The story goes that the animated film, centering around the alter egos of The Beatles, known as The Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, was made purely as a means to get the famous group out of their undesired movie contract, yet once they viewed the final product that was Yellow Submarine they were so enthralled and happy by the outcome that they agreed to provide a live-action epilogue as a pseudo thank you. It takes only moments into this spectacularly psychedelic film to realize why exactly The Beatles would come to love such a film, one that is absolutely extraordinary in what it achieves via hand drawn animation, as well as societal commentary. It is no small task to make a successful animated film, let alone one that is decidedly geared towards an older audience, yet in the careful hands of George Dunning viewers are provided with something spectacular. While The Beatles music has never been begging to be visualized it is clear that Yellow Submarine evokes the words, social outcries and existential angst that came to so obviously signify the work by the group for the latter portion of their career. Like many of the great films, Yellow Submarine suffered from existing as nothing more than rotations on British television, yet when this particular piece of Beatles nostalgia was revived, a rekindling and remembrance of how truly spectacular this work was emerged. Furthermore, the accessibility, universality and certainly the trippy nature of Yellow Submarine resulted in a whole new generation coming to love and appreciate The Beatles in a way transcendent of their music, and with a recent bluray upgrade, it only proves that more people will have a chance to discover this seminal work. A mix of tragedy and celebration, Yellow Submarine exudes a poetic nature that demands its viewing, multiple times and with multiple people, as it truly proves to be something far grander than a film made by The Beatles to get out of an undesired movie contract.
Yellow Submarine begins with an introduction to the world of Pepperland, in which people sing, dance and exist in merriment to the tunes and beats of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The idyllic world of Pepperland, however, comes under attack by the scrutinizing and condemning eye of The Meanings, a group of blue persons who live to causes sadness and depression, while always answering "NO" to any question raised. Their wave of malaise sweeps over Pepperland causing all those existing within its colorful landscape to turn blue and freeze in time, including SPLHCB, who are specifically trapped in a bubble. The only person who escapes the onslaught of this attack is Old Fred (Lance Percival) a wily elderly man who in a state of befuddlement takes the town's Yellow Submarine and travels to what we can assume to be Liverpool, since it is there that he meets up with The Beatles. Of course, this vision of England, shown while Eleanor Rigby is playing, reflects the current state of Pepperland, as each of the band members moves through the streets and houses with a sense of desolation. After many failed attempts to understand Old Fred whose phrases are nearly intelligible, the group agrees to join him on the submarine and travel to Pepperland. This journey takes them forwards and backwards in time, even passing their past selves on the journey. Along the way they pick up a mask wearing rodent whose name is Jeremy Hilary Boob, PhD., or as the members of the group suggest a veritable Nowhere Man as he spouts off poems, ideas and feelings that have no logical grounding. After losing Ringo at least once, the group eventually makes it to Pepperland where they take on The Meanies, at first finding little success with their music, yet when they release the SPLHCB from their prison and realize that they have an uncanny similarity to them, they attack The Meanies with great success and bring vibrancy and life back to Pepperland. The film then closes with the song All Together Now, as unity seems to be the suggested course of action for the future.
Yellow Submarine is, as should be obvious, inundated with the feelings and advocacy of social revolution so seemingly inherent in the sixties, especially 1968. Primarily, this is a film that contests the notion that disconnect and social malaise are positive, particularly if said distancing is the result of heavy conservative values that dismiss any sort of revolution, whether it be rioting in the streets or speaking out politically. The freezing of SPLHCB represents political suppression to some degree, especially since it is done by The Meanies, whose "NO" spouting ideologies represent the most dangerous variations of conservatism. One can extend this consideration to incorporate the pointing hand that is a weapon of The Meanies. Its judgmental connotations, reflect another element of conservative values, ones in which individuals find scape goats for their problems, signifying difference as a means to separate, even if their actions harm nobody, or actually suggest egalitarian ideals or progressive actions. Jeremy/Nowhere Man then becomes an interesting figure in this context because he exists both as a voice to transcend conservatism and the social malaise overtaking Pepperland (The Western Global Community), yet he has become so disenfranchised and disillusioned that any of the theories or ideas he promotes are so incoherent that they seem absurd or almost mocking. This only makes The Beatles eventual love of their film that much greater, because it shows that they realize their place as musicians to provide commentary to society, one that advocates love and unity and answering "Yes" when possible, and doing so "all together now."
Key Scene: It is a dead tie between the Eleanor Rigby and Nowhere Man scenes, both of which are incredibly sad and poetically transcendent.
This movie will surprise you, and if you have not seen it in some time revisit the work, especially post-restoration, it is seriously a thing of beauty. Grab the bluray immediately.