The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (30th Anniversary Edition) Review
It's part of the legend of Spinal Tap that every rock band worth its salt has a copy of the movie on board its tour bus. Not only does it lampoon all of the cliches of rock star life - "Hello Cleveland!" - but it does so with affection. Even the most easily-offended band will smile at the review of the Tap's Shark Sandwich - "Shit sandwich!" - whilst remembering their own less-than-critically-acclaimed releases while others will laugh at their own memories of getting lost backstage, of props that failed to live up to expectations, of concept albums and their jazz-rock opus and of radio transmitters picking up the chatter of pilots coming into land. Or, as happened to Angus Young, the chatter of black taxi drivers outside the Royal Albert Hall.
The Rutles' All You Need Is Cash is an equally affectionate look at the short career of The Beatles. With little wonder, mind you. With Eric Idle involved, George Harrison's liking for Monty Python ensured that he would play an active part and found himself involved from the very beginning. He even appears late in the film as a television reporter outside of the ill-fated Rutle Corp but there was a longer history even than that. Rutle Neil Innes (playing Ron Nasty) had been in The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band whose I'm The Urban Spaceman had seen Paul McCartney lend a hand to the production while they had also featured in Magical Mystery Tour. With Idle and Innes finding that Harrison was sympathetic to their efforts, they found that access to the rest of The Beatles was not beyond them. Unfortunately, the thumbs of Paul McCartney, which are normally very much aloft, were very much down when it came to The Rutles but Ringo Starr enjoyed it and rumour (and Wikipedia) has it that John Lennon loved All You Need Is Cash so much that he kept both the video and soundtrack album that Idle and Innes sent him for approval. And for all its spoofing of The Beatles, there's probably not a dedicated fan of The Beatles who doesn't have a copy of the film, the soundtrack album or both in their collection.
There are a number of reasons why All You Need Is Cash, foremost amongst them that it's just very funny. Whether it's the member of the film crew being tossed over the side of the Rutle Corp building during the making of Let It Rot, Eric Idle's silly hat and his running after the camera or Ruttling Orange Peel claiming that he not only invented The Rutles but also wrote all the music before his wife interrupts and claims that the week before he'd also said that he invented the Everly Brothers and Frank Sinatra. There's little moments that play to fans of The Beatles, such as Leppo, The Fifth Rutle who played with the band in Hamburg as well as the discovery of The Rutles by Leggy Mountbatten - "He was always very interested in young men...youth clubs, boy Scouts, that sort of thing!" - who would manage the band having fallen in love not with their music but with their trousers. "[What about their trousers?] Well, they were...they were very...em...tight!" And, of course, it couldn't be a Beatles spoof without mention of Dick Rowe, the Decca executive who originally turned down The Beatles. "What's it like being an asshole?"
However, as well as that, and in less humorous moments, it's done with an obvious love for The Beatles. Never mind Anthology, the official story of The Beatles, All You Need Is Cash tells the story of The Beatles through the characters of The Rutles. It covers their drug-taking, saying that their classic '67 album Sgt Rutter's Only Darts Club Band was written under the influence of tea. Ron Nasty is misquoted as saying The Rutles are bigger than God when what he actually said was that they were, "Bigger than Rod!", being Rod Stewart who was then unheard of. Instead of travelling to India to be with the Maharashi, The Rutles caught the train to Bognor Regis to be with Arthur Sultan but as that journey to the centre of their own minds failed, they put all their efforts into their Tragical History Tour. All of the characters get that particular Beatles-ish way of conducting press conferences just right - "[It must have been a great honour, meeting the queen. What did she ask you?] She asked us who we were. And then to get out. [What did you say?] I said I was him!" - while it also covers The Rutles' adventures in the movies with A Hard Day's Rut and Ouch! And, of course, there are rumours that Stig, the quiet one, was dead. Not only is he not wearing trousers on the cover of Shabby Road while if you sing the chorus of Sgt Rutter's Only Darts Club Band backwards it says, "Stig has been dead for ages! Honestly"
What is probably the highlight of the film, though, is the music. Written by Neil Innes, the songs are so much like those of The Beatles that Apple Corps. took something of an interest in them. Eric Idle even mentions in his commentary that due to how much like The Beatles they were that Innes now has to share writing credits with Lennon and McCartney. But it was probably worth it. Barry Wom's Living In Hope, which is actually closer to The Kinks than The Beatles, is an early highlight but it's far from a one-off. Ouch! is a perfect spoof of Help!, Cheese And Onion is a great spoof of Yellow Submarine-era Beatles while Piggy In The Middle does a superb job of building on what I Am The Walrus did, even to the performance of the song on the same airfield as did The Beatles with their song. "Walkie-talkie man says "‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello / With his ballerina boots you can tell he's always on his toes!" And while purists may disagree, the rooftop performance of Get Up And Go is actually better than The Beatles' Get Back. Add in songs that we hear about but don't actually hear and pitch-perfect album titles (Sgt Rutter's Only Darts Club Band, Let It Rot and Tragical History Tour) and you have a film that's stands alongside some of the best movie parodies.
That George Harrison features in the film doesn't just confirm one's opinion that Harrison seemed like a genuinely nice man but was the blessing that All You Need Is Cash needed. It's affectionate but also wickedly accurate, never letting a moment go by without picking up on yet another facet of life in the biggest band of the sixties. Best of all, though, is that it is so passionate about its subject and has such knowledge of The Beatles that all but the most dedicated of fans will find themselves needing to do their research to pick up on all the gags. If only every spoof cared as much about its subject, well, we might be spared Scary Movie (and its sequels) and have many more like this.
The good news is that the original television edit that was released on video has now been superceded by this 73-minute version. Given how little has been included as deleted scenes in the DVD extras, this would appear to be all that there is in All You Need Is Cash but that's fine. The film itself is in good shape, though. There are some faults in the print but I dare say that given how authentic Neil Innes was as regards the songs, some of what I would describe as blemishes might actually be intentional, with footage having been artificially aged to better look the part. Otherwise, All You Need Is Cash is presented in fullscreen and is sharp enough to look the part on DVD. However, it's budget clearly shows in its use of stock footage and of its making do with movie trickery when it couldn't afford anything more, such as the studio set and a few seconds of an English football stadium that, together, double for Shea (or Che) Stadium.
The look of All You Need Is Cash only tells a part of the story, though. All the songs sound great with Innes not only getting the songwriting just right but Ollie Henshall doing the same for the recording. A Girl Like You does sound exactly like the early pop of The Beatles and Piggy In The Middle has the thick sound effects of the psychedelic years while Barry Wom's Living In Hope is the kind of jaunty song that Lennon and McCartney might have given to Ringo to sing. It sounds great with the stereo soundtrack doing justice to the songs and presenting the dialogue, effects and screaming girls as well as one would hope. Finally, though, there are no subtitles.
Commentary: Eric Idle is on his own for this track and I can't help but think that had he been with Neil Innes (and John Halsey and Rikki Fataar), it would have been a much better commentary. Idle doesn't say very much, holding his tongue for minutes at a time, but it does go some way to redeeming itself with what he does say about those who feature in the film, including George Harrison, and the sort of things that occurred on location and on the set. He doesn't actually describe the making of the film much but does cover some of the behind-the-scenes gossip, such as his standing beside a heavily-disguised George Harrison, who was elbowed out of the way by an enthusiastic fan who asked Idle, "Were you in The Beatles?" And it's probably worth it for his saying that when interviewing Mick Jagger for this film, he probably said things about The Rutles that he wouldn't have said about The Beatles while intending his remarks to mean John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Get Up And Go: The Making Of The Rutles (32m38s): There's a Python in here and three of The Rutles in this excellent making-of, which takes Neil Innes back to the days of Rutland Weekend Television and how, praised as it was for being so cheap, spoof movies of The Beatles seemed like a good (and equally inexpensive) thing to do. Via a well-received appearance on Saturday Night Live - Eric Idle promised them The Beatles but due to a poor phone line actually gave them The Rutles - they were prompted to make All You Need Is Cash. George Harrison is rightly praised for his involvement, with Innes saying, "George made it possible...out of all the Fabs, he was the one who wanted to put the suit in the cupboard and move on. Things had got so silly...it was time for something sillier to be done!" It's these good-natured memories that are the making of this documentary, particularly with Innes and co-director Gary Weis being on good form as regards the actual production.
Inside Shabby Road (24m58s): Given that it's such a highlight of the film, it's only fair that we have a decent documentary on the music of The Rutles. As you might expect, Neil Innes features heavily, describing how he began writing songs in the Bonzo Dog Band before meeting The Beatles when they featured in Magical Mystery Tour. After that, it's on to how The Rutles came together, with Innes paying tribute to Ollie Henshall, who played much of the music that was recorded to the film (but who only appeared in two stills as Leppo) as well as Fataar and Halsey. Finally, he thanks two of The Beatles, John Lennon for praising the film and for warning Innes about Get Up And Go - "Watch out for that one...you might have trouble!" - and, of course, George Harrison, who had experience of such matters in the courts (with He's So Fine and My Sweet Lord) said something similar to Innes about A Girl Like You, but who would later thank Innes and Idle for stealing their old jokes when writing his autobiography I Me Mine.
Deleted Scenes (17m22s): Like Spinal Tap, one expects a lot of footage in here that didn't make the final cut and there's a fair bit but what there is can be patchy. Clearly all the really good material, as carefully constructed as it was, went into the main film. This includes the complete interview with Mick Jagger, complete with moments when the sound drops out, and Paul Simon but nothing else unfortunately.
Finally, there is a short DVD introduction (1m30s) from Eric Idle.