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  Beatlemania America's Greatest Band!
Year: 1981
Director: Joseph Manduke
Stars: David Leon, Mitch Weissman, Tom Teeley, Ralph Castelli
Genre: MusicalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The nineteen-sixties: what a decade! Up to and including 1963 such momentous events as the Twist and President John F. Kennedy's assassination occurred, but then the real defining element exploded onto the scene, the arrival of The Beatles in America. The Fab Four not only changed and rocked the world, but they provided the soundtrack to every single day from then to the point they broke up in 1970, it's not an exaggeration to say they were the most important thing in the nation, and possibly of all time. So what better way to commemorate them than watching the band play live?

OK, so they stopped doing that about the mid-sixties more or less, and after December 1980 circumstances dictated that it was an impossibility, so how about the next best thing? Alas, The Bootleg Beatles were not available for this film, so what you had instead were part of a number of American musicians who made up the cast of Beatlemania, a cash-in concert show where a bunch of John Lennon and Paul McCartney tunes (but not George Harrison, that was not allowed) were played to audiences who would lap up anything vaguely Beatles-related, and if this was not the authentic Liverpudlians then it was as good as to all intents and purposes. Or that was the general idea.

There was no attempt to place the songs in a story context as future jukebox musicals would, so what you got was the band dressing up in various fairly authentic costumes and wigs while images were projected and dancers danced, among other methods to bring the occasion to life. The cast here were not the ones who had appeared for much of the highly successful stage run (produced by Aerosmith's management!), and in truth nobody was going to mistake them for the real thing, with some decidedly dodgy attempts at the Scouse accent and the costumes seemingly borrowed from waxworks (in the Sgt. Pepper section, the Lennon bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Bob Carolgees as Houdi Elbow).

So if you didn't mind the fact that this lot were not the real deal, was it still possible to enjoy Beatlemania? That depended on your adherence to authenticity, as for a start no one appeared to have informed anyone involved with the production that the band were not American. With a selection of stock footage illustrating the sixties, every bit of it was connected to the good ol' U.S.A. and the actual derivation of the legendary entertainers never merited a mention: plenty of slow motion stars and stripes unfurling in the breeze, not one British flag, then. The information we glean from the clips, along with a news ticker saying things like "Scientist says the air we breath (sic) is bad", ranging from the momentous (e.g. Martin Luther King being shot) to the trivial (far out of date fashion shows).

But mostly the Vietnam War, which the Fabs didn't have much to do with on the ground but in the filmmakers' minds were inextricably linked with the conflict, with statistics about how many U.S. troops have died mixed with protest footage and a specially shot clip of dancers representing a soldier leaving his sweetheart to go to war and a student leaving his for college. In fact, so America-centric was the movie that you would imagine it would play better with actual American music over it instead of the facsimile we did have, but that would negate their unique selling proposition, right-handed Paul McCartney and all. Divided into eight chapters with such "squares trying to get down with ver kids" titles as "Tripping", "Dropping Out" and "Bottoming Out", director Joseph Manduke tried to buoy the cinema audience by having the filmed concert audience rapturously applauding and cheering every song, but it was extremely difficult to believe anybody would be knocked out by a mediocre copy such as this, not even Christina Applegate who is reportedly in the crowd.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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