Help!

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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From left to right: Ringo, Paul, John (playing piano), George. Just in case.

In the mid-1960s, The Beatles were the hottest thing since sliced bread. The four guys from Liverpool not only topped the charts with their music, but they topped the box office with their movie A Hard Days Night in 1964. So, in 1965, they, director Richard Lester, and producer Walter Shenson got back together to make another movie for United Artists. The result was Help!

Unlike its predecessor (though more like Richard Lester's non-Beatles films), Help! was a surreal and literally colorful action adventure parody and a Homage to United Artists' most successful film series at the time, James Bond. Its plot was ahead of its time—real James Bond films wouldn't be so nonsensical for another decade.

As a film, it's probably better than Magical Mystery Tour, but not as good as A Hard Days Night.

The plot involves a cult from "the eastern country" (presumably but not definitely India) and loosely based on the Thuggee who make sacrifices to their goddess, "Kaili". The person to be sacrificed wears a large ring with an enormous ruby in it. Unfortunately, the cultists find out at the ceremony that the girl who was supposed to be sacrificed mailed the ring to Ringo Starr, who is now wearing it. So, the cult scrambles to England to get the ring.

The problem is, nobody can get the ring off Ringo. Thus, the deadline for the ring going to its original sacrifice passes, and Ringo is now the official sacrifice for the cult.

In their attempts to get the ring off Ringo, the Beatles approach two mad scientists. The mad scientists fail to get it off, and the Beatles cease co-operating with them. By this point, the scientists have decided that it's their ticket to world domination. This leads to a chase which leads the Fab Four and both sets of their pursuers to the Austrian Alps, Salisbury Plain (near Stonehenge), Buckingham Palace and The Bahamas.

Note: the Beatles often weren't sober while making this film. They had recently discovered marijuana. This hurt their performances. Unfortunately, Richard Lester was probably sober.


Tropes used in Help! include:
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: Clang's pronunciation of "Beatle" as "be-A-tle" (rhyming with "Seattle").
  • Afraid of Needles: George passes out at the sight of a syringe.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: The tiger that is sent to attack Ringo at the pub is actually from a zoo and won't attack Ringo if he has 'Ode to Joy' sung to him.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The shrinking potion
  • As Himself
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Clang's conversation with Bhuta on the train.
  • Audience Participation: The film has been called "The Rocky Horror Beatles Show" at some conventions (most notably Beatlefest Chicago), where screenings are frequently interrupted by audience members counting the number of times John dials the phone and handing out sticks of Wrigley's spearmint gum during the "Paul on the Floor" segment.
  • Bad Bad Acting: The Beatles indulge in this occasionally, particularly any time they're supposed to be acting like they're having a carefree, fun time and instead just deliver the most stilted laughs humanly possible. (as mentioned above, they were usually stoned, to the point that many times they disregarded memorizing the script at all)
  • Big Damn Movie: Granted, anything with the Beatles in at the peak of their power is fairly awesome anyway, but then you throw in the British Army's tanks surrounding the band playing near Stonehenge accompanied by Stuff Blowing Up, the stadium of people singing 'Ode to Joy' to calm a tiger...
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Beatles' house looks like 4 separate townhouses from the outside, but it is all one big room.
    • Also, it is Color-Coded for Your Convenience. John = red, Paul = white, George = green, Ringo = blue.
    • In other words, it's a Cool House!
      • It is a Cool House indeed, because each Beatle has his own quirk to their room: Ringo has several vending machines, John has a bookshelf and his bed is in a pit in the floor, Paul has an organ which surfaces from the floor, and George has a bed of grass complete with a gardener!
        • There was also a deleted scene that showed that one of them also had a cow in a cupboard used for free milk.
    • Also Bigger on the Inside was the Eastern temple when it was brought to the Bahamas under a beach.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Ringo tries to escape from the tiger pit:
    • And before that, there was...

Ahme: *looks directly into the camera* "I am not what I seem."

  • Brick Joke: About halfway through the film the scientists' bomb goes off and breaks a hole in an ice rink, with a cross-channel swimmer emerging from beneath and asking the way to the White Cliffs of Dover. He can be seen at the end emerging on a beach in the Bahamas and being redirected again by the Beatles.
  • British Royal Guards: A small battalion of marching guardsmen immediately collapses mid-march after inadvertently getting hit with Knockout Gas.

Ringo: It must be their tea break.

Algernon: I work better with animals. They trust me, you see. I should have gone into vivisection.

  • Funny Background Event: George putting things into his pockets at the jewellery shop.
    • George spends most of the movie doing funny or awkward things in the background.
  • Heel Face Turn: Ahme.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: "The Exciting Adventure of Paul on the Floor".
  • Is It Something You Eat?: George's reaction when holding a cymbal at one point.
  • Intermission
  • Latex Perfection: How does one manage that for Ringo?!
  • MacGuffin: The ring.
  • Mad Scientist: Professor Foot. Lampshaded by John when he says "This is absurd! You're nothing but a trite, hackneyed mad scientist!".
  • No Sense of Direction: The Beatles' Road Manager Mal Evans, does a cameo as a swimmer who has this, looking for the White Cliffs of Dover while under some ice (in Switzerland -- just roll with it) and again at the end in a Brick Joke in the Caribbean Sea.
  • Path of Inspiration: This cult, probably.
  • Performance Video: It's a musical, and we get to see most of the songs performed.
  • Pinball Protagonist: All four Beatles for much of the film.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted (the police in this case being the British police, the Bahaman Police and fricking army). They do quite a good job protecting the Beatles, as the Inspector in charge turns out to be quite a bright penny. Hell, they even save the Beatles from the cult! Twice.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Ringo, courtesy of Foot and Algernon.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The Beatles have admitted they more or less wanted a paid vacation, which is why they suggested some of the film's more exotic locations (The Bahamas, the Alps).
  • Running Gag: "John: "Getting nowhere, are you, jeweler/mad scientist/superintendent?"
    • People and things being referred to as "The famous X" ("the famous Beatles", "the famous Ringo", "the famous ring", "the famous temple", and so forth) primarily by the Superintendent, although the Beatles themselves as well as the written narration pick up on the trend.
  • Say My Name: After Ringo is kidnapped in the Bahamas, the other three Beatles go about looking for him, shouting his name the whole time.
  • Scenery Porn: The film does look good.
  • Shout-Out: The version of "Help!" used in the movie's opening credits and on the American soundtrack starts with a snippet of the James Bond theme.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Take Over the World: The main reason the mad scientists want the ring.

"With a ring like that I could, dare I say it, rule the world! I must have that ring! Algernon, the laser!"

"Without the ring, there can be no sacrifice...without the sacrifice, there can be no congregation...without the congregation...no more me!"

  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The people in the Indian restaurant seem pretty undisturbed by the sight of a number of cultists strangling, kidnapping and replacing the staff.

Man (as his waiter is dragged off): Oh, rather a jolly place!

John: What's this?
Ringo: It's a season ticket. What did you think it is?
John: Oh, I like a lot of seasoning in me soup.

  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The gardener from George's room is not seen again after playing the flute in "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away".