It was 47 years ago Sunday (July 29th, 1965) that the Beatles' second film Help! had its world premiere at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus. The movie, which poked fun at the burgeoning British spy film genre made famous by the James Bond films, featured the comedic plot of a group of far-eastern fundamentalists trying to retrieve a "sacrificial ring" that a member of their congregation had sent to Ringo Starr in a fan letter.
In the film, the Beatles are chased through London, the Austrian Alps, and the Bahamas by both the religious cult and a pair of bumbling scientists who are convinced that possessing the ring would enable them to rule the world. Help! not only heavily influenced the TV show The Monkees, which debuted the following year, but also helped pave the way for MTV with its clever use of separate song clips throughout the movie.
John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970 that it was Dick Lester, who had also directed the group's first movie A Hard Day's Night, who had complete control of the film. Lennon recalled, "The movie was out of our control. With A Hard Day's Night, we had a lot of input, and it was semi-realistic. I realize now that (Help!) was a precursor to Batman's 'Pow!' Wow!' But Dick Lester never explained that to us." Lennon said in that same interview that he and the rest of the group, "Felt like extras in our own film." He also admitted that the group's performance was less than spectacular, due in part to them "smoking marijuana for breakfast."
During the making of The Beatles' Anthology in 1992 Paul McCartney joked that, quote, "I'm not sure anyone knew the script. I think we used to learn it on the way to the set."
It was during the filming of Help! that George Harrison first was introduced to the Indian instrument the sitar, which featured extensively in the Beatles' music over the next three years.
Ultimately Help! -- which was originally titled Eight Arms To Hold You -- is remembered for the classic Beatles songs featured in the film, including "Help!," "The Night Before," "You're Going To Lose That Girl," "Ticket To Ride," "Another Girl," and "I Need You."
Beatlefan magazine's executive editor Al Sussman saw the film upon its release in the States and says that the excitement had waned slightly for the group's second film: "It wasn't quite the event. . . Seeing it the first time wasn't quite the event it had been '64 seeing A Hard Day's Night for the first time. The theater wasn't full, it wasn't quite as big as A Hard Day's Night had been, at least the opening."
A little over two weeks after the premiere on August 15th, the Beatles kicked off their 1965 U.S. summer tour in New York City's Shea Stadium, performing their biggest show yet for 55,500 screaming fans.