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The Rutles Anthology (Blu-ray Review)

The-Rutles-AnthologyIn 1978, the BBC aired a special from former Monty Python member, Eric Idle.  The special was a full on parody of The Beatles’ history.  Entitled The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, the film is a very specific and on the money parody of the famous supergroup.  Every big moment is accounted for.  Idle even has written a catalog of parody and alternate versions The Beatles’ classics.  It’s a very involved concept that works pretty well if you’re familiar with The Beatles work.  Hell, if you just watched The Beatles Anthology that aired in the 90s, you’ll probably understand everything that this film is offering up for you.  Its a silly offering that is plenty of fun if you’re the intended audience.  Its kind of surprising that this is making the leap to Blu-ray, but I have no qualms with that.  Let’s see how they did with the disc then, shall we?

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Film     

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash is pretty much a parody of The Beatles.  It’s a BBC special, told in a news documentary format.  It follows the career of the faux-Beatles group “The Rutles” from the beginning roots of their career to the very end.  There are many parodied songs and videos accompanying the story as well as a bunch of cameos in interviews to sail this thing along.

This project was the first big venture post-Monty Python for Eric Idle.  He’s all over this thing as different characters.  But there are also a lot of parody songs that work quite well.  The songs work in a way that isn’t so on the nose and completely obvious.  I think there’s brilliance to that.  He also brings along a lot of that Monty Python humor which I so very dearly love.

Many cameos are abounding throughout.  There are musicians such as Mick Jagger and Paul Simon.  Many early days SNL players show up too.  Billy Murray, Jon Belushi and Dan Akroyd play small parts.  Its interesting as SNL was very fresh back then.  Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin also steps in for a second.  And in a little bit of fun, George Harrison shows up in disguise for a moment.

Not present on the Blu-ray, is the follow up film called Can’t Buy Me Lunch: Another Look At The Rutles.   And I can see why.  Its basically the original film repackaged but this time taking a more talking heads commentary approach.  It has people such as Conan O’Brian, David Bowie, Steve Martin, Tom Hanks, Bonnie Raitt and many many others talking about their influence and personal anecdotes on their history.  Like I said, this is the first film in a shiny new package.

I don’t know how effective, or how big an audience this film could really attract in the present day.  Beatles fanatics and people who have lived through The Beatle-mania era and just know the story from experience will sure find enjoyment in it.  Monty Python fans should have fun with it too.  But this mocumentary is so specific and parodies exact events in history, it could be lost on a young uninformed audience.  Originally, I think this film probably would play as a hit for general audiences.  However, being 50 years removed since The Beatles first album and kids on Twitter claiming “Who da f*** is Paul McCartney” just a few years ago (yes, it did happen, and no it’s not a crime against humanity), we are too distant in pop culture for this to be fully effective.  So, it becomes a very niche film.  Luckily I fit that niche and was able to have a good time.

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Video     

The Rutles Anthology is presented in a rather dated looking 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoding.  I think this look actually plays to its advantage.  There is truly no post production tinkering done here.  There’s plenty of grain, scratches, specs and dirt all over this print.  Why I say it works is that it truly looks and feels like a product of the time it was released.  The film actually dabbles in different types of video formats throughout so I’m thinking maybe it’s by intention that a lot of it looks like this.  Bear with me youngsters, but people familiar with this era and growing up seeing news clips and documentaries of this era being on TV or in school at this time will understand and probably embrace the look.

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Audio     

The only lossless track on this release is a Stereo Linear PCM track.  Its pretty damn good too, considering how dated the source could have sounded.  All the dialogue and music is clean and clear.  There is no sign of wear and dating to it at all.  All the songs sound pretty good and crisp.  This is a rather impressive track that definitely enhances and makes this release.  A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also provided for a surround, but the PCM track sounds plenty better, so go with that.

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Extras     

Also included in this release is a DVD copy of the film.  The DVD has an additional feature Can’t Buy Me Lunch, which as I’ve said before features some newly shot footage with Idle and has a lot of celebrity interviews, but is really a repackaged version of the original film.

Commentary/Interview With Eric Idle – A new commentary that has Jonathan Gross interviewing Eric Idle.  It works as both a Q&A and Commentary track.  Its information, always stays interesting and is pretty fun.

SNL Rutland Weekend Television Sketch (HD, 4:55) – A vintage SNL sketch that featured clips from All You Need Is Cash.

Brian Thigh *Easter Egg* (HD, 1:28) – An uncut extended look at the interview with Dan Akroyd as producer Brian Thigh.

“Can’t Buy Me Lunch” Trailer (SD, 1:20) – DVD Disc Only

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Summary     

As a Beatles fan I had a pretty good enjoyment of All You Need Is Cash.  Who wouldn’t get a good chuckle out of “Ouch”?  However, I do think the importance and public conscience of this is definitely past its relevance.  So what was once a general comedy now because very “inside baseball” mind you.  If you’re a Beatles fan, you should definitely have it in your collection or upgrade to this Blu-ray.  If you’re a Monty Python fan, you may also get enjoyment out of it.  Luckily, I’m both.  But if you’re not, you probably won’t see what the big deal is or laugh very much at all.  So, a recommend for those who enjoy the source of humor and what is being riffed.


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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “The Rutles Anthology (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    I’m not sure how, but I have never heard of this one before. 🙁

  2. Brian Curtis

    FYI, the songs were written by Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog Band) who also played the Lennon character “Ron Nasty” in The Rutles. Innes worked with Idle on a British TV series in the mid-70s (post-Python) titled Rutland Weekend Television, and the original version of The Rutles was born in an episode of that series. The clip of The Rutles from that show was shown on Saturday Night Live during an Idle-hosted episode, and received enough attention that Lorne Michaels thought a full-length show would be worthwhile to produce, and he got NBC to pony up a budget.