Color, 1968, 90 mins.

Directed by George Dunning

Written by Erich Segal, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, and Lee Minoff / Produced by Al Brodax / Music by The Beatles

Format: DVD - MGM (MSRP $29.98)

Letterboxed (1.66:1) / Dolby Digital 5.1

A cheerfully warped, insane animated feature, Yellow Submarine was a radical change of pace from the usual Disney fare of the time -- not to mention the Beatles Saturday morning cartoon show which had become a pop culture staple. Many viewers, particularly children, find the film extremely difficult to grasp thirty years later; its phantasmagoric pop art landscapes and bizarre non sequitor humor are as far out of the mainstream as a G-rated cartoon can go. Of course, for those willing to fall into the groove and savory the numerous trippy delights on hand, this Submarine provides a very enjoyable ride.

The wicked Blue Meanies have launched a diabolical attack upon the peaceful citizens of Pepperland. Old Captain Fred manages to escape in the title vehicle and obtains the assistance of the Fab Four themselves (well, sort of - they performed the songs but used stand-ins for the dialogue). John, Paul, George, and Ringo set off on a musical trip in which they pick up the Seussian Nowhere Man, encounter Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and wind up waging a flower-filled battle through song to reclaim Pepperland. To avoid any fan disappointment, the boys themselves make a live action appearance in the last scene to send the audience off on a high note.

Though reminiscent in many ways of the popular Lewis Carroll-style nonsense children's poetry of the era, Yellow Submarine remains a unique creation and has inspired countless animators ever since, particularly Terry Gilliam. The original British cut was altered significantly for U.S. release, with one good musical number ("Hey Bulldog") deleted and some alternate footage added to soften the climax. Most of the songs were taken or adapted from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with three original numbers added and a fun, melodic score by George Martin filling in virtually every gap between the tunes. The new MGM DVD presents the much-ballyhooed restored edition of Yellow Submarine, basically a spruced-up new version of the British version with eye-popping color and a knockout new Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. The new soundtrack truly gives the film so much more depth that the original mono soundtrack is actually painful to listen to in comparison, and the source materials are in immaculate condition. Purists who owned the open matte version released several years ago may blanch at the imposition of a European aspect ratio (1.66:1) over the image, but since this is the maximum amount of picture information exhibited in theaters, the creators apparently intended for it to be seen this way. The commentary by Dunning provides some valuable insight into the rushed, financially strapped conditions which somehow managed to produce a work of cinematic art, and the rest of the DVD lives up to the film's promise. For soundtrack fans, the entire score and songs are isolated without the disruptions of sound effects and dialogue - finally! Also, the documentary Mod Odyssey provides on-camera interviews to shed light on what can only be described as a labor of love for everyone involved; luckily, it appears everyone still feels the same way. The original trailer and numerous production drawings and preliminary artwork are also thrown in to keep fans busy for several hours. All in all, a great package, and Beatles fans in particular will be wishing all of their albums and movies sounded this good. Anyone want to try tackling a restoration of Let It Be?

Mondo Digital Reviews Mondo Digital Links Frequently Asked Questions