The Compleat Beatles

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Clark V Kauffman, Dec 5, 2021.

  1. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Well, IMDB says that it had Tony Sheridan, George Martin, Billy J. Kramer, Bruce Johnston, Marianne Faithful, Patti Boyd, and a bunch of others... plus Malcolm McDowell as narrator. Those are celebs to me. I remember reading an article about the making of the documentary, and the filmmakers said they were surprised how easily it all came together, but once the show came out, Apple realized they had made a mistake and were missing an opportunity to do their own documentary -- especially after the home video was released.

    I think a bunch of people sat up and took notice, between this show and the Heroes of Rock & Roll that had been released a few years earlier. Apple approached the producers and made a deal to buy it outright, but they just put the whole Compleat show on ice and took it off the market, and it's one of several major rock documentaries that was out for a couple of years and then vanished. Heroes vanished because producers Malcolm Leo & Andrew Solt didn't have the foresight or budget to pay for the home video rights to the music, so it sat in limbo for many years (and still has not been legally reissued). After those two shows, it suddenly became a lot more expensive to do rock documentaries, and -- in particular -- the Beatles were somewhat off-limits, because their price skyrocketed for clips and music.
  2. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    Chuck didn't seem all that likeable from the footage they did include! I can only imagine what the unvarnished version would be like.
  3. Clark V Kauffman

    Clark V Kauffman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Des Moines, Iowa
    The most bizarre aspect of this documentary is that it was originally intended only to promote the corresponding publication of the 2-volume “Compleat Beatles” sheet music — hence the odd title for the film. But Delilah realized the video had enough going for it to warrant expansion and commercial release.

    Apple actually went to court in October 1982 and got a temporary injunction against the filmmakers to block the release of “Compleat,” citing the unauthorized (by Apple, not by EMI, which had OK’d the use of music) “and willful misappropriation” of the band’s image and logo. But a deal was quickly worked out before a hearing on a permanent injunction could be held, and the film’s release was delayed by only a few weeks.

    I remember at the time being confused about why this documentary film shared the same name and artwork as a new sheet-music collection, and couldn’t understand why all the various song titles were listed on the video’s packaging, even if those songs were used only briefly as background music, as opposed to a recitation of the Beatles’ career highlights. It later became clear that the whole film project was funded by ATV to promote the song catalogue and sheet music — although the film’s unexpected success resulted in the tail wagging the dog.

    This was at a time when Apple was still toying with its own half-finished documentary, “The Long And Winding Road.” Once work on that project resumed, Apple supposedly bought the rights to “Compleat” to keep it off the market and clear the way for its own film, later renamed “Anthology.”
  4. David R. Modny

    David R. Modny Гордий українець-американець

    Streetsboro, Ohio
    One other thing that I distinctly remembered about the theatrical viewing was that it contained a short segment w/ George Martin discussing "A Day In The Life" that wasn't included in the Cinemax version that had just premiered the week before. Is this included on the home video releases as well? My (reissued IIRC) commercial VHS tape is currently buried in boxes in my basement. Looking at an upload of the movie on the Internet Archive, during the Pepper segment, the dialogue mentions the "next two songs that John contributed," but then goes on to only discuss Mr. that's probably where that ADTL bit that I saw occurred.

    (I do see a reference to that above segment in Janet Maslin's original New York Times review of the movie. Also dated February 10th, that coincides with my own local viewing date and reinforces that this was the week of its limited national theatrical run. Kind of cool that this run happened *after* its initial home video release in 1982.

    As an aside, this really was/is a wonderful documentary, IMHO. A great example of how less is sometimes more, and something that, in this particular case, benefited from being a view from the so-called outside (i.e. even though various insiders and the actual EMI tracks were very much present). While the facts aren't always 100% correct, the overall enthusiasm overrides that, and, as a result, the joy and reverence for the material within becomes contagious. In that regard, it serves as a nice contrasting *and* complementary piece to Anthology. It's also very cool to me that, according to one of those archived Plain Dealer entries, as of Feb. 1983, it was one of the few "Rockumentaries" that had sold well in those pioneering days of home video -- "20,000 videocassettes and 10,000 videodiscs" in just a short time.

    Finally, as others have noted, Malcolm McDowell did a superior job with the narration.
    longdist01 and Vidiot like this.
  5. Keith V

    Keith V Forum Resident

    Secaucus, NJ
    It’s all Acky Dacky
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  6. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

    Ottawa, Canada
    This woulda been my guess too!
  7. Forum Resident

    New York
    a Lot of 16mm stuff looked bad at the time ,look at the video of Let It Be or the Rutles only now when they they spend money restoring this stuff does it look good .. sometimes great
  8. BEAThoven

    BEAThoven Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    You ever get the feeling that Gerry just made that one up right on the spot? He seems to just throw it off... as though it was never used 20 years previous. ;)
    Keith V likes this.
  9. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Yes, I forgot about the tie-in to the book, but all of this is much as I remember it. I think the distributors were allowed to sell it for another year or two, but then it was all pulled off the market. For years, this was pretty much the only legally-licensed documentary on the Beatles ever... until about 11 years later, when the Anthology launched in the 1990s.
    andrewskyDE, longdist01 and Keith V like this.
  10. SRC

    SRC That sums up Squatter for me

    New York, NY
    This is a bit of a digression, but I loved The Compleat Beatles when I first saw it on TV and taped it sometime around 1986 or 87. I had always enjoyed my parents' records, but something about the story told there, made me become a super Fab fan for life.

    I wanted to show it to my kids last year, since we all take turns picking movies and other things to watch. Some might call my choice cruel, haha, but at least I was merciful enough not to lay the entire Anthology on them. I had my original taped VHS of Compleat, and then I found some version online, possibly a laserdisc or different rip because it actually had some different footage and interviews than the one I had originally taped off TV. But yeah, either way, the quality was really bad.

    So on a whim, and after seeing someone do something similar online, I decided to take an afternoon and re-edit the documentary, using that person's "pro bono" work as a great starting point, and I inserted additional, higher quality video and audio where possible. Obviously the original interview videos did have to mostly stay, and it still worked, for context. But I was able to keep McDowell's narration underneath much better looking Beatle clips, hi-res shots of photos and album covers, and so on. Since outside of the interviews and the performances, there are a ton of video segments that don't need to tightly match up to the narration or interview audio anyway. I also got to add high quality clips from A Hard Day's Night, Help, First U.S. Visit, and so on. And other clips for context in the early section, i.e. Elvis Presley singing "Jailhouse Rock" and Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue."

    It was fun! Basically I got to mash in all my favorite Beatle bits, adding more complete performances and kept McDowell's narration as an underlying guide. And of course I completely updated the ending montage where text explains what happened to each after the breakup.

    I think I tried to upload it to YouTube, just as a private video, to make it quicker to cast to the TV than authoring a DVD, but no surprise, it was blocked from uploading, haha. I went with DVD ultimately, since realistically anything higher than that would still be a stretch. I won't suggest my work was fantastic, and I did have another guy's original work doing some heavy lifting, but having thrown the rest together in one afternoon, in iMovie no less, was pretty satisfying.

    Anyway, I hope it's clear that I feel everyone's pain, those who really enjoyed this doc but regret that there is no fantastic looking version of it. I love The Anthology, but having the entire story summed up in 2.5 hours (my version was that long....sorry, kids) is also very cool.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
  11. Clark V Kauffman

    Clark V Kauffman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Des Moines, Iowa
    Sounds like your project is very similar to mine. I’m being fairly selective in what I upgrade, selecting only the truly horrible performance footage for replacement, while toning down all of the green skin tones and making sure that all of the black and white images are completely desaturated and truly monochrome.
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  12. BEAThoven

    BEAThoven Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    Before I ditched my VCR, I went back and watched a lot of old VHS tapes before they went on eBay, Craigslist, Goodwill, etc.

    I liked this doc a lot when I was a kid in the '80s, but viewing it in the 21 century, it was quite apparent that its strengths were all regarding the early years. The pre-fame info and clips were the most enlightening (for the time).

    The later years really get short shrift -- I think the discussion of Revolver is accompanied by someone just swinging a camera over the LP cover for a few seconds.
    Simon A likes this.
  13. Larry Geller

    Larry Geller Surround sound lunatic

    Bayside, NY
    Me and my "Beatle buddies" have always considered the revolving Revolver to be the ultimate "oh they're high" visual cliche. Cheapest special effect ever. Always cracked us up, but still loved this doc, though. The remastered LD looks and sounds way better than any other version of it. Alan Williams rules!
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  14. moople72

    moople72 Forum Resident

    This documentary is what made me a big fan in the mid-80s. I had never seen any footage of them talking before this film.
    I think I had seen the Rutles first.
    I still remember being struck by how smart they were, how the way they spoke wasn't dated at all. I remember expecting them to be dumb! In fact they were more frank than I was accustomed to hearing from anyone at the time---on something like Entertainment Tonight or my limited exposure to MTV. I was too young to read Rolling Stone.
    I had the Red and Blue records. I bought Revolver after this, with 100% of my net worth at the time.
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  15. JoeRockhead

    JoeRockhead Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    I never knew this had been screened in theaters. I only remember seeing it on PBS, and definitely remember the tie-in to promote the books. I got them for Christmas in whatever year it was (82? 83?). The books were great - with a band history preceding the sheet music portion, with both books housed in a heavy cardboard case. I guess it might not seem great these days but the books to me had a serious tone as history books, especially compared to the only other Beatle book I had, the classic Beatles Forever!

    edit: according to wikipedia, it was on PBS first in 1982, then screened in theaters in 1984, so being a TV show blown up for the big screen explains the OP's concern about the poor quality on the big screen
  16. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    Vidiot wrote the following as part of a post:

    This reminds me of comments about The Rutles mockumentary All You Need Is Cash where, because was done before years before the death of John Lennon, you got some insights about The Beatles via the comments about The Rutles (such as by Mick Jagger).
    Vidiot likes this.
  17. Detroit Rock Citizen

    Detroit Rock Citizen RetroDawg Digital

    I first seen this in the '80s and it was fantastic. I understand that Paul owns this now. I'm not sure why he's sitting on this, but it definitely deserves re-release and restoration. Any thoughts or should I have put this in the Music Corner?
  18. Wildest cat from montana

    Wildest cat from montana Humble Reader

    ontario canada
    This was a fine documentary in its time with plenty of great footage, superior in some ways to 'Anthology'.
    What it lacks is that specific Beatle involvement.
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  19. tman53

    tman53 Vinyl is an Addiction

    I have this on VHS and Laserdisc and from what I remember it was really good at the time of release.
  20. Detroit Rock Citizen

    Detroit Rock Citizen RetroDawg Digital

    It does have George Martin who seems to get the whole how do you do it story wrong.
  21. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Scranton, PA
    It's on the Internet Archive for those who are curious.
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  22. Wildest cat from montana

    Wildest cat from montana Humble Reader

    ontario canada
    I don't recall what he says about it. What does he say?
    Michael likes this.
  23. mx20

    mx20 Enthusiast

    Raleigh, NC
    Love this documentary! I "acquired" a DVD version a few years ago when I got rid of my VHS player.
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  24. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    still have my VHS copy...which in turn is useless, but it served me well in my VHS days...a great doc very enjoyable...add Birth Of The Beatles and this to my BD wishlist.
    Detroit Rock Citizen likes this.
  25. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    really? is the PQ quality?

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