Synopsis: Songwriter Seth Swirsky grew up idolizing the Beatles. He set out, video camera in hand, to talk to people who had crossed paths with his musical heroes. From Sir Ben Kingsley to Sir George Martin, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson to astronomer Brian Skiff, Swirsky filmed hundreds of personal recollections from people who knew them well to those who just had an unforgettable encounter. Longtime Beatles friend and personal assistant Tony Bramwell calls Beatles Stores, “A Magical Mystery Tour De Force!” Available 10/2/12 on DVD and VOD from www.CinemaLibreStudio.com
Beatles Stories is exactly what it’s titled, a series of interviews with folks (mostly celebrities) who either knew or crossed paths with the “Fab Four” and are sharing their Beatles stories with lifelong Beatles fan, director Seth Swirsky. I know there’s plenty of people who love documentaries and will watch them even if they aren’t particularly interested in the subject matter. This isn’t really one of those. If you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll enjoy hearing all of these stories and learning some stuff that you didn’t already know. If you could care less about the Beatles, there’s not a lot here that will hold your attention.
And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. This is a documentary made by a passionate, lifelong Beatles fan and it is for other Beatles fans.
I’m not going to go into detail talking about the stories presented themselves, as that’s best left hearing for yourself by watching the DVD. There is a bunch of stories presented here though from some people you will know and some you likely won’t know. Some highlights, for me, include Henry Winkler talking about meeting Paul McCartney (the Fonz and a Beatle in the same place at the same time), Davey Jones (from The Monkees) on sharing the stage with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan’s show, and Graham Nash speaking about the “All You Need Is Love” live satellite broadcast special in 1967. I also enjoyed seeing Peter Noone, as I always got a kick out of his (Herman’s Hermit’s) song “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”
Other notable people appearing in Beatles Stories include Jon Voight, Art Garfunkel, Smokey Robinson, Sin Ben Kingsley, Brian Wilson, Sir George Martin, Bob Eubanks, Frank Gifford, Bernie Williams, and Luci Baines Johnson (daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson).
The audio and video quality of the DVD is good. You’re not going to have any trouble hearing any of the interviewees tell their story, and Seth does a good job behind the camera. The editing is also pretty good. There are not many instances of the slightly less interesting stories taking up a lot of time, which is certainly a plus for this kind of documentary.
Beatles Stories DVD is packing quite a few extras. Included is the theatrical trailer, an extended interview with Norman Smith (talking about the Beatles recording albums and his interaction with them while in the studio), and director’s commentary from Seth Swirsky who commentates on how he met and shot the various scenes in the film. The commentary also provides info on how Seth went from one story to the next. The commentary track is actually worth listening too.
The big DVD extra though is over 30 minutes of additional “Bonus Stories.” The bonus stories come from an additional 16 folks, including Denny Doherty (Mama’s and the Papa’s), Felix Cavaliere (The Rascal’s), Andrew Gold, and Paul Tennant. Again, these bonus stories are also worth watching, particularly if you end up enjoying the main 85 minute documentary.
For fans of the Beatles, this is a must have documentary. Fab Four fanatics will of course enjoy it more than most because they will have a deeper appreciation for the stories told. It really is a labor of love from a diehard Beatles fan, so it naturally makes sense that those who will appreciate the documentary the most will be other diehard Beatles fans. Likewise, if you despise the Beatles for some reason or are simply too young to care, there isn’t much that will appeal to you. Non-Beatles fans will likely have something better to do for 85 minutes than listen to people talk about how much the Beatles influenced them or what it was like when they met a Beatle, and that’s completely understandable.
Beatles fan or not though, this is still a good DVD release. I’m giving it three stars out of five, which makes it an easy recommendation for fans of documentaries (Beatles fans don’t really need a recommendation, it’s a must have for their collection.) Beatles Stories is available beginning today, October 2nd, on DVD and VOD. You can purchase it from Amazon for $16.99, although it is already temporarily out of stock there.
* DVD provided by Cinema Libre Studio for review.