THE RUTLESAll You Need Is Cash (Rhino DVD)
Eric Idle’s humorous assessment to the contrary, the legend of the Rutles has now lasted considerably longer than a lunch time. Originally televised in 1978 to abysmal ratings, All You Need Is Cash is now rightly hailed as one of the funniest rock & roll movies of all time. A wryly knowing companion to such subsequent documentaries as The Compleat Beatles and the 10-volume Anthology series, this acutely observed send-up of the Fab Four — conceived and written by Monty Python member Idle — remains essential viewing for any Beatlemaniac.
A painstakingly well-crafted satire, All You Need Is Cash generally sticks to the original script, following the band‘s trajectory from their heady Hamburg days to their acrimonious breakup, but gleefully distorts crucial details along the way. Former Bonzo Dog Band leader Neil Innes plays John at his most truculent and antisocial (“I’d like to own a fleet of tanks,” he snarls in one early interview clip), while Idle‘s Paul character is absurdly wide of eye and obsequious of manner. As embodied by onetime Beach Boys drummer Rikki Fataar, the George figure somehow becomes both silent and Indian (the real George puts in a cameo as a Fleet Street reporter), while John Halsey finally makes good on Ringo’s avowed desire to open a hair salon. And then there are the songs themselves: Penned by Innes, who recorded them with Fataar, Halsey and guitarist Ollie Halsall (a member, along with Halsey, of underrated British groups Timebox and Patto), the Rutles‘ 15 tracks are too sublime to be mere Beatles knockoffs. Some, such as “Cheese and Onions,” “Let’s Be Natural” and “I Must Be in Love,” almost surpass the originals they parody.
Do you need to own the new Rutles DVD if you already have the video? Well, the songs do sound better than ever in their remastered state, and Idle‘s “Director’s Commentary” track is extremely enlightening and occasionally hilarious. But aside from a rather paltry array of extra scenes, the most disappointing aspect of the DVD is its lack of commentary from Innes. Though Idle clearly takes pains to give the man his props, All You Need Is Cash would have seemed rather flat without Innes‘ uncanny ability to re-create the essence of each stage of the Beatles’ musical journey. Those who know all the words to “Ouch!” and “Goose-Step Mama” — and there are many of us — definitely would have appreciated his perspective on the project.