It was 56 years ago today (July 29th, 1965) that the Beatles' second film Help! had its world premiere at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus. The movie, which poked fun at the burgeoning British spy film genre made famous by the James Bond films, featured the comedic plot of a group of far-eastern fundamentalists trying to retrieve a “sacrificial ring” that a member of their congregation had sent to Ringo Starr in a fan letter.
In the film, the Beatles are chased through London, the Austrian Alps, and the Bahamas by both the religious cult and a pair of bumbling scientists who are convinced that possessing the ring would enable them to rule the world. Help! not only heavily influenced the TV show The Monkees, which debuted the following year, but also helped pave the way for MTV with its clever use of separate song clips throughout the movie.
John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970 that it was Richard Lester, who had also directed the group's first movie A Hard Day's Night, who had complete control of the film. Lennon recalled, “The movie was out of our control. With A Hard Day's Night, we had a lot of input, and it was semi-realistic. I realize now that (Help!) was a precursor to Batman's 'Pow!' Wow!' But Dick Lester never explained that to us.” Lennon said in that same interview that he and the rest of the group, “Felt like extras in our own film.” He also admitted that the group's performance was less than spectacular, due in part to them “smoking marijuana for breakfast.”