Years before The Beatles released their Anthology, the best movie about the band’s history was a 1984 movie called The Compleat Beatles. This was the first truly comprehensive documentary on the band, covering their earliest days all the way through their breakup.
There’s the archival footage we’ve all seen before, but the people who made this movie also found a lot of stuff that, at least in 1984, was rarely if ever seen. One real achievement was their combining the old silent Cavern Club film with the scratchy audio track of the song “Some Other Guy” to create one of the band’s first video-and-sound performances. There are lots of interviews with producer George Martin and some of the folks who were there with The Beatles during their lifetime, which offers a nice perspective on what these guys were up to (and against). There are clips of the group’s first concerts in Washington and elsewhere, as well as black-and-white film of the Our World performance of “All You Need is Love,” which hadn’t been widely seen in the US. Notably missing, though, are their performances on The Ed Sullivan show (although Ed’s introduction is included from a kinescope), Shea Stadium, The Hollywood Bowl, and other important appearances.
There are also interviews with Allan Williams, the band’s first manager, and Tony Sheridan, with whom the group recorded a rockin’ version of “My Bonnie.” We also get a little too much of Gerry Marsden (of Brian Epstein’s other Merseybeat band, Gerry and The Pacemakers), who shares his views on what happened back in the early days.
The movie was released at a time when Beatles fans had grown weary of waiting for the long-rumored The Long and Winding Road, a movie the band was supposedly assembling themselves to tell their own story. Compleat filled the gap very nicely for the next decade.

The Compleat Beatles
was rendered obsolete by the release of Anthology, the latter being far more expansive with better footage, a lot more detail, and of course interviews with and the endorsement of The Beatles themselves. What makes Compleat really nice, though, is that it tells the story in the space of about 90 minutes. If you don’t have 10 hours to watch the entire Anthology, this is an excellent way to get the story in a much more compact form.
My reason for writing this mini-review comes from the fact that Lisa and I started watching The Rutles last night, and we realized there were a lot of inside Beatles jokes that she wasn’t picking up. So it was my opportunity to present an educational experience to her. 🙂
Coming up: a review of The Rutles. Tonight: Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard at The Auditorium.


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