My Review of ‘Help!’ (1965)

In lieu of the Saturday Matinee, this review is being submitted as part of the “Movie Scientist Blogathon: The Good, the Mad, the Lonely”, hosted by Christina Wehner and Ruth of Silver Screenings. In the case of this film, it would be a mad scientist.

When I first saw this movie on TV, years and years and years and years ago, I was just a little kid. And I thought it was the funniest film ever.

Little did I realize that this film featured some of Britain’s top talent—apart from the Fab Four, that is.

For instance, the movie features an Eastern cult led by none other than Leo McKern. I came to know McKern through his work on The Prisoner and Rumpole of the Bailey.

But the focus of this post (per this blogathon) is on the mad scientist, Professor Foot (played by Victor Spinetti). Let me explain a bit about the plot and how Foot The Mad Scientist fits in it.

The Eastern cult headed by Rumpole Leo McKern as the great Swami Clang is on the verge of murdering sacrificing a fair maiden, painted red (per the cult rules), when it comes to light that she isn’t wearing the sacrificial ring (because red paint just isn’t enough). The ring was secretly sent to Ringo in a fan letter and, being named Ringo, he simply had to put it on.

The movie is essentially a feature-length set of absurdist sketches, loosely-strung together, in which Ringo become’s the cult’s target and the Beatles work together to get the ring off his finger.

They resort to consulting a jeweler, who fails, as John Lennon is quick to point out. It’s then that they approach Foot and his hapless assistant, Algernon.

After encountering the unbelievable resistance to being removed from Ringo’s digit, Foot speculates (between grumbling asides about the poor state of British technology and “the brain drain”) that, “With a ring like that I could dare I say it? Rule the world.”

And so Foot and Clang both go after the Fab Four, using various lame attempts to whack sacrifice Ringo or, at least, cut off his finger. The band seeks refuge all over from Scotland Yard to the Bahamas.

The Beatles claimed the film was inspired by the Marx Brothers classic comedy Duck Soup. It was also a satire of the James Bond franchise. The humour was also strongly influenced by The Goon Show, which is hardly surprising, since that show also paved the way for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

It is an over-the-top bit of surreal and anarchic fun. And Foot gets some of the funniest lines (as do the Beatles, of course—not to be outdone, right?):

Professor Foot: MIT was after me, you know. Wanted me to rule the world for them.

Professor Foot: He’s an idiot. Degree in woodwork. I ask you!

Professor Foot: It’s the brain drain, his brain’s draining.

And it’s Foot who plants “the fiendish thingy” in the curling stone!

Hey, it’s a thingie! A fiendish thingie!

This film is a must-see. I’ll never be able to hear the words “White Cliffs of Dover” without thinking of it.

“White Cliffs of Dover?”

Highly recommended if you like Monty Python, the Marx Brothers, or other absurdist humorists.

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19 Responses to My Review of ‘Help!’ (1965)

  1. Wow, this sounds very inventively, quirkily fun! That’s cool that the Beatles didn’t take themselves too seriously in their film making, too. I’ve been wanting to improve my knowledge and appreciation of the Beatles, so perhaps a film with them and mad scientists is the perfect place to start! 🙂

    So glad you could join with Professor Foot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Thanks! Foot left quite an impression on me. All that stuff about “ruling the world” made me laugh like crazy! 🙂 I still love this movie, along with a few other “silly” British comedies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As Christina’s co-host, I also wanted to say thanks for joining the blogathon. I wouldn’t have thought of “Help” as a movie scientist choice, but it’s perfect! It’s been many, many years since I’ve seen this, but I do remember the fun everyone seemed to be having on screen. Time to see it again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Thanks, Ruth! I think this one’s well worth it, along with “Hard Day’s Night” and “Casino Royale” (the original). The latter was so over-the-top silly, it was just ridiculous, but also great fun!

      Like

  3. Michael Eddy says:

    Love the Beatles. My all time favorite group. They are their usual anarchic, crazed selves in this bit of fluff. The tunes – as always – are bright and memorable – but bottom line: “Help!” can’t hold a candle to “A Hard Day’s Night” (which was directed by Richard Lester and probably acted as a precursur for MTV and the music videos to come with the way he shot and edited the musical numbers – also, it’s witty screenplay was Oscar nominated for Alun Owen). My suggestion – watch Hard Day’s Night 4X for every 1 time you watch Help!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Make no mistake. I do love “A Hard Day’s Night”. I think I’m particularly fond of this one, because it was the first Beatles film I saw. And it was so outrageous, I’ve never forgotten it. 🙂 But “Hard Day’s Night” also has fantastic music and funny bits!

      Like

      • Michael Eddy says:

        Chronologically, Hard Day’s Night came first. What worked so well – was it captured the frenzy of being a Beatle and what they were going through at the height of their fame. It was almost documentary like in the way it handled the Fab Four, whereas Help! was an invention of a story and a crazed hybrid of a couple different genres into which the Beatles were shoe-horned in. IMO, not nearly as tailored a fit. Had you seen Hard Day’s Night first, you might agree. For me, as much as I enjoyed Help!, it was a bit of a letdown. I DO own both movie soundtracks on CD and listen to both frequently. Lastly, I thought that what worked so well in Hard Day’s Night was the way they let each of the boys shine by bringing a spotlight onto each of their strengths – Paul’s charm, George’s dry sense of humor, Ringo’s outsider status and John’s scathing wit. Example – one of my all time favorite lines was in the scene where the Beatles are sharing a train compartment with an upper crust British man – who chastises their antics by commenting, “I fought the war for your sort”. To which John retorts, “I’ll bet you’re sorry you won”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      Agreed on all counts. Unfortunately, “Hard Day’s Night” lacks a mad professor. And that was what this blogathon was about. So, “Hard Day’s Night” will have to get a separate review. Maybe along with “Magical Mystery Tour” and their last one. Was it “Let it Be”? I can’t recall.

      It’s the brain drain, you know? My brain is draining … 🙂

      Like

  4. Pingback: Movie Scientist Blogathon: Day 2 Recap – The Mad! | Christina Wehner

  5. Nice summary of a very funny movie that’s silly as all get-out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Enjoyed this choice and the read. I need some outright funny in my life right now, and it’s been so long since I’ve seen this I’ve forgotten it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Eric Binford says:

    Great choice! (I’m a Beatles fan!). I applaud you for thinking out of the box. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. wjquiggy says:

    I got a bunch of Beatles movies the other day from the library, by strange coincidence.. Was planning on watching them all this weekend…. This one will be moved up on the list now..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Paul Downie says:

    I’m might JUST have to watch it, again, Debbi: once I’ve found time … 

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debbi says:

      It’s awesome good fun, Paul! So many great lines!

      George: “It’s a fiendish thingy!”

      John: “Jeweler, you’ve failed!”

      George: “I know we’re here.”

      John: “Why you’re nothing but a hackneyed mad scientist!”

      George: “Not a bit like Cagney.”

      Hapless swimmer: “White cliffs of Dover?” Everyone points.

      Priceless! 🙂

      Like

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