The best examples of the Beatles' ability to reflect the doubts and aspirations of the 1960s can be seen in the dozen or so videotapes starring the Fab Four. Watching the tapes reminds us just how neat John and Paul and George and Ringo were yesterday, and what life was like as we waited for their moment to arrive.
THE COMPLEAT BEATLES (MGM/UA Home Video, $19.95) is a 6-year-old, two-hour compilation documentary. Unfortunately, there are no Ed Sullivan clips (just Ed's introduction), no clips from "A Hard Day's Night," "Help," "Yellow Submarine" or the famous rooftop concert from "Let It Be." But there is a long sequence from the royal command performance scene in which John Lennon said "Those of you in the expensive seats, just rattle your jewelry." The film starts out with a wonderful mix of musical history and social context. There's so much rare footage here that it's worth the price of admission.FUN WITH THE FAB FOUR (MPI, $11.95) is a one-hour profile of the Beatles using TV clips, newsreel footage, press conferences and interviews with the group and fans. An inspiring feature includes a long-lost comedy skit with Paul and John as Shaespearean lovers.
A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (MPI, $29.95) often is called the greatest rock 'n' roll movie ever made. Directed by Richard Lester, it's a fast-paced day in the life of the Beatles and includes songs such as "And I Love Her," "She Loves You," and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
HELP (MPI, $29.95) is the second collaboration between the Beatles and director Lester ("The Three Musketeers"). The thin plot revolves around a bizarre religious cult trying to retrieve a sacrificial ring from Ringo. Songs include "Ticket to Ride" and "You're Gonna Lose that Girl."
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (Media, $29.95) is a wild, colorful mind-altering bus trip. The first film directed by the Beatles, it includes such songs as "Fool on the Hill," "I Am the Walrus" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."
YELLOW SUBMARINE (MGM/UA Home Video, $29.95) is a charming fable about the Beatles' battles to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies. Although the Beatles weren't actually involved in the making of this animated classic (they do make a live cameo appearance at the end, singing "All You Need Is Love"), their zany spirit and inventiveness are evident throughout, thanks to a wonderfully implausible story line, some beautiful and often extraordinary animation and, of course, 14 great Beatles songs, some written expressly for the film.
LET IT BE (Magnetic, $39.98) chronicles the last days of the Beatles. The great moments in this film - originally conceived as a documentary on the recording of an album - are made greater when you realize that this was the end. It's one video your children should watch to understand how you feel about the Beatles.
BEATLEMANIA, THE MOVIE (USA/IVE, $39.95) is a stage show featuring Beatle lookalikes performing the group's greatest hits against a film background of the '60s. There's nothing like the real thing, baby.
AN ORCHESTRAL TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES (MPI, $19.95) is hosted by Joan Collins with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the Fab Four's greatest hits.
BRITISH ROCKS: THE FIRST WAVE (RCA/Columbia, $29.95) is a documentary that traces the beginnings of the Beatles, among others. Some very good, rare concert scenes are featured.
THE BEATLES LIVE (Sony, $16.95) is a compilation of rare Beatle performances from the British TV show "Ready, Steady Go!" with songs such as "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "She Loves You."
THE BEATLES BUDOKAN CONCERT (VAP Import, price varies) is available only as a Japanese import, so the price will vary according to the current dollar-to-yen rate. The concert film was shot at Tokyo's Budokan concert hall. Footage includes the group's arrival in Japan.
THE BEATLES VIDEO SCRAPBOOK (Encore Entertainment, price varies) is a combination of clips from live concerts and press conferences. Also included: funny trailers from every Beatle film made and every film in which a Beatle starred.
BEATLES CONCERT IN WASHINGTON, D.C. (Video Warehouse, 40 minutes, $9.98.). With a grainy, wobbly, black-and-white picture, it looks more like 1944 than 1964. The sound is primitive, but about what you'd expect from an underpowered band working against 7,000 screaming adolescents.
It was Feb. 11, 1964, the Beatles' first concert in America, and it was taking place right here in the Nation's Capital! This video is taken from the closed-circuit film offered two months later, and it's a wonder anyone was willing to pay good money for such bad quality. The concert itself consisted of 12 songs, of which the last two, "Twist and Shout" and "Long Tall Sally," were cut off at about "Twist and . . . "; as compensation, the video offers the fairly funny trailer that preceeded the theatrical showing and a long shot of the group getting organized on stage.
The Fab Four are earnest, and somewhat stunned by the audience's reaction. Paul McCartney plugs the group's album before almost every song. Ringo handles "I Wanna Be Your Man," but luckily his microphone barely works. Temperatures rise and squeals abound when the boys slide into their falsetto "oooh" on "She Loves You." On "This Boy," John Lennon sings the lead with McCartney and George Harrison crowding the mike on the harmonies.
All in all, it was a surprisingly common concert, but charming and one of the first shots fired in the British Invasion that everyone under the age of 18 welcomed so warmly. - Richard Harrington (Washington Post)
I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND (Warner Home Video, for release March 8). Director Robert Zemeckis became a Hollywood hero with such hits as "Romancing the Stone," "Back to the Future" and last year's box-office champ, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." But fewer remember that in 1978 he co-wrote and directed a madcap comedy about New Jersey teen-agers caught up in the Beatlemania of 1964.
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" had everything going for it: adolescent angst, '60s nostalgia, the music of the Beatles. It even had the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg as executive producer.
It disappeared from theaters without a trace.
On March 8, Warner Home Video will give audiences a second chance when it releases the long-neglected gem on tape as a companion release to the John Lennon "Imagine" documentary. It's a great double feature, but to be fair to Zemeckis' fable, watch "Imagine" first.
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" is set in the dizzying days of the Beatles' first visit to this country and their debut on Ed Sullivan's variety show, and depicts the frantic attempts by a group of obsessed fans to get into the TV studio on that fateful night. If you've ever suffered from Beatlemania, this film will remind you of how glorious it was. - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)
VIDEO SALES (from Billboard)
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5. Dirty Dancing
7. Jane Fonda's Low Impact Aerobic Workout
8. Kathy Smith's Fat Burning Workout
9. Lady and the Tramp
10. Super Callanetics
VIDEO RENTALS (from Billboard)
1. YOUNG GUNS
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3. Die Hard
4. Three Men and a Baby
5. The Dead Pool
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8. Short Circuit 2
10. Bull Durham