[The Beatles] [McKern, Leo]

Reel of 8mm Film of The Beatles, Shot on Location in Austria by Leo McKern During the Filming of Help!

N.p. [Obertauen]: N.p., N.d. [1965] One reel of 8mm film, running time 14' 55", housed in a protective plastic case with the words 'SNOW SCENES' affixed to the leading edge on a Dymo label. Fine condition.



Unseen HELP 4 205px Unseen HELP 2 205px Unseen HELP 5 205px


The actor Leo McKern enjoyed a high-profile stage career in the UK during the 1950s, taking leading roles at both the Old Vic and Stratford's Shakespeare Memorial theatres, as well as playing the Common Man in the first production of A Man For All Seasons in the West End, in 1960. By the time he appeared in the multi-Oscar-winning film version of that play in 1966, McKern's film career had become equally well established, having appeared in, among many others, A Tale Of Two Cities (1958), The Mouse That Roared (1959), King And Country (1964) -- and Help! (1965), the second Beatles film, directed (like the first, A Hard Day's Night (1964)) by Richard Lester. In Help!, McKern was cast as Clang, the leader of a mystical cult determined to recover a ring from Ringo's finger which will enable a sacrifice to proceed.


Shooting on Help! moved to the Austrian Alps for two weeks in March 1965. Apart from The Beatles themselves, cast members needed for the location were Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, Roy Kinnear, John Bluthal and Leo McKern. All feature in the footage, which runs a little under eleven minutes. Leo McKern was a keen amateur photographer, and a very good one. He was a close friend of Peter Sellers: the two appeared together on stage and screen a number of times, notably in The Running, Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959), directed by Sellers and Richard Lester, and Sellers' solo directorial debut, Mr Topaze (1961). But although the professional association was a close one, their friendship largely revolved around their mutual love of photography. The hobby was competitive as well as mutual, which explains McKern's possession of the most hi-tech, high-spec equipment then available, and the resultant high quality of his work.


The film's running time is just under fifteen minutes. It has no sound, and footage featuring The Beatles and fellow cast and crew members -- from 1' 45" to 9' 15" -- is bookended by shots of McKern's then ten-year-old daughter (who grew up to be the actor Abigail McKern) sledging down a variety of inclines, taking a ride on a cable car, and playing with her baby sister (admirable attentiveness in a father, of course, but perhaps not displaying a true professional's eye for the main story).


At 1' 45" the film cuts to the balcony of the unit's hotel where, as well as girlfriends and family members, we see actor John Bluthal (who played McKern's sidekick, Butha) and McKern himself. From here we cut to a snowmobile carrying The Beatles to the day's location, where we see them rehearsing with a stuntman for the sequence in which Ringo is lassooed from a sledge and dangles upside down from a ski-lift cable. A shot of Rory Kinnear being made up gives way to footage of The Beatles tobogganing two or three to a sledge, with mixed results, followed by Kinnear and Victor Spinetti rehearsing with the stuntman for their part of the lassoing sequence.


Next is a shot of Paul chatting and laughing with a woman on set, followed by George and John playing an unorthodox game of curling (similar footage found its way into the finished film). Shots of Roy Kinnear, and a luminous Eleanor Bron with producer Walter Shenson, then take us to a short sequence where a stuntman dressed as a snowman practices the ski jump featured in the film before we cut once again to a close-up of Paul, this time smoking a cigarette and taking photographs.


Next is a shot of The Beatles' four stunt doubles, dressed in costume and less than convincing mop-top wigs, followed by the snowman twice arriving at the foot of the ski run and being ministered to by the unit. Then we're back with The Beatles, this time as they play a variety of brass instruments in the band at the foot of the run, much to John's evident (and probably stoned) amusement.


Unseen for more than fifty years, this original footage of the most famous people on earth is sold with copyright.

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