MVD Visual // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // July 19th, 2010
"Well, here's another clue for you all,
The walrus was Paul."
-- Glass Onion, The Beatles
Many Beatles fans have likely heard the urban legend that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in the 1960s and that an impostor was recruited to take his place. Indeed, McCartney even gave an interview to Life magazine in 1969 to address the rumors of his nonexistence. Most said fans would not, however, probably make a movie on the supposition that this myth true. Well, Joel Gilbert did, and the result is Paul McCartney Really Is Dead: The Last Testament of George Harrison, an absurd example of what happens when people have too much time on their hands and access to video editing programs.
PMRID begins with filmmaker Gilbert explaining that one day in 2005, a mysterious package arrived at the offices of Highway 61 Entertainment, the company that produced the film. Inside the parcel were two microcassette tapes and, helpfully, a microcassette tape player. On the tape, a voice claiming to be that of Beatles axman George Harrison explains that in 1966, an overexcited fan named Rita caused McCartney to lose control of his car. McCartney died (and was decapitated, no less), but Rita survived. The British government, fearing mass suicides of Beatle fans should the death be made public, instigated a cover-up. A lookalike, William Campbell, was hired to replace McCartney. An MI5 man known to the Beatles as "Maxwell" ordered them to comply with the charade -- or else.
For the rest of the film, "Harrison" explains the different ways in which the surviving Beatles alluded to McCartney's death and the subsequent cover-up on their album covers and song lyrics. The voice also links major events in the band members' lives, such as the breakup of John Lennon's first marriage and subsequent union with Yoko Ono, as being directly influenced by the cover-up. (Lennon felt that by acting as oddly as possible, the British government would leave him alone.) Lennon's assassination in 1980, the voice suggests, was done in order to silence the Beatle, who had been making noises about going public about "False Paul," or "Faul" for short. "Harrison" even intimates that the 1999 home invasion and attempt on his own life came about after he had talked with Faul about coming clean.
PMRID is amusing at times but also hard to take very seriously and ultimately rather offensive to all involved. Although the backwards-music clues and album cover elements are kind of interesting (although I don't have a record player to confirm all the clues listed in the film), Gilbert and his team ladle on so many preposterous claims that the film really has no credibility. First, there's the voice on the recording. I'm not an expert on this sort of thing, but it doesn't sound much like Harrison, and Gilbert even mentions that three forensic tests were "inconclusive" as to whether voice belongs to the Beatle. Even if you can get past that, there's also the fact that "Harrison" spends a lot of time on the tape talking about the early history of the Beatles and the "bigger than Jesus" controversy. If these tapes were a true confession, made under fear of imminent assassination, would Harrison really have taken the time to give the listener contextual information that had nothing to do with the thrust of his "testament"?
Gilbert might have helped what little case he had if the material had been presented well. Instead, we get sub-basic cable production values and shoddy research. An example of the latter is the revelation that the "Rita" that caused McCartney's fatal wreck was actually Macca's future second wife, Heather Mills. As Mills was born two years after McCartney was to have met his end, this would have been difficult for her to pull off, to say the least. Also, while many Beatle fans can tell you that although Let It Be was the last album released by the Beatles, it was actually recorded before Abbey Road. The film's chronology puts Let It Be as the last recording and release. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but this is a fairly well known fact that could have been uncovered with a small amount of research.
PMRID is given a decent if unspectacular transfer, about on the level of something you would see on TV. For extras, you can listen to Wayne Peet's soundtrack on your computer, and there's also a 10-minute interview clip with journalist Al Aronowitz, who discusses interviewing Bob Dylan as well as what happened when Dylan met the Beatles.
A Google search will turn up most of the "clues" discussed in Paul McCartney Really Is Dead, so if you're really interested in the hoax, do that and skip this movie. Die-hard conspiracy/hoax buffs may get something out of this film; everyone else should just dig out a Beatles album and give it a(nother) listen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated