Yellow Submarine (1968)

Buckle up, kids. It's going to be a weird one.
Buckle up, kids. It’s going to be a weird one.

“It’s all in the mind, y’know”

Directed by George Dunning
Starring Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul Angelis, John Clive, Dick Emery, Geoff Hughes, Lance Percival

When the psychadelic paradise of Pepperland is attacked by the Blue Meanies, the Lord Mayor (Emery) sends Young Fred (Percival) to recruit help. Travelling to Liverpool in a submersible vehicle of jaundiced hue, he gathers the four Beatles: John (Clive), Paul (Hughes), George (Peter Batten, uncredited) and Ringo (Angelis, whose brother would later take over from Ringo Starr as narrator of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends); not necessarily in that order.

The travelers pass through various seas and face assorted perils, vanquishing them by singing songs, many from 1967’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  On route they meet up with the Nowhere Man Jeremy Hillary Boob PhD (also Emery), and lose the sub, then lose Jeremy before being reunited with Fred in Pepperland. They impersonate top Pepperland marching band sensations Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to rally the people, release the originals and rescue Jeremy, before finally making peace with the Chief Meanie (also Angelis).

What’s wrong with it?

Look; it was the sixties and they were all doing a lot of casual racism. I mean drugs.
Look; it was the sixties and they were all doing a lot of casual racism. I mean drugs.

Yellow Submarine is a weird gig. Mostly that’s okay, but I may have to have a conversation with my daughter about the Snapping Turks and why they aren’t okay at some point. And a completely different conversation about the Bonkers.

The story really isn’t a story. Fred seems to recruit the Beatles because they’re the first people he meets, but he knows their names in advance. It’s only when they reach Pepperland that the idea of impersonating Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is even mentioned.

Jeremy is… kind of pointless. Mind you, that can be said of a lot of this film. I don’t think having a point is really the point.

The Beatles didn’t even do their own voices.

What’s right with it?

All you need is love.
All you need is love.

The Beatles did sing the songs, and the songs are boss as fuck. ‘Yellow Submarine’ may be a Ringo number, but the film contains another ten complete songs, including ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and ‘All You Need is Love’, and they didn’t make that one the theme tune for Beat Bugs on a whim.

People throw the word ‘inimitable’ around a lot, but this film really is unique. It’s style influenced Terry Gilliam’s work on Monty Python – especially obvious in the Kinky Boot Beasts – but you couldn’t see more than a second and think you were watching anything else.

‘Eleanor Rigby’. Great stuff.

The script sparkles with wit, apparently added thanks to an uncredited polish by Liverpudlian poet Roger McGough. The character of Ringo is introduced feeling lost with the line: “Liverpool can be a very lonely place on a Saturday afternoon. And this is only Thursday morning.”

There are worse messages than that war can be ended by love.

How bad is it really?

"There's a bit old for school." "University then." "University of whales?"
“They’re a bit old for school.”
“University then.”
“University of whales?”

So… I fucking love this movie. When I was a kid I watched the VHS raw and started subconsciously adopting elements of a Liverpudlian accent. Yes, it’s a jumbled mess, largely because it never tries to be anything else.

Best bit (if such there is)?

So, I often find this part hard because there’s just nothing, but there’s so many wonderful moments in this one. In fact, it’s probably is that it’s all wonderful moments with no coherent whole.

What’s up with…?

This plot is full of holes!
This plot is full of holes!
  • The dimensionally trancendental world? It’s not just the sub; the Beatles’ home is the same. Nothing is the same size on the inside as on the outside.
  • Jeremy? He’s there, he’s lost, he’s rescued. He’s like the token love interest without the love. Or really the interest.


Production values – It’s really hard to judge this one. The animation is kind of awkward, but that’s as much style as anything.  I rewatched this with the colour restored by hand, and it looked shiny, but there are still odd jumps. 6
Dialogue and performances – The performances in this film are a big bag of crazy, but that suits the script and the script is amazing. 4
Plot and execution – Okay, in all fairness the plot of this film is pretty laughable. It makes the average porn storyline look nuanced and coherent, and is basically there to link the musical numbers. 14
Randomness – It was the sixties, okay… 12
Waste of potential – Just… What else could it be? 0

Overall 36%


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