Video may have killed the radio star, but The Beatles—the ultimate radio stars—may have inadvertently created the music video with their movies. Fifty years ago today, Help! was released in theaters across the United States.
New York Times critic Bosley Crowther described Help! as “90 crowded minutes of good, clean insanity.” The film was the first time fans could see The Beatles in color on the big screen and featured seven songs from the group’s newest album of the same name. In the film’s very silly plot, The Beatles flee to exotic locations like the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas to protect Ringo from an Eastern cult hellbent on killing him just because he is wearing a sacrificial ring that was given to him by a fan. Meanwhile, a mad scientist and his zany assistant also pursue Ringo and the ring.
Although Help! was not as well received by critics as The Beatles’ first film, A Hard Day’s Night, over time the movie has been recognized for its impact on pop culture. For instance, its influence is fairly evident while watching iconic TV series like Batman and The Monkees.
Help! has also been identified as one of the main precursors to the modern rock video. Director Richard Lester used unique camera techniques to film The Beatles from different angles, putting together montages of the Fab Four playing music and frolicking, all set to the beat of their songs.
“Ticket to Ride” is a montage of John, Paul, Ringo, and George wiping out on their skis, making snow angels, having a picnic, and gathering around a piano in the Alps.
“I Need You” features The Beatles playing music in an open field, surrounded by military tanks that eventually chase them.
In “Another Girl,” The Beatles goof around on the beach in the Bahamas, and Paul uses a girl wearing a bikini as his guitar.
In 1984, The Beatles and Richard Lester received the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for “essentially inventing the music video.”
As Lester says in the video below, when MTV declared him “the father of MTV,” he demanded a blood test.