Call them “cult classics.” “Guilty pleasures.” “Comfort movies.” We all have a mental rolodex of flicks that may not be terribly popular but, for one reason or another, they resonate in a very special way. Maybe you saw it at the right moment. Maybe you just see gold where everyone else sees feces. Whatever the case, these are the special favorites that you keep stashed away for sick days. Here are some of ours.
In honor of the 9/9/09 release of “The Beatles: Rock Band,” I selected “Yellow Submarine” for today’s Sick Day Stash. It’s my favorite Beatles flick by a wide margin. Appropriately enough, I just watched it again yesterday — a sick day for me — after not having seen it for a few years. In short, it holds up. Before going any further, why don’t you hit play on that video up there? It’s a special treat, fresh from “The Beatles: Rock Band.”
Unfortunately, most of the teenage tales I have relating to this movie aren’t really fit for public consumption. It’s probably telling that I can’t actually recall the first time I saw it. So instead I’m going to talk about what the experience of seeing the movie again was like, after such an extended break.
As I said at the top, “Yellow Submarine” holds up. The animation may be primitive, but it’s easy to view that as intentional. The artwork is what sticks with you anyway; creative director Heinz Edelmann came up with some truly memorable character designs. The Fab Four themselves of course, but also the villainous Blue Meanies and their assorted henchmen, lackies and cronies.
For the newcomers: in “Yellow Submarine,” the four Beatles — voiced by (talented) actors rather than their real-life counterparts — set off with their new friend Jeremy, a refugee of Pepperland, a musical realm located “80,000 leagues beneath the sea.” The citizens of Pepperland have fallen under the spell of the evil Blue Meanies; only Jeremy managed to escape, in the community’s yellow submarine. With the help of The Beatles, Jeremy’s plan is to go back to Pepperland and reclaim what the Blue Meanies have stolen.
Along the way, the group passes through a variety of fantastical locations: the Sea of Monsters, of Time, of Holes and yes, of Green (referencing a line from the titular Beatles song). Each new vista connects to one tune or another, and so the movie follows a predictable sequence of exposition-to-music video-and back again. It’s also the main reason the film holds up so well; the music of The Beatles is timeless, and the distinctively psychedelic artwork leaves an impression even if it does still feel like a product of its time.
My only complaint after watching “Yellow Submarine” with older, more experienced eyes is the awful DVD transfer. This is a movie that really needs another full-blown restoration. The most recent edition came out at the end of 1999 and, with all of the new-fangled hi def technology, I’m betting even that relatively recent print could be cleaned up quite a bit.
How many of you have seen “Yellow Submarine”? Better question: how many of you HAVEN’T seen “Yellow Submarine”?