Magical Mystery Tour Revisited
About the Film

Songs you’ll never forget, the film you’ve never seen and a story that’s never been told. In August 1967, in the wake of the extraordinary impact of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles made a film. It was seen in the U.K. by a huge audience, at 8.35 p.m. on BBC One on Britain’s Boxing Day…and all hell broke loose.

The story behind that film – Magical Mystery Tour – is revealed on Magical Mystery Tour Revisited on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances, Friday, December 14 at 9 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings).

Watch a preview:

Magical Mystery Tour was chock-full of thinly veiled references to psychedelia, anarchy and fantasy, all in the setting of a traditional British sightseeing bus outing to the seaside. This was a far cry from the innocent loveable mop-top japery of Help! and A Hard Day’s Night.

Middle Britain had tuned in but was a long way from turning on and dropping out – the nation was baffled and outraged by the film’s unexpected and uncompromising surreal, non-linear narrative. Paul McCartney appeared on The Frost Programme on rival ITV the day after transmission. He was called upon to account for himself and the rest of the group.

Could it be that a pearl was cast before swine and then thrown away? To its small band of admirers, it was a masterpiece of surreal British wit and imagination in the tradition of The Goons and Alice in Wonderland.

Now with the film fully restored to the highest technical standard with a remixed soundtrack, it’s time to tell the extraordinary story of Magical Mystery Tour: why it was made, how it was made and the circumstances in which it was made. In the summer of 1967, The Beatles had the world at their feet. It’s impossible to overestimate the effect of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; that was revolutionary too but everyone loved it. In August, Brian Epstein tragically died, leaving the Beatles not only without a manager, but without their ambassador. They decided to go ahead with the film they’d been planning.

To tell the story, this film calls on those who were there, most notably Paul McCartney, who had the original idea, and Ringo Starr, who is credited as the director of photography. John Lennon and George Harrison are represented through interviews over the years and through their appearances in the film itself and in the copious and fascinating outtakes.

Line producer Gavrik Losey and cameraman Michael Seresin evoke the heady atmosphere of the shoot, along with Jeni Crowley and Sylvia Nightingale who, as teenagers, reported from the coach for The Beatles’ Fan Club magazine. Paul Fox, then controller of BBC One, recalls making the deal with The Beatles for the film. Also sharing their reminiscences are Peter Fonda, Paul Gambaccini, Terry Gilliam, Neil Innes, Paul Merton, Barry Miles, Annie Nightingale and Martin Scorsese.

Finally, this is a chance for the film’s admirers to have their say; its detractors have been given plenty of opportunities to have theirs. It provides a chance to evoke 1967 as it was – post-war Britain as much as the summer of love, when a new set of artists with The Beatles at the helm came up with an alchemy that turned the ordinary and the commonplace into the magical and mysterious.

Magical Mystery Tour Revisited was filmed and directed by Francis Hanly; Jonathan Clyde is producer; Anthony Wall is executive producer for BBC; and Jeff Jones is executive producer for Apple. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer, and David Horn is executive producer.

Major funding for the Great Performances telecast is provided by the Irene Diamond Fund, The Starr Foundation, Vivian Milstein, The Agnes Varis Trust, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, and public television viewers.

  • Cami Storey

    Wish it was gonna be on earlier. I have cable in Booneville Mississippi. And it won’t be on until 2 a.m.

  • Daveedgeguitar

    Probably a good idea to dvr/tape this on then. Hope you get to see it!

  • Stacey

    Not even going to be on in Minnesota until the end of December! =o( What the heck? Why wait that long? Show it SOONER! Please?!?!

  • Candy

    For some reason, I’m sure I saw it back in the early 70s. Could be I’m nuts! Or not!

  • Alfredo

    Saw it in 1975 or 76 maybe 74 not sure the year I was in elementary school my brother some friends and me would go to the movies on weekends that was are big exiting thing to do go down town (San Diego, California) get out of the Barrio (Logan Heights) for a couple of hours “funny” because at the time down town San Diego was full of peep shows, live and not, pussy cat theater’s,working girls, it was a real NAVY town I think the theater was The FOX theater we did not understand much of the movie but we liked the songs I think it was Fool on the hill, strawberry fields, of course the title song at the time we where disappointed with the plot but the music was great to see the Beatles singing up on the big screen was cool to us kids.

  • Rick

    I watched this “making of” about a month ago when the film was re-released. I liked it alot and plan to record it on my DVR so I can watch it a few times more. This is not the actual movie they are playing. It is a “making of” Magical Mystery tour. If you want to watch the actual film “The Magical Mystery Tour” you will have to purchase it (got mine at Amazon) or maybe you could rent it somewhere.

  • Glass Onion

    Re-release Let It Be!

  • John

    Let it Be is out there to be seen if you really want it. I just watched the first 15 or 20 min. the other day and had to stop. Really sad and hard to watch and listen to. It’s no wonder that Geoff Emerick walked away by then. If I had the rights to that film, I’d think twice about officially putting it out there. Some things need to stay private–The Let It Be sessions among them.

  • Jeff

    Let It Be still haunts me to this day, the way that no other Beatles film ever did. I was glad to have seen it, but not sure I would want to see it again. Very painful. Even the last scene on the roof top was without joy. It was all truly over by then, and like any relationship at its end, no one really wanted to or could reconcile the differences.

  • Andrew Connors

    I’m saw it around early 70s and I’ll vouch for you.

  • Ken

    “The Magical Mystery Tour” actual film will air following “The Making of”, at 10pm EST.

  • backbaconnbeer

    Magical Mystery Tour was originally shown in Black & White on BBC and received terrible reviews. It was shown again on BBC in colour to better reviews. When it was shown in North America it received mixed reviews. It has gathered a cult following. It’s a homemade movie with no real plot outline. Whatever The Beatles thought of was filmed (Fool On The Hill was Paul’s idea. He flew to France and was filmed on top of a hill. Then he ran into problems-he forgot his passport!). Bonzo Dog Band who were filmed in the stripclub scene had future members of Monty Python. The following year Paul produced a song for the Bonzo Dog Band-”Urban Spaceman”…For the “Paul Is Dead” people-watch for all kinds of clues to Paul’s death (examples: During Your Mother Should Know Paul is the only Beatle with a black carnation and Paul is dressed as an officer sits behind a desk with the words I WAS on it).

  • Bob Oregon

    I seen the blu-ray DVD for Magical Mystery Tour at Target a week ago. It was $19.99. I should of bought it but didn’t. I have never seen it but have heard bad and good. Sounds like it is a bit distracted but the music is good, as usual.


  • Howard Rosen

    Why don’t I see it listed for WTVS Detroit?

  • R S Knox

    Baking a beautiful cake can be messy. I feel like seeing the mess is part of the journey. Mozarts mess ,Picasso mess ,Hemingway s mess??? no he hid it… Thomas Jefferson????…. Denial is a river in Egypt??? Sorry if its a bit romantic, but, studing the Masters… all of it

  • DCDan

    I disagree. The rooftop concert is a blast. The Beatles play superbly and all seem to be enjoying themselves in spite of the acrimony. Also, don’t think it’s completely accurate to claim “it was all truly over by then.” After all there was that little thing called, ahem, Abbey Road recorded after Let It Be was shot.

  • Charles

    Will the wide-screen version be made available here?

    Unfortunately, the two PBS majors available to me on Dish satellite in Western North Carolina, UNCTV and SCETV, North and South Carolina respectively, still do not broadcast in 16:9 widescreen format on their primary OTA channel. UNCTV does broadcast in widescreen on it’s sub-channel, UNCEX, which is part of my satellite package. UNCTV has been showing Great Performances on the UNCEX sub-channel, for which I was happy for the broadcast of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. However, this program has not shown up, yet, in my Dish schedule on UNCEX, just the non-widescreen 4:3 signal UNCTV and SCETV primaries.

    I don’t understand why any PBS OTA primary channel is still broadcasting a 4:3 signal ten years after PBS programs have been produced in widescreen format. For example, Nature or NOVA, now produced in widescreen but broadcast in 4:3 cuts off the right and left edges, cutting off
    the information chirons (sp?) or subtitles like foreign language translations. And if they are broadcasting a 4:3 signal then letterbox a widescreen product within the 4:3 signal.

    Now, I know you, THIRTEEN, are not PBS specifically but I believe you are part of the PBS network family. I believe THIRTEEN is derived from the original OTA broadcast channel 13 WNET for the NYC PBS station, like WLIW is channel 21 PBS Long Island. Same as I remember channel 8 KUHT PBS Houston growing up there and Los Angeles area stations on a UHF channel from earlier and later years.

    I also understand the ‘network’ is comprised of affiliates, independents and regional or metro content-sharing arrangements. Nevertheless, I would hope that you would be interested in the broadcast quality of your product over the whole network nationwide and the satisfaction of viewers nationwide.

  • John Lennon Uber Fan

    I want the Shea Stadium Concert to be re-released on DVD,

    Also, Let it Be DVD is coming out at some point – maybe next year?

  • brian mullins tazewell VA

    I Totally Agree With You, As A Major Beatle Nut, The Rooftop Concert Seemed To Be A Joyous Occasion For The Beatles To Play

  • superbee

    i disagree with those who say that the movie let it be should remain a lost classic and it’s too ‘”painful” too watch, it’s all part of the beatles history and nothing will change it, i love to see the footage of the beatles at that point in their lives and the footage of them jamming is priceless, yes it’s more than sad to realize that there were arguments and unhappyness, but that’s the way it was and you got to see it. Apple Ought to release it for there are so many that would snatch it up as soon as it hit the shelves, and as far as other releases like the shea stadium concert, that would be great but the beatles concerts were so short that the dvd would only last 30 minutes. i would like to see the concert’s bundled together like the tokyo concerts and the austrailan concerts along with shea presented on dvd in order of first show to last showing the progression of the group in concert

  • John Kaufman

    The thing about Magical Mystery Tour is it should be seen in the context of its times. The Beatles, like many of their generation in Europe, were well aware of the surrealist comedy of The Goons, featuring Spike Milligan, Harry Seacomb, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers. The Goons,were an antecedent and principle influence on Monty Python. At the same time, they were well aware of the British Music Hall tradition from which sprang comediians like Benny Hill. Along with British and American movies, The Fab Four also saw and enjoyed the movies of the “nouvelle vague” or French New Wave with directors like Truffaut, Goddard Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette From Italy came the visionary Federico Fellini and Michaelangelo Antonioni with their non linear films. Abstract expressionist painters like Rothko, Motherwell and Pollock were creating work that broke rules and stretched boundaries. All of this varied creativity found its way into the Beatles consciiousness. Magical Mystery Tour, unlike Hard Days Night or Help, has no carefully thought out story. It’s a collection of sketches and songs.Taken on its own terms, I think its delightful.

  • Wakakanada

    Let It Be is my favourite film and record. It shows the true genius of the Beatle collaboration…yes so much pain, but it’s like the end of any great love story you can still see the love and the spark that made it so special even though everyone knows on one level or another that it is really over…just not over today…then like a great boxer who comes up from the canvas to throw one last knockout punch, or the one last great “make up sex” before the end, the produce Abbey Road. Well done lads, and thank you for sharing. I feel privileged that, as Lennon once said, they showed us the magical four with “their pants down”. And it was beautiful.

  • wayneoclock

    HELP! I NEED SOMEBODY!! I am not finding a listing for Friday evening December 14th. I am in San Diego. Does anyone one in San Diego know when or were or IF !!!??? I have Directv if that helps.

  • William Bell

    Magical Mystery Tour the movie is more a piece of art than a cohesive film. It is obviously what The Beatles wanted to make. Had they wanted another 1-2-3 type film such as Hard Day’s Night or Help they could have easily found writers to construct something around such classics as the title cut, Walrus, Your Mother Should Know, etc. Instead, they challenged us with something different, difficult to find meaning in, and surreal. They were growing up and so were we. It is a pretty film, the songs are great,and the Beatles’ money machine is creaking out one of its last treasures.

  • Henry Paredes

    That whole timeframe was the tour bus, and the music poetry, was the sound track for all of us who heard the music, coming out of the clouds. We followed them then didn’t we? The strumming beat beating lads of a time gone by. It wasn’t planned, it was a happening in true Beatle fashion. Wasn’t it? Just for the fun of it. Pie in the sky with ryamonds. Did I just channel Lennon?

  • ayesijuan

    I remember seeing it at a midnight show in Seatle in the 1979 with Woodstock, man my butt hurt after 4 1/2 hours. I’ve had the album since 1969 when I was 11.

  • Seeks4Vasudeva

    I don’t have TV — is there any way to stream it? Will it be available on PBS site to watch at a later date?

  • David

    I will watch it mainly for the music and a look at the history. I am a great Beatles fan and not really sure why I have never seen it. I must have been influenced by the bad reviews. It will be fun to see what I missed or not.

  • Tery

    Why are you pre-empting this scheduled program with a hockey game?

  • Olivia

    Just got done watching it, i loved it!

  • bibi

    FANTASTIC!!! Looked and sounds terrific. Magical Mystery Tour Revisited was a wonderful introduction and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Luved seeing all the footage that was totally new to me.


    Cami…..order the $20.00 DVD from PBS


    Amazon has it !! Just bought it


    Just bought it on Amazon

  • Joel

    Is there another airing scheduled and when?

  • Paula

    I want to buy the DVD. I’m trying to buy the DVD! Why can’t I find the DVD to buy it!? :-)

    Can you send the link this item so I can order it? I hope to have it for christmas… dang it!


  • Johanna Clearfield

    Nobody seemed to make the connection between This “home movie” and Ken Kesey’s “Magic Bus” Which happened in 1964 and resembled almost identically the psychedelic tour bus in the Mystery Tour.

    While Paul McCartney was almost too modest about the importance of this film, I saw shades of Jon Waters, David Lynch and many independent films that were considered ground-breaking made during the 70s and 80s. Look at the resemblance between MMT and the acid-trip scene in Easy Rider – the same over-exposed light, the same quick jump cuts from one scene to another (although the Beatles had less tech to help them with those cuts) – there are traces of the Rocky Horror Show and more than all of this – Monty Python’s entire blockbuster comedy programming resembled this “home movie” in so many ways my head hurts. Paul McCartney needs to wake up and smell the spaghetti — their little film was nothing less than brilliant. @johannaclear @paulmccartney

  • Johanna Clearfield

    Exactly. And, actually, don’t know if you heard but apparently Eric Idle has always been referred to – affectionately by the Fab 4 — as “The Fifth Beatle”

  • glenn hoddle

    Good show that explains a terrible movie that lacked any organization or planning. The music was brilliant. Great use of just every day ideas and imagery in lyrics. The freelance effort, is just crap. It similar to the music video craze of the 1980’s, when every hit song had to have a companion video. The Beatles could do no wrong till that point in time. I think the drugs finally started to catching up with them along with their boredom of just being an internationally famous pop act. If you take it for what it is, which is just a few drug induced vignettes about middle class English life in the 50’s/60’s than it makes “sense”. Enjoy this well put together show with interesting interviews from all of the Beatles and a few participants. Imagine how cool it was to have been a fan club member suddenly sucked into a few days on a bus with your favourite group. The only thing lacking was interviews with some of the performers who got sucked into this odd ball production.

  • William

    Lived in Alaska in the 60’s so we were pretty cut off from much of the current goings on in the world as a whole, still trying to get over the earthquake and all. The Beatles came thru Anchorage International Airport and set the place on it’s ear just being there.
    Watched it again after the 1st time seeing it in San Francisco while in the Navy, only gets better and yes the references are there to whose surprise and it’s life as it was then. Simply Great! Trip On…

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.