Magical Mystery Tour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The film came with an erratic presentation.
Sharpness was one of these up and down elements. At times, the film exhibited surprisingly good definition, as many shots looked pretty concise and accurate. However, more than a few exceptions occurred; plenty of elements came across as mushy and soft. There was no great rhyme or reason on display; sharp and soft mixed with no logic I could discern.
Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, but I noticed occasional edge haloes. I also suspected the use of digital noise reduction. While some grain appeared, I didn’t see much, and I find it hard to believe that a 45-year-old movie shot on 16mm stock could look so grainless so much of the time. This didn’t leave severe artifacts, though; I thought the image sometimes appeared a bit “plastic” but I didn’t notice especially harmful problems related to the probable use of DNR. The movie also lacked any print flaws.
Like sharpness, colors varied. The movie sometimes demonstrated peppy, vivid hues, but then it’d also show flat, bland tones. Facial hues tended to be a bit on the pink side. Still, colors were better than expected and usually fairly decent. Blacks seemed pretty dark, and shadows showed reasonable clarity. Overall, this was a generally attractive image – and almost certainly the best this flawed production has ever looked – but it still came with concerns.
On the other hand, the film’s remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was a winner. The music became the main beneficiary of this work. Songs actively used all five channels, which really allowed the various instruments and voices to spread out around the room. Effects also broadened well, as they received good placement and movement. Sounds panned across all five channels well, with examples such as the bus itself flitting from speaker to speaker as it puttered along. Throw in some localized speech and you found a soundscape that sounded more modern than expected.
The quality of the audio was also solid. Music remained the big winner, as the score and songs showed nice vivacity and range. Speech was fairly natural and concise, and effects seemed more than satisfactory. A little distortion occasionally marred the louder moments, but those instances didn’t cause real concerns. Given the age and nature of Tour, I expected more obvious sonic flaws, but the audio worked quite well.
When we shift to the disc’s extras, unquestionably the most intriguing component comes from the audio commentary with director/actor Paul McCartney. He delivers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at the movie’s background, its cast, elements of the shoot and the film’s music.
I expected McCartney to provide a good but unexceptional commentary and that’s what I got. He tends toward two poles, though. While he likes to tour the movie’s experimental avant garde nature and its alleged influence, he also undercuts the project; McCartney frequently lowers our expectations with remarks about what a modest undertaking it was and how they all just made it up as they went.
Despite those dichotomous tendencies, McCartney still offers some interesting observations. It takes him a while to get going, so expect borderline narration for the first few minutes. However, he becomes more involved as the movie progresses. This never becomes a great chat, but it’s fun to hear a legend talk about his work.
By the way, dedicated Beatles fans know that McCartney loves to claim that Steven Spielberg refers to Tour as an influence. Not one to disappoint, Macca brings up this story at the commentary’s 12-minute, 25-second mark.
A few featurettes follow. The most substantial of the bunch, The Making of Magical Mystery Tour runs 19 minutes, three seconds and includes notes from McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison (circa 1993), John Lennon (circa ?), fan club secretaries/extras Sylvia Nightingale and Jeni Crowley, music journalist Chris Welch, cameraman Michael Seresin, producer Gavrik Losey, editor Roy Benson, former BBC1 controller Sir Paul Fox, and musician Neil Innes. We hear about the movie’s origins and development, its “script” and shoot, sets, technical elements, editing and the film’s release/reception/legacy. “Making” moves at a nice pace and gives us a good overview of the production. It becomes a quality take on Tour.
Ringo the Actor goes for two minutes, 24 seconds and features Starr as he watches parts of the movie. He chats about his work in Tour and his “role”. Despite the clip’s brevity, it’s a lot of fun to hear Ringo, and the addition of some outtakes adds value.
Under the 10-minute, 55-second Meet the Supporting Cast, we learn about a few of the non-Beatles in the film. Though we get a quick comment from Starr, this mostly comes to us as a collection of archival elements; in addition to shots from Tour, we see other works in which a few actors appeared. This becomes a nice way to pay tribute to these participants.
Three outtakes follow. These come for “Your Mother Should Know” (2:41), “Blue Jay Way” (3:58), and “The Fool on the Hill” (3:05). Nothing revelatory pops up here, but I’m happy to see a little more footage of the Fabs.
Used on Top of the Pops, a “Hello Goodbye” Promo runs three minutes, 37 seconds. Most fans have seen the mimed performance clip in which the Fabs don their Sgt. Pepper’s outfits; this one mixes shots of the Beatles in the editing room with contrived segments in which two guys and two girls pop in and out of the camera frame. I like the brief glimpses of the band as they work on Tour, but the other bits are a waste of time.
Three deleted scenes come next. We get “Nat’s Dream” (2:01), “I’m Going in a Field” (2:42) and “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” (2:41). Don’t expect any lost gold here, as the clips are just as forgettable as most of Tour. “Dream” and “Field” are particularly terrible.
At least “Bush” benefits from the presence of Steve Winwood’s band Traffic; the footage itself isn’t interesting, but it’s moderately fun to see Traffic on film. It’s unclear how the segment would’ve fit into Tour, as it seems out of nowhere. Granted, that description applies to much of Tour, but this sequence feels even less connected to the other events than the rest.
At least four Easter Eggs show up here. If you click “left” from “Play Film” on the main menu, hit “enter” to see “Magic Alex Sings ‘Walls of Jericho’” (1:31). Go “up” from “Play Film” and locate “Fish and Chip Shop” (4:45). Opt right from “Audio Options” and discover “Jessie’s Blues” (2:16); head up from “Audio Options” and watch “Missing Dining Room Scene” (4:10). Of these, only “Shop” seems even vaguely intriguing – maybe I’m just entertained by the sight of the Fabs as they order food. Overall, though, the snippets are forgettable; I mean, you know something’s bad when it’s not good enough to be included in Tour!
Finally, the set includes an eight-page booklet. This shows a planning graph for the film, an introduction note from McCartney, credits and photos. It’s a nice finish to the package.
After 45 years of derision, I’d love to claim that Magical Mystery Tour deserves a positive appraisal. Alas, it doesn’t; if anything, I suspect the years have made this self-indulgent mess look even worse. The Blu-ray provides inconsistent but generally positive picture along with strong audio and a reasonably interesting batch of bonus materials. Beatles fans will want to own this for their collections, but I find it hard to imagine it’ll appeal to anyone beyond Fabs diehards.