed by an explanation of the creation of the most successful single in the United States, "Hey, Jude." The band takes up residence in Twickenham film studios with the intention of filming themselves writing and rehearsing a new album's worth of material. They planned on performing the new material in front of a live audience in order to end the documentary. An album would then be issued in conjunction with the release of the film. Unfortunately, the bandmembers were reaching the end of their emotional ropes with each other and what was filmed was a series of petty arguments interspersed with some fine music. George becomes so fed up he quits the band. He returns when work at Twickenham is ceased, and the band finishes the album at their Apple studio. Billy Preston is recruited to play keyboards on the album. His jocular attitude lightens the mood of all the bandmembers. Unable to agree on a place to perform the film-ending concert, the Beatles agree to play on the rooftop of Apple. The impromptu concert lasts until the police are called to stop it because of complaints about the noise. This would be the last live Beatles performance. The movie Let It Be became a document about the breakup of the band. Paul marries Linda Eastman the same day the police arrest George on drug charges. John marries Yoko. At this point, the documentary features statements from each of the Beatles concerning the band's dissolution. Allen Klein is brought in to stop Apple from hemorrhaging money because none of the bandmembers are competent businessmen. Wishing to end on a better note than the acrimonious Let It Be sessions, Paul calls up their producer George Martin and asks him to record one last album with the band. Abbey Road became the group's triumphant swan song (even though it was released before Let It Be). Ringo sums up the emotional dynamics of the Beatles when he states, "We were four guys who loved each other." This final episode of The Beatles Anthology ends with the video for "Free As a Bird," the first new Beatles song in 25 years. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi

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