Saturday, 26 July 2008

Let It Be

LET IT BE (1970)

The Let It Be movie
is probably the most accessible Beatles DVD in the world, even though it was only released to the home video market for a short while.

Here's the timeline of events regarding the release of Let It Be for the home video market:

In 1981, the movie Let It Be was released to the home video market through 20th Century Fox and Magnetic Video Corporation (MCA). It was first issued on VHS and Betamax, next on laserdisc, and finally, RCA secured the rights to release it for their CED* (Capacitance Electronic Disc System) "Videodisc" format. The latter format failed miserably due to poor quality discs, which always skipped, and the players which had a very high failure rate. All of the issues of Let It Be went out of print within a couple of years.

Laser Videodisc (USA)

On a personal note, I remember coming across a VHS cassette of Let It Be here in Oslo, Norway around 1981. It was in a video rental shop, but it always seemed to be out whenever I asked for it. One day it disappeared, and the owner of the store told me that one customer had paid a ridiculous sum of money for their copy.

VHS video cassette (USA)
In 1983, "Let It Be" was shown on TV in parts of West Germany, and a VHS cassette of "Let It Be" was officially released by Warner Home Video the year after, both in Germany and Holland. This edition of the film was from a 16mm print, which showed a bigger picture than the pan-and-scanned US editions. The cassette was available at first as a rent-a-video, later as a retail video for a the then very pricey sum of around 100 Deutsche Mark (DM). The VHS was withdrawn from the German market after only a few months, due to legal rights problems between Warner/UA Home Home Video & Apple.
German video cassette edition.


Betamax Video cassette (Holland)


Note that the US release was a pan and scan of the 4:3 adaption of the widescreen theatrical release on 35mm film (and from a print with a distinct yellow hue), whereas BBC showed the full widescreen version. German TV seems to have gotten hold of the original made-for-tv 16mm version, where a bigger frame allows you to see more of the picture.

As the 80's went on, I managed to secure a video cassette taped from the final televised version in the UK of the film in May 1982. The 80's went over into the nineties without anything happening.

End credit from Furmanek's 1992 restoration of the film.
In 1992, Ron Furmanek restored the film and remastered it's soundtrack oh behalf of Apple Corps. The original film had always been in mono, but whenever 8-tracks where available, Furmanek mixed it to stereo. His version of the film was shelved indefinitely by Apple, except that in 1997 the company "VCI", announced plans to issue the movie for the home video market for the first time in the UK. They were referring to Furmanek's restored and remastered edition from 1992 and announced that they would release it in 1997. It never happened. In 2016, bootleg company HMC got hold of this copy of the film and released it on DVD in NTSC and an aspect ratio of 4:3.

In an interview with USA Today in March 2002, Paul McCartney told writer Edna Gunderson that a reissue of "Let It Be" seems to be finally moving forward. "We're cleaning up the film and going back to the original tape, before (producer) Phil Spector got hold of it," he said. Of course, only the first part of that sentence referred to the film, the rest was about the album.

In April 2002, This Is London reported that Apple is on the verge of re-releasing "Let It Be" on video, though the article mistakenly says "for the first time." (which is only true for the UK, but as we have documented, it was released in at least three other countries). Author Keith Badman told This Is London, "Apple has done an amazing job of cleaning up the picture quality. John and George hated the film, which is why it's been hidden away all these years. Lennon used to describe it as 'a project set up by Paul, for Paul'." There have been rumors through the years that it was George's dislike of the film that kept the film from being re-released. An Apple spokesman, asked about a possible re-release, said, "There has been no release date arranged. It is all up in the air and I can't say anything more at this stage".


Later on that month, McCartney talked to the Newark Star-Ledger about the film: "I happened to be on a plane about a year ago, and I met the director of the film, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and he said, "Every time I go into a video store in L.A., all the guys say, 'When are you going to release "Let It Be" (on video)?'" I said, "Isn't it out?" 'Cause you know, I don't know all that stuff. He said no. So I mentioned it to (a business associate), and I said, "You know what would be really cool? If we put the naked version of the record out as well." So that is actually getting worked on at the moment. It's not (officially) announced or anything yet, but that's what's in the pipeline."

When the release date for the "Let It Be…Naked" album was there, the film restoration project was still far from finished, so the DVD project was delayed.

After the release of the new "Let It Be...Naked" album, and no sight of the DVD, the film's director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg had this to say:
Q: So why wasn't a Let It Be DVD released alongside "Naked"?
Michael Lindsay-Hogg: The idea, as far as I know, is to put out two DVDs sometime in 2004, one of which will be the movie Let It Be with the print restored and the sound mixed to current standards. And then a companion DVD with interviews and extra material from anyone who had anything pertinent to say, one of them being myself.

Again, this didn't happen. In June 2004, details of a 3 disc 5.1 special edition of Let It Be was leaked to the internet, in the shape of this anonymous review, originally posted in the rec.music.beatles google group:


I was lucky enough last week to accompany my brother to a special editing session for a new Let It Be promo DVD he was assembling in a Los Angeles editing suite last week (he didn't actually work on the forthcoming DVD release).
Anyway, I was lucky enough to be able to spend several hours watching the nearly final product and combing through a bunch of production notes.
The film and features I watched were on a hard drive so I have no idea what the actual discs or the DVD packaging will look like, sorry. Some of the footage was still silent and not all of the options I clicked on worked, but here's a very rough preview. It's apparently not due until March 2005 so it may still change.

"LET IT BE" SE - DVD - EARLY EXCLUSIVE REPORT!!!!
A THREE disc 5.1 special edition" with extra features to be followed by a single "plain vanilla" disc 6 months later.

The special edition features all the original film footage that was used in the original 1970 theatrical release of Let It Be spread over the first 2 discs (Disc 1 is entitled Twickenham and Disc 2 Apple). Over 79 minutes in total of previously unseen footage has been added into both discs. An optional on-screen apple logo is available that pops up in the screen corner whenever "new" material appears, but there is no branching option that allows you to either select the new footage or the original footage.

The Octopus's Garden sequence has been almost doubled. Entirely new rehearsal sequences have been added for Something, I Lost My Little Girl, All Things Must Pass, She Came In Thru The Bathroom Window, Plain Yoko Jam, Fancy My Chances With You, Rock'n'Roll Music, Blues Aren't For Ringo, Isn't It A Pity and more. More footage of George Harrison.

Both discs apparently feature an audio commentary by The Beatles with Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman (all culled from audio recordings made during the sessions). This didn't work yet on the demo.

The third disc features even more bonus material including:

AS NATURE INTENDED: 34 minute documentary on the Let It Be sessions, includes new interviews with George Martin, Billy Preston and Michael Lindsay Hogg, as well as archive interviews with John Lennon and George, Paul and Ringo interviews from the Anthology series (including a few snippets not seen before).

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
: A collection of rare footage of The Beatles recording in the studio (none of this is "Let It Be" era material). The footage listed includes And I Love Her, Paperback Writer, Rain, All You Need Is Love, Hey Bulldog, Lady Madonna, Helter Skelter, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Blackbird, Tutti Frutti, Hey Jude (this track alone went for 20 minutes), St Louis Blues.
ACROSS TO ABBEY ROAD: The Abbey Road album tracks of Oh Darling, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Something and Maxwell's Silver Hammer all matched up to footage from the Let It Be rehearsals to create brand new "video clips".
CHIMNEY SWEEP: Option didn't work - no details on notes.
BEHIND THE SHUTTERS: Option didn't work - no details on notes.
THE NAKED TRUTH: A featurette on the production of the Let it Be..Naked album including footage of Paul McCartney at a playback session. Ends with a new clip created for Across The Universe using Let It Be footage.
TRAILERS: Let It Be, The Beatles Anthology, Yellow Submarine, The First US Visit.
THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO: Option didn't work - no details on notes


Unconfirmed rumours say that the above "review" was a hoax - someone's wet dream about what the release could have been.

The Toronto Sun reported in 2005 that the "Let It Be" film was on its way to DVD that year. According to an interview with Bob Smeaton, who directed the "Beatles Anthology", the DVD was to be in 5.1 sound along with tons of lost and bonus features.

The following year, Smeaton told Archer of 99.5 The Mountain radio station in Denver, Colorado that the DVD release had been delayed due to the sheer volume of film stock shot, and colour restoration issues. He gave three possible release dates in September 2006. Nothing came of it, although The Beatles' company Apple Corps Ltd bought the domain letitbemovie.com in 2007, and they still own it..

In a February 2007 interview with Neil Aspinall regarding the remastering of the film for DVD release, he stated, "The film was so controversial when it first came out. When we got halfway through restoring it, we looked at the outtakes and realized: this stuff is still controversial. It raised a lot of old issues."

A year later, Yoko Ono told writer Bill DeYoung this, when he asked about a DVD release of the movie: "You know, life is a long time. And I hope you have a very long one, Bill."

In June 2008, plans for a DVD version of Let It Be were cancelled at the request of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, according to The Daily Express UK newspaper. An unnamed source told the newspaper that while Paul and Ringo were planning to release it, both had second thoughts. The source goes on to say "The Beatles are still a massive global brand and it's felt it won't be helped if the public sees the darker side of the story. Neither Paul nor Ringo would feel comfortable publicizing a film showing The Beatles getting on each other's nerves."

Upon further investigation, it turned out that the two surviving Beatles members weren't as dismissive as the article implicated. So there's still hope...

Posted on a discussion board in 2009 by someone claiming to have connections with people at Abbey Road: "It's been done and ready to go for at least five or six years now. LOTS of extras; research was impeccable; Bob Smeaton (who worked on the Anthology DVDs) says they went through EVERY surviving reel of film shot by EVERY camera while doing the restoration (a fair bit can be seen in 'Anthology'). It was basically reassembled from scratch using each camera negative. Disc one would be the original film, while disc 2 would have a S******D of unseen stuff, both video and audio including outtakes from the rooftop concert. The plan was for it to be issued along with/shortly after 'Let It Be......Naked'. Unfortunately, it only takes one member of the Apple board to veto a Beatles release and that's what happened. Who was it?. Wild horses wouldn't drag his/her name from my lips. Oh no."

"Secret Cinema" - a Philadelphia movie club showed an excellent print of the film on Friday, October 23 2009. Reports tells about a mediocre sound, though - due to the original monophonic soundtrack. Latter day DVD bootlegs have substituted the original movie soundtrack with treated tapes from the Nagra reels, as well as stereo versions from Get Back bootlegs, the Let It Be album and the Let It Be ... Naked album to enhance the audio experience.

BBC Radio 2 broadcast a radio documentary on the 24th of May 2010, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Let It Be movie and album. At the very end of the hour long broadcast, announcer Guy Garvey says "The word is from Apple is that work has begun on the restoration of the film with a future re-release at a future date still to be determined."

A source who was once close to Apple and connected to the "Let It Be …Naked" project, said that the Let It Be DVD was likely to see release in 2012 for the anniversary. Which anniversary? Well, in 2012 it was 50 years since The Beatles signed with EMI. Of course, this didn't happen, but then again, 2013 was yet another anniversary year and The Beatles have started releasing their films on Blu-ray, starting with "Yellow Submarine" in June 2012, "Magical Mystery Tour" in October 2012 and "Help!" in June 2013. "A Hard Day's Night" followed in 2014. "Let It Be"? Who knows?

In October 2011, "Let It Be" director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who has been making the rounds to promote his autobiography "Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond" spoke about the film in an interview with radio station WNYC-FM. "We have been been working on it pretty much every year for the last couple of years. And the plan is, at the moment, to have it come out, I think, in 2013," Lindsay-Hogg said.
He says that second disc will be filled with the film's outtakes. "When we first put 'Let It Be' out, I had to cut out a lot of stuff that I really like and wanted to stay in there. The stuff in the new DVD has a lot of the stuff that had to be cut out. So for me, it's like the egg is now complete."

At the Paul McCartney concert at the Royal Albert Hall in March 2012, Richard Porter (Beatles walk London tour guide) learned from what he describes as a very reliable source that the film is now scheduled for release in 2014, although other sources mention 2015 as more likely.

Let It Be has by now been remastered several times. In 1992 Ron Furmenek remastered the entire film from the original negatives. He said back then, and in more contemporary interviews, that it came out great. Much better than anything previously seen. That was the version which VCI wanted to release five years later on VHS, in 1997.

During the making of Anthology in the mid-nineties, select clips, including alternate performances, were also remastered taking advantage of then-new technology. Some of these clips as seen in Anthology are quite excellent. In 2013, "Let It Be...Naked" was made available on iTunes for the first time, and along with the album, two film clips were available for purchase, "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down".

In 2003, original producer Bob Smeaton and others remastered the entire film again, including outtakes. This is the version that almost came out in 2005, as announced by Smeaton himself. The newly remastered clips can be seen on many boots and on the official EPK package that came out in support of Let It Be...Naked.

Apparently, another new transfer of the original 16mm film and additional outtakes was done in 2011. Again, nothing was released.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in May 2012, Ringo Starr was asked about the Let It Be film on DVD:

Are you thinking about releasing the Let It Be movie on DVD?
"I think that's also a possibility. One day that will come out. But we're not talking about it right now. As you know, there's very little that hasn't come out. I'd forgotten that one though. You just mentioned the one thing that hasn't come out. I'm too busy living now…"

In July 2015, Access Hollywood asked Ringo again:

Is the "Let It Be" movie ever going to see the light of day?
"Well, it'll see the light of day, everything sees the light of day, you know. And ... yeah I'm sure it will come out, it's not planned for this year. But yeah, it'll be out".

In August 2016, Paul McCartney said this in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

You mentioned the Let It Be film. Is there any chance it will ever be rereleased?
I keep thinking we've done it. We've talked about it for so long.
What's the holdup?
I've no bloody idea. I keep bringing it up, and everyone goes, "Yeah, we should do that." The objection should be me. I don't come off well.

Meanwhile, Apple Corps keeps teasing the fans by including remastered footage from the Let It Be film whenever they are promoting their new releases. A version of "One After 909" from the rooftop concert was sent to TV stations to promote the remastered catalogue, and also there was some hitherto unseen footage on the mini-documentary for the Let It Be album.

Revolver Records & Video uploaded a heavily watermarked version of the last 34 minutes of LET IT BE to YouTube in 2015. Titled "Savile Row", the Apple segment of the film was taken from Ron Furmanek's unpublished 1992 remaster of the film. Although the watermarking rendered the visuals useless, this provided bootleggers with Furmanek's stereo audio mix of this important portion of the film, which included work in Apple Studios, as well as the rooftop concert. An unused version of the performance of the title song was also uploaded by the same uploader, as was "Work print" - a black and white film from one camera, filming "Run For Your Life" and "Two of Us".

A collection of The Beatles' promotional films was released officially in 2015, featuring painstakingly restored versions of these, with new stereo and surround mixes. Despite LET IT BE having undergone several restorations over the years, material from that film didn't look restored, compared to other 16mm sourced films. Speculation among fans is that perhaps Apple is saving the restored version for an upcoming stand-alone release of the film.

In 2016, bootleg company HMC got hold of a copy of Ron Furmanek's 1992 restoration of the film, and released it as part of a DVD and CD package. Although the picture is cropped at the bottom (possibly to get rid of running numbers?), it's the best version so far, with a mostly stero soundtrack.

In an interview with the film's Cinematographer Tony Richmond in February 2017, it was revealed that "Since then, we remastered it for DVD and there were so many outtakes that weren’t used in the film that really show the acrimony between all of the Beatles. But that’s still being held up by George Harrison’s estate and his wife and Yoko Ono because they don’t want the acrimony shown."

Anyway, anyone can get their hands on a copy of the LET IT BE movie on DVD whenever they want to, thanks to the bootleggers. There's even a Blu-ray version out there. The only thing Apple Corps gains by not releasing it, is peace during their board meetings. They lose the money that the sale of the DVD would have generated, and the bootleggers are taking all the profits. Our loss is a pristine print of the film with superb stereophonic sound throughout.

So, how can I get my hands on a DVD of Let It Be, you ask?

Well, you can always find it as a torrent on the internet, you can do a search on ioffer.com, and you can even find it on Amazon from time to time. Or you can just watch it here, courtesy of whichever video sharing site I found it at:






TIMELINE: LET IT BE (movie)

1969: 16mm footage of the Beatles filmed in January for proposed TV Special and album, "Get Back".
1969: Film and album shelved for now, new album Abbey Road recorded and released.
1969-70: Footage reworked for movie screening, to fulfill 3 film contract with United Artists.
1970: Theatrical release. Film has been blown up to 35mm, sound is in mono, retitled "Let It Be".

UK premiere at the London Pavilion
1970s: Televised in several markets globally, occasionally shows up in cinemas.
1975: BBC2 shows Let It Be for the first time on December 26. Mono.
1976: BBC1 shows Let It Be on August 24. Mono.
1978: The first screening on HBO in USA, July 29. Ran another six times the following month.
1979: BBC2 shows all Beatles films during Christmas season, again Let It Be on Dec 26.
1980: John Lennon is killed.
1980: As a tribute to John Lennon, Australian Channel 10 shows Let It Be. Simulcast. The film may also have been shown elsewhere in the world at this traumatic time, but the Australian screening is the one we know about.
1981: Home Video release (USA) of 35mm film pan-and-scan: VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc and Videodisc by 20th Century Fox/Magnetic Video Corporation. Mono. Betamax may have been even earlier.
1981: Aired in USA on "The Movie Channel" in November and on "Cinemax" in December.
1982: BBC2 shows Let It Be for the fourth and last time on May 8. 16mm version, mono.
1983: Südwest III local TV screening (south-west part of West Germany) on Dec 26. 16mm, mono. Subtitled in German.
1984: Home Video Release (Holland) by Warner Home Video. 16mm, mono.
1984: Home Video Release (West Germany) of 16mm version: VHS, Betamax by Warner Home Video. Mono. Subtitled in German.
1985: Another Channel 10 TV screening in Australia, Sunday 14 July at midday, after the Live Aid concert finished.
1992: Original 16mm film restored by Ron Furmanek, remastered sound, stereo when available.
1995: Restored footage from film and outtakes shown on The Beatles Anthology TV series.
1997: VCI (UK) announces plans to release the 1992 restoration of the film on VHS. It doesn't happen.
2001: George Harrison succumbs to cancer. Before he dies, he agrees to several upcoming projects, including reworking the Let It Be album to "Let It Be...Naked" and a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, "Love".
2002: Paul McCartney says there are plans for a DVD release of the film alongside the upcoming new album, "Let It Be...Naked".
2003: Original 16mm film plus outtakes restored by Bob Smeaton.
2003: "Let It Be...Naked" is released. Newly restored outtakes footage used to promote the album. No DVD.
2003: Movie director Lindsay-Hogg says 2 DVDs with the film and outtakes ready for 2004.
2004: A review of a 3 disc version appears online.
2005: "The Toronto Sun" features interview with Bob Smeaton who says a DVD will come out that year.
2006: In a US radio show, Bob Smeaton gives three possible release dates in 2006 for the DVD.
2007: Apple Corps Ltd register the domain name letitbemovie.com.
2007: Neil Aspinall says the film is still too controversial for release.
2008: Yoko Ono says the DVD will not be released yet.
2008: "The Daily Express" (UK) says DVD was cancelled by Paul and Ringo.
2009: Unidentified "insider" claims Yoko Ono is the one blocking the release.
2009: Theatrical screening at a film club in Philadelphia, PA. Good print, poor mono sound.
2010: BBC radio show says DVD is still considered for release at a future date.
2011: Original film and outtakes re-transferred again in higher resolution for future release.
2012: Film due out for 50th anniversary of "Love Me Do", but plans are again scrapped.
2012: Richard Porter learns from insider that the film may be released in 2014 or 2015.
2012: Ringo says: "One day that will come out, but we're not thinking about it right now".
2013: "Help!", "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Yellow Submarine" released on Blu-ray.
2014: "A Hard Day's Night" released on Blu-ray.
2015: Ringo confirms that it will eventually be released, just not this year.
2015: The last 34 minutes of Furmanek's unpublished 1992 restoration uploaded on YouTube
2015: Apple releases a collection of The Beatles' promotional films on Blu-ray and DVD. The material from "Let It Be" looks unrestored. This triggers speculation that Apple saves the restored version for a later stand-alone release.
2016: Bootleg company HMC releases the 1992 restoration of the film on a DVD+CD package in NTSC and an aspect ratio of 4:3. The lower part of the picture is cropped.
2016: Paul tells Rolling Stone that he keeps promoting a release of the film internally.
2016: "Don't Let Me Down" (partial) and "I've Got A Feeling" (partial) from the rooftop concert included in the "Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years" film. The latter song is edited differently with other camera angles than in the "Let It Be" film.
2017: Cinematographer Tony Richmond reveals in an interview that the official DVD release is held up by Yoko Ono and the estate of George Harrison.

3 comments:

deseraligears said...

thanks for the Let it be clip and love your blog

A.H. said...

Great blog!
My first time commenting here... Not sure if this is worth mentioning, but I video-taped that 1982 BBC broadcast of 'Let It Be,' and I still have it. It's in great condition - no sign of wear & tear (a 'Scotch' video-cassette). Remember watching that broadcast very clearly(?); A Saturday afternoon - day off school. Sitting there, watching. Great.

A.H. said...

The following YouTube videos may be of interest regarding Michael Lindsay-Hogg and what he was saying about the imminent release of 'Let It Be' whilst he was out promoting his book (as noted in this article of course)... These videos of him in interview were uploaded in 2011. He mentions 'Let It Be' from about 13 mins onwards in the vid (where he says the movie will 'probably' be released in 2013 with a 'companion DVD' of the making of the movie. He goes on to talk about this further in Pt 2)...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH48yP4TKco

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gD0dG_obDQ