Now here’s a couple of very obscure films, very loosely linked by their Executive Producers. The first was Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg, the second by George Lucas.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand was the first feature directed by Robert Zemeckis, and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Zemeckis and Gale were friends with Steven Spielberg – I think they show up in Bob Balaban’s book about making Close Encounters, where they were known as the Two Bobs. Because he was a hot director after Jaws, and with Close Encounters shaping up to be another hit, Spielberg lent his name to the film as Executive Producer to get it made.
In return, Zemeckis and Gale wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s next film, 1941. Which seems like a shitty way to repay that favour. But they made it up later when Spielberg produced Back to the Future so we all won in the end.
The film is set when the Beatles were in New York for their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The opening shot sets the scene nicely, including the man fixing the spelling of the band’s name.
Sullivan briefs his crew with what to expect on the performance day. “Excessive screaming, hysteria, hyperventilation, fainting, fits, seizures, spasmodic convulsions even attempted suicides.”
The plot revolves around a group of girls who want to try to get into the hotel the Beatles are staying in. Among the cast are Nancy Allen, here glimpsing the fab four as they leave in their car.
Wendie Jo Sperber would later play Marty’s sister in Back to the Future.
Marc McClure plays their friend who has a car and drives them to New York.
The great Dick Miller turns up as a security guard.
Eddie Deezen plays an obsessive memorabilia collector. He also appeared in 1941 and Wargames.
This is really good. It’s almost a classic farce, as the group splits up, joins up with other people desperate to see the group, and hilarity ensues.
There’s also a moment when one of the group, having just scammed a man out of fifty dollars so she can bribe her way into the studio, is attacked by the man, and then McClure appears at the hotel room door and yells “Hey! Get your goddamn hands off her.” So that presumably means the line George has in Back to the Future is a callback to this film. Which itself might well be a callback to Charlton Heston’s line in Planet of the Apes.
The film only tangentially features the Beatles themselves, although they’ve licensed loads of their songs, which either cost a fortune, or it was much cheaper in 1978. The scenes at the Sullivan show also carefully hide the doubles they are using.
Slightly less successful are the couple of scenes where we hear them talk, where they just sound like every other dodgy Beatles impression you’ve ever heard.
After this, another, even more obscure film. Twice Upon a Time in an animated film that feels like it’s taken inspiration from Yellow Submarine. The people of Din, known as Rushers, are always busy, but when they sleep, they get their dreams from a place called Frivoli, and their nightmares from the Murkworks.
But the Leader of the Murkworks, Synonamess Botch, tricks two of the Frivoli people to steal a spring from the Cosmic Clock, which stops time all over Din, and then he plans to send his vultures across Din to detonate all his Nightmare bombs.
It’s up to the two idiots he fooled into stealing the spring to foil his plan, Mumford and Ralph, the all-purpose animal.
Which they do with the help of the Fairy Godmother.
There’s also a superhero called Rod Rescueman and an actual damsel in actual distress, Flora Fauna.
None of this is as interesting as it might sound. And it’s nowhere near as funny or charming as those involved seem to think.
But the credits are interesting. Ralph is played by Lorenzo Music, famous for playing Carlton the Doorman in Rhoda (a show he also developed and wrote for).
Two of the sequence directors are Brian Narelle and Henry Selick. Selick is well known as the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline. Narelle was one of the actors in John Carpenter’s Dark Star.
But the credit that surprised me most was that for Special Photographic Effects. None other than David Fincher, now a powerhouse director, then a fledgling effects artist.
So this is certainly obscure, but I can’t claim it’s an undiscovered gem, unfortunately.
After this, the tape continues with a large chunk of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The tape ends during it.
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