Paul McCartney Really is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison
Highway 61 Entertainment
There was a persistent rumor in the mid-'60s that Beatle Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash and secretly replaced by a look-alike. Believers in the urban legend found clues that the "real" Paul was dead in Beatles song lyrics, in photos and album cover graphics and in "backward masking" snippets inserted into recordings. Macca is of course alive and well to this day but this film takes the myth and runs wild with it. The premise of Paul McCartney Really is Dead is that George Harrison, on his deathbed, wanted to get the long-held secret out in the open and recorded two audio tapes explaining everything and sent them to, of all places, Highway 61 Entertainment in California. Highway 61 issues a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that the tapes have not been authenticated and then proceed to lay out the absurd scenario: McCartney was killed in a car crash in 1966, British intelligence service MI5 wanted the incident covered up because news of the event would surely cause mass suicide among Beatles fans, MI5 surgery experts turned a nobody into a Paul replica and the rest of the band was sworn to secrecy under threat of death. The remaining Beatles supposedly called the replacement "Faul," a shortening of "fake Paul," and the guy was taught to play bass, speak with a Liverpool accent and otherwise mimic Paul. The film starts off with the common rumors of the day then just gets further and further out there as it progresses and the hilarity of the presentation is heightened by the fact that it's narrated by someone doing a horrible impression of Harrison. The material here is presented with a straight face but it's clearly a tongue in cheek example of how rumors can take on a life of their own. Beatles fans and others who remember the whole "Paul is dead" thing will love this film and its many laugh-out-loud moments.
Rare and Unseen
If you have any interest in the music of early Stiff Records artist Ian Dury beyond "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" then this film will be a major treat for you. Rare and Unseen has the blessing of the Dury family and estate (he died in 2000) and as such there is footage here that probably will never be seen elsewhere. Eight career-spanning performance clips are presented; "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" is here but so are excellent lesser-known tunes like "Sweet Gene Vincent," "Geraldine" and "Upminster Kid." Dury was an intelligent and humble man who was as spirited offstage as he was on and those qualities are all demonstrated in the between-song interview segments. Rare and Unseen is an excellent snapshot of an underrated artist whose work sounds as good today as it did thirty-five years ago.
Gold: Before Woodstock. Beyond Reality
Gold is a feature film made in the late-'60s that has supposedly been lost for the past 40 years. More likely its whereabouts have been fully known while it sat collecting dust for lack of interest. About the only redeeming quality here is the film's soundtrack that features Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Sailcat and most importantly a few previously-unreleased cuts from the MC5. Otherwise you'd need to be pretty baked to appreciate this severely dated look at the era's counter culture poking fun at itself.