— The Beatles are finally appearing at a Woodstock festival.
A restored version of the Beatles’ 1967 made-for-British-TV psychedelic romp “Magical Mystery Tour” will be featured at the annual Woodstock Film Festival kicking off Wednesday. The movie and a new documentary about how it was made will be among 130 narrative and documentary films shown over five days in and around the Hudson Valley arts colony that lent its name to the 1969 music festival, which was held in Bethel in neighboring Sullivan County.
Also highlighted at the film festival this year will be “Vamps,” director Amy Heckerling’s comedic take on the travails of club-hopping vampires, which reunites her with “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone.
Another film, “Dear Governor Cuomo …,” chronicles a concert and political rally in Albany earlier this year featuring actor Mark Ruffalo, singer Natalie Merchant and other opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme, director of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” will be given the festival’s annual Maverick Award.
“Magical Mystery Tour” is often viewed as a dented apple among the Beatles’ celebrated works. The hour-long movie about a bus trip across the English countryside with the Beatles and a cast of oddball characters had no script and no plot. The band appears as wizards in some scenes and performs “I Am The Walrus” in furry suits and animal masks. John Lennon plays a waiter shoveling nauseating mounds of food to a guest and Paul McCartney cavorts through fields for “Fool on the Hill.”
The movie was shown on British TV the day after Christmas 1967, and many viewers didn’t know what to make of what the former mop tops were doing.
“I don’t think anyone was prepared for the film they were about to see because this was no longer the Beatles they had seen in a `Hard Day’s Night’ and `Help,'” said Jonathan Clyde of the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd., which produced the accompanying documentary.
The screening at Woodstock coincides with the release of a DVD package that includes cut scenes and the making-of documentary.
Defenders of the film note the surrealism and jump cuts of “Magical Mystery Tour” later became common in music videos. And the movie does provide a glimpse of the Beatles when they were at the height of their musical powers.
“In hindsight, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be,” Clyde said. “It’s no cinematic masterpiece, but that wasn’t the point, really.”
By MICHAEL HILL