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The Rutles Anthology: Blu-ray + DVD Review

The Rutles Anthology Blu-ray + DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Rutles in All You Need is Cash

Original Airdate: March 22, 1978 / Running Time: 73 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Directors: Gary Weis, Eric Idle / Writer: Eric Idle

Cast: Eric Idle (Dirk McQuickly, Melvin Hall, Stanley J. Krammerhead III), John Halsley (Barry Wom), Ricky Fataar (Stig O'Hara), Neil Innes (Ron Nasty), Michael Palin (Eric Manchester, Rutle Corp. Press Agent/Lawyer), George Harrison (The Interviewer), Bianca Jagger (Martini McQuickly), John Belushi (Ron Decline), Dan Aykroyd (Brian Thigh), Gilda Radner (Mrs. Emily Pules), Bill Murray (Bill Murray the "K."), Gwen Taylor (Mrs. Iris Mountbatten, Chastity), Ron Wood (Hells Angel), Terence Bayler (Leggy Mountbatten), Henry Woolf (Arthur Sultan), Jeannette Charles (A Queen of England), Carinthia West (The Bigamy Sisters), Al Franken (Decline's Henchman), Lorne Michaels (Sleazy Merchandiser), Tom Davis (Decline's Henchman), Frank Williams (Archie Macaw) / As Themselves: Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Roger McGough

Can't Buy Me Lunch: Another Look at The Rutles

Video Premiere: March 1, 2005 / Running Time: 56 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Eric Idle

Cast: Eric Idle (Dirk McQuickly, Melvin Hall, Lady Beth Mouse-Paddle), Neil Innes (Ron Nasty), Ricky Fataar (Stig O'Hara), John Halsley (Barry Wom), Terence Baylor (Leggy Mountbatten), Mariela Comitini (Jennifer Lopez), Peter Crabbe (Police Officer), Jimmy Fallon (Melvin's Son), Tasha Goldthwaite (Rutles Fan), Samantha Harris (The Jogger), Lily Idle (Rutles Fan), Bianca Jagger (Martini McQuickly), Bill Murray (Bill Murray the K), Kevin Nealon (Kevin Wongle), Catherine O'Hara (Astro Glide), Jim Piddock (Troy Nixon), Gwen Taylor (Chastity), Carinthia West (Carinthia), Robin Williams (Hans Hänkie), Henry Woolf (Arthur Sultan) / As Themselves: Peter Asher, Clint Black, David Bowie, Billy Connolly, Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Mick Jagger, Jewel, Steve Martin, Graham Nash, Mike Nichols, Conan O'Brien, Bonnie Raitt, Salman Rushdie, Garry Shandling, Dave Stewart, James Taylor, Jann Wenner

All You Need Is Cash: 1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic); Can't Buy Me Lunch: 1.33:1 Fullscreen
BD: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), LPCM 2.0 (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Blu-ray Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-25 & 1 DVD-9) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Blu-ray Release Date: December 3, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.95
Also available in DVD Packaging
All You Need Is Cash previously released to DVD by Rhino (March 13, 2001)
Can't Buy Me Lunch previously released to DVD by Warner (March 1, 2005)

Buy The Rutles Anthology: Blu-ray + DVD at Amazon.com

Long before Dewey Cox and a few years before Spinal Tap, the rock mockumentary came into being with The Rutles in All You Need Is Cash,
a 1978 telemovie from Monty Python member Eric Idle. Idle wrote, co-directed, and stars in this film that expanded a concept introduced in a 1975 sketch on his BBC series "Rutland Weekend Television."

As you can probably guess from the cover art above, The Rutles are a straightforward parody of one of the most popular musical acts of the 20th century. Like The Beatles, The Rutles are comprised of four carefree young men from Liverpool, England. The band forms in the early 1960s and their simple lyrics and catchy melodies soon ignite the world, turning them into instant icons, idolized by men and adored by the opposite sex. Each Rutle (pronounced with a short u) is modeled after a Beatle. Creative leaders Paul McCartney and John Lennon are mirrored in Dirk McQuickly (Idle) and Ron Nasty (Rutles co-creator and lyricist Neil Innes). They're joined by the quiet Indian Stig O'Hara (Ricky Fataar), the George Harrison, and drummer Barry Wom (John Halsey), the answer to Ringo Starr.

The Queen of England (Jeannette Charles) meets the Rutles in a cramped scene from "The Rutles in All You Need Is Cash." The Rutles descend a staircase in style.

Documented by British narrator Melvin Hall (also Idle), The Rutles' career perfectly aligns with that of The Beatles. There's an influential appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show", a scandal involving a comparison to God, rumors that Dirk is dead, divisive romances, discord, and lawsuits. The album titles, the movies, and even the songs each refer to a specific one from the Beatles. Instead of A Hard Day's Night, the Rutles made A Hard Day's Rut. "Help!" becomes "Ouch!" The Beatles' psychedelic phase of LSD experimentation is matched by The Rutles' psychedelic phase of tea experimentation.

This satirical chronological documentary benefits from the input of real musicians and of early "Saturday Night Live" cast members. From the former group, Mick Jagger and Paul Simon remark on the band's importance. The latter group includes appearances from such iconic comedians as Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Gilda Radner. "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels executive-produced the movie, makes a cameo in it, and encouraged its creation when Idle brought Rutles clips from "Rutland Weekend" to his 1976 appearance on what was then just called "Saturday Night."

Though poorly received in its March 1978 US debut on NBC, drawing primetime's lowest ratings for the entire week, All You Need Is Cash found an audience in Idle's and the Beatles' native UK and has since come to be appreciated all around the globe. Like The Monkees, The Rutles were a fictional band conceived for television comedy, but wound up having some success as an actual band, performing the Innes-penned spoofs of Beatles songs in concerts and albums, even producing a couple of hit singles.

The Rutles' experimentation with tea produces some colorful results. Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger is among those celebrating The Rutles in "All You Need Is Cash."

All You Need Is Cash relies on one joke, believing that everything the Beatles have done is ripe for specific parody. It's kind of a flimsy premise to sustain a 73-minute feature and the comedy is clearly dated. Still, it is appealing material that succeeds on just how true Idle and company remain to the Beatles' story while poking fun at the band's extraordinary popularity. Though not every notion is comedy gold, there are a number of clever jokes throughout.
The presentation impresses, with Idle's narrator giving the feature an air of legitimacy that's complemented by the contributions of Jagger, who is very good at playing along with no trace of malice for The Rolling Stones' real-life peers.

Your enjoyment of this movie does hedge on if not complete appreciation for the Beatles then at least familiarity and knowledge of them. All You Need is an affecionate spoof that's not bitter about the band's break-up, envious of its success, or serious in the artistic judgment it passes on them. It's important to keep in mind when this was made. In 1978, Idle had just two film credits to his name with Monty Python and ...the Holy Grail was not yet sacred, the Beatles had been disbanded for a while and going their separate ways, and "Saturday Night Live" was far from an institution, then in only its third season. All those realities and the fact that John Lennon was still alive shape this movie into the harmless, enduring recreation as which it stands.

Idle maintained enough fondness for this work to revive the Rutles in 1996, shortly after the Beatles' popularity was reinforced with ABC documentaries, best-selling double albums, and a book. The Rutles Archaeology, the response to The Beatles Anthology, reunited the parody band for a new 16-track album. Then in the early 2000s, Idle wrote and directed Can't Buy Me Lunch: Another Look at The Rutles, an updated retrospective on the band which added new narrator segments and interviews to the original movie's footage of the band. A slightly redundant follow-up, which premiered on DVD in the US in March 2005, this special gathers a new generation of celebrities' thoughts on the Rutles, with reflections from admirers including Tom Hanks, Conan O'Brien, Garry Shandling, and Jewel, plus Billy Connolly, who's not a fan. Other comedians, like Robin Williams, Catherine O'Hara, and Jimmy Fallon, play characters with comments to share.

In "Can't Buy Me Lunch", Melvin's reports are repeatedly introduced by a younger journalist (Jimmy Fallon) who's discovered to be his illegitimate son. Tom Hanks fondly recalls The Rutles' triangular album, which he holds up in "Can't Buy Me Lunch."

Clearly a passion project for Idle, whose narrator travels the globe (often reporting from the wrong part of it),
this sequel drew less than enthusiastic reviews from critics and viewers while also creating a rift between Idle and Innes, who was not involved in its making.

All You Need Is Cash hits high definition today in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack fittingly titled The Rutles Anthology from Video Services Corp. Can't Buy Me Lunch is also included, but only on the DVD. Standard definition or not, I can think of no good reason for it to not appear on the Blu-ray Disc too.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On both Blu-ray and DVD, All You Need Is Cash is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, which does not appear to be its original aspect ratio. Compromised shots of album covers make it clear that those 16:9 screen-filling dimensions have been achieved by matting the top and bottom of the frame. That's never a good tact to take if the film wasn't shot or intended for exhibition that way. Some portions of the film are left in 1.33:1, with side bars questionably generated from the action to fill the 16:9 frame in a technique common in today's television programming. While most compositions don't seem to suffer from matting, one gets the sense that the visuals are more cramped than they should be.

The picture exhibits some wear and tear, some of it deliberate as it conveys the "age" of the archival footage. The reporter bits also have their limitations, which is typical for late-'70s television. In spite of some technical shortcomings, the Blu-ray likely surpasses Rhino's 2001 DVD transfer of the movie by a safe distance in quality, but is hampered by that misframing.

All You Need's Blu-ray lets you choose between a default 2.0 LPCM stereo mix and a full-fledged 5.1 DTS-HD master audio remix. I listened to the latter and found it better than expected. The song recordings are surprisingly crisp and full-bodied, while dialogue is usually easy to make out, even without consulting the English SDH subtitles kindly supplied.

The DVD-only Can't Buy Me Lunch upholds its 1.33:1 original aspect ratio and satisfies in the manner you'd expect millennial television/video to. It's not joined by subtitles (the DVD strangely opts for closed captioning instead) or a 5.1-channel remix.

A young Lorne Michaels introduces the Rutles in a 1970s Saturday Night (Live) clip. Brian Thigh (Dan Aykroyd) endures insults and coughs in this extended interview Easter egg.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The set's main new bonus feature is an audio commentary/interview over the first 45 minutes of All You Need is Cash by Eric Idle and VSC's founder Jonathan Gross. Idle recalls the decision to make the movie with Lorne Michaels in the US, reflects on the Rutles' inception, reveals The Beatles' reactions to the parody, and, avoiding the usual diplomacy,
angrily takes the lion's share of the credit, trivializing Neil Innes' musical contributions, angrily remembering Frank Rich's negative review, and taking pleasure in the fact that this lives on while the week's highly-rated "Charlie's Angels" episode does not. Idle also touches briefly on Can't Buy Me Lunch and his contributions to last year's Summer Olympics.

Beyond that and the aforementioned follow-up mockumentary that's limited to the DVD, both discs also include a vintage "Saturday Night Live" clip (4:55, SD) in which Lorne Michaels explains the show's attempt to get Idle and the Beatles to perform, a set-up to a clip from a "Rutland Weekend Television" sketch.

Each disc also includes an Easter egg, a clip of Idle's journalist interviewing a coughy recording manager played by Dan Aykroyd (1:28, SD), an extended version of a scene in the original movie.

"Can't Buy Me Lunch" and this trailer for it are both exclusive to the DVD. That random banana comes to take a seat on the rolling wheelchair in this fittingly busy DVD main menu modeled after The Beatles Anthology.

The DVD adds a trailer (1:20) for Can't Buy Me Lunch.

Both discs feature an animated main menu playing clips and then music in a torn-up portion of a wide rendering of the cover art as a wheelchair rolls by, ultimately transporting a partly-peeled banana. The Blu-ray doesn't support bookmarks or resume playback, unfortunately.

The eco-friendly Blu-ray case is topped by a very snug slipcover. The same two discs appear to be available in a DVD case as well, though that currently isn't as popular and therefore as discounted on Amazon.

The loss of a Rutle in this shot of the album cover of A Hard Day's Rut makes it pretty clear that "All You Need Is Cash" isn't meant to be seen in widescreen. Melvin Hall (Eric Idle) reports from Times Square and other locations around the globe in "Can't Buy Me Lunch."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Rutles are an interesting slice of pop culture, an intersection between the Beatles, Saturday Night Live, and Monty Python's Eric Idle. I've long wondered about All You Need Is Cash, one of the first and more obscure film credits of the legendary Bill Murray. I'm glad to have finally seen it, as it remains a witty mockumentary, albeit a dated one.

VSC's Blu-ray combo pack would be quite satisfactory, if not for an easily questioned aspect ratio and the decision to only include Can't Buy Me Lunch on the DVD. Those curious choices aren't enough to discourage a purchase as neither film will be getting a better release anytime soon, but they do make this set harder to recommend than it should be for fans of this parody project.

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Reviewed December 3, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1975-2004 Rutle Corps Productions, Above Average Productions, Broadway Video and 2013 Video Services Corp.
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