After a last-minute recall earlier this year, Disney has finally released the 3-part mini-series The Beatles: Get Back on Blu-ray.
The Production: 4.5/5
At the end of 1966, The Beatles announced they would stop touring or perform live, instead concentrating on more experimental music and films such as Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine, and taking control of their careers by creating their own multi-media company, Apple Corps. In January 1969, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had planned to shoot a television special at Twickenham Studios in London, performing new material from their new album in front of a live studio audience. Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired to direct and shoot the rehearsals, which would be incorporated into the TV special. The group jammed for several weeks, coming up with the material for the album and special, but never having a clear vision for what the special would be, as they wanted it to be more than just a “concert film.” Over that time, some 60 hours of film had been shot and over 150 hours of audio were recorded. With the TV special a bust, the footage was originally edited into the film and final album Let It Be in 1970. That film did not paint a favorable picture of the band, which focused more on the tensions between the band members. The film has been out of print for decades, having only been released to the home market on video cassette and Laserdisc by Magnetic Video in the early 1980s.
Fast forward 50 years, and director Peter Jackson is given the opportunity to assemble a new documentary from that 60 hours of film footage and 150 hours of audio recordings. Originally intended to be a theatrical feature, The Beatles: Get Back would eventually become a three-part mini-series (totaling 7 hours, 48 minutes) for the Disney+ streaming service. Jackson scanned and restored the original 16mm footage, synching it up with the restored audio, and the result is an intimate portrait of four guys from Liverpool jamming together, creating new music (much of it later appearing on their own solo albums), and mostly having a great time together despite the ups and downs of trying to also come up with a concept behind the proposed TV special and dealing with the egos of their bandmates. The Beatles: Get Back is a much more positive look at the final days of one of the most popular and influential music groups of all time.
3D Rating: NA
There are a few things one needs to keep in mind prior to watching this 3-part documentary. The footage was shot on 16mm film over 50 years ago with the original intention of it appearing on television screens in 1969, which were around 19-20 inches at their largest at the time, and fairly low resolution. When viewing a documentary that relies nearly entirely on archival footage, which Get Back definitely does, one should be more forgiving. Yes, director Peter Jackson has indeed scrubbed nearly all of the film grain from the original 16mm footage, and at times the image does appear somewhat smeared with compromised fine details. The late 1960s/early 1970s pastel color scheme comes across with limited vibrancy, but again, 16mm film stock doesn’t have the resolution or color depth that 35mm or modern HD or 4K video has. Peter Jackson has done the best he can to make this more watchable for the general masses, many who are turned off by overly grainy images, which I am sure the original footage had. Most fans are not watching Get Back for the visual imagery of a band jamming for nearly eight hours, they are watching for the drama and interaction of the band members.
The Beatles: Get Back had originally been planned for a February 2022 release, and less than a week before the planned street date, Disney recalled all copies from retailers and requested that all review copies be shelved. The reason for the last-minute recall was never really clear from the studio, other than it was an audio issue. Comparing the originally pressed Blu-rays to this final release, the difference is that the recalled discs lacked a 7.1 uncompressed PCM track. Interestingly, though, when comparing the file sizes of each disc, they are nearly identical between the two pressings. Even more interesting, when I first inserted disc one from this final release, my player asked me if I wanted to pick up from where I had left off.
That all being said, viewers have essentially four audio options on this release: a default Dolby Atmos (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), 7.1 uncompressed PCM, 2.0 stereo uncompressed PCM, and 2.0 stereo Descriptive Audio in Dolby Digital compressed at 320 Kbps. Regardless of which track is chosen, this is a fairly front-heavy presentation. Surrounds do get some reverb on the Atmos and 7.1 mixes, with even more bleed in the surrounds on the 2.0 PCM track. The Dolby Atmos track is possibly the weakest, sounding flat when compared to the 7.1 track, which has more breathing room and a wider front stage. In fact, the Atmos track seems to contain no height information whatsoever, the speakers virtually silent throughout. So, the lack of a 7.1 uncompressed track on that original release makes sense for the recall to have occurred.
Special Features: 0.5/5
This is the major disappointment in this release, as there are no video supplements (not even a stand alone version of the rooftop concert that was released to IMAX theaters last spring, which included recent interviews with Jackson and some of the police and people on the street at the time). The online featurette on restoring the footage wasn’t included, either. What we do get is a digibook case with candid photos taken during the original shoot, as well as a set of four 6.5×5 photos, one for each band member.
Fans of The Beatles will eat this up, and it is nice to see Disney give one of their Disney+ exclusives get a physical media release. But fans deserve more than just a bare-bones release.
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