An exotic religious cult lead by a pompous leader Clang (Leo McKern) in the middle of its annual sacrificing of a young nymph to the god Kieli, realize that the girl is not wearing the sacrificial ring, and lo and behold it’s on the finger of Ringo Starr. A mission is put into place immediately to recover the ring, or at least to sacrifice the person wearing it so that the god awaiting the sacrifice will not be insulted. Thus begins the exploits of Help in which a crazed group bent on satiating its god’s sacrificial hunger stalks John, Paul, George and Ringo with various sharp instruments. The main goal of the Beatles is to remove the ring from Ringo’s finger and return it to the cult, thus avoiding death. One of the members of the cult, Ahme (Eleanor Bron) is attracted to the Fab Four, Paul in particular, and works to sabotage the efforts of the religious cult. Time after time the cult attempts to capture Ringo only to be thwarted either by the band’s elusive nature or by the cult’s own inept efforts. When the Fab Four seeks help from a delusional scientist, Professor Foot (Victor Spinetti), he desires the ring because its power will give him power to “rule the world”, and escape the bane of government grants to conduct his research. Moving on to Scotland Yard a police inspector (Patrick Cargill) filled with his own importance sets a trap for the cult, but they manage to capture Ringo anyway and establish a make-shift beach side sacrificial area with the help of their own country’s militia. As the Fab Four flee from England to Austria, to the Bahamas there’s always time for a musical number. —spelvini
If any single director can encapsulate the popular image of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, then it is probably Richard Lester. With his use of flamboyant cinematic devices and liking for zany humour, he captured the vitality, and sometimes the triviality, of the period more vividly than any other director. This has been somewhat to the detriment of his later work which, whilst more conventional in style, has qualities which have been overshadowed by his fashionable earlier output.
Lester was born in Philadelphia, USA, on 19 January 1932. After graduating in clinical psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, he began his career in American television as a stagehand, rising to become a director at just 20. He left for Europe in 1954, settling in Britain in 1956.
His sympathy for anarchic comedy made him an ideal director for the television series A Show Called Fred (ITV, 1956), where he worked with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. He teamed up with them again for… read more