After the innovative Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), the band released the Magical Mystery Tour TV film on Boxing Day ’67.
The BBC it had shown a color film in black-and-white.
As time went by, Magical Mystery Tour’s reputation recovered, with some comparing the Fab Four’s cinematic effort to the work of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. Paul McCartney has pointed out how the next generation’s leading filmmakers appreciated the work.
In Anthology, all four Beatles weigh in on the reception of Magical Mystery Tour. To a man, they acknowledge the work has clear flaws. However, they also point out the flaw in the BBC presentation. “We were stupid and they were stupid,” Ringo said.
Ringo also pointed out how the reactions changed once viewers saw it as intended. “It was really [panned] but when people started seeing it in color they realized it was a lot of fun.” Paul said he heard very encouraging feedback from authorities on the subject.
“People like Steven Spielberg have said since, ‘When I was in film school, that was a film we really took notice of,’” Paul said in Anthology. “It was an art film rather than a proper film. […] I defend it on the lines that nowhere else do you see a performance of ‘I Am the Walrus.’”
Paul was being humble in some respects. The video for George Harrison’s “Blue Jay Way” is another great moment in Magical Mystery Tour. And Spielberg wasn’t the only great director to point out the film’s charm.
In a 2012 PBS documentary on Magical Mystery Tour, Paul and The Beatles got another heavyweight endorsement — this time, from Martin Scorsese. Seeing the big picture of the medium (as usual), Scorsese felt the need to stick up for the film’s freewheeling style.
“Of course, the emphasis on professionalism and polish and politeness has come back now with a vengeance,” Scorsese said in the movie’s defense. “It’s expected. And there’s a tendency to forget that really that’s only one choice, one way of going.”