Help! is the title of a 1965 film starring The Beatles and featuring Leo McKern, Eleanor Bron, Victor Spinetti, John Bluthal and Roy Kinnear. The soundtrack was released as an album, also called Help!.
Among the film's original working titles were Beatles Phase II and what would have been Walter Shenson's suggested title, Eight Arms to Hold You. The plot of the movie revolves around a sacrificial ring which Ringo cannot take off. The band is chased around London by members of the Indian cult of the Goddess Kali, headed by McKern and Bron. In a desperate effort to dispose of the ring, the band resorts to the bumbling efforts of mad scientist Spinetti and assistant Kinnear; when his equipment turns out to have no effect on the ring, Spinetti decides he too must somehow acquire it.
The Beatles said the film was inspired by the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup; it was also directly satirical of the James Bond series of films. At the time of the original release of Help!, its distributor, United Artists, also held the rights to Duck Soup (now owned by EMKA, Ltd./NBC Universal) and the Bond series (now owned by UA sister studio MGM).
A novelisation, entitled The Beatles in Help!, was written by Al Hine and published by Dell in 1965.
Help! was set in London, Salisbury Plain, The Swiss Alps, and The Bahamas. Ringo commented in The Beatles Anthology that they were in The Bahamas for the hot weather scenes, so had to wear light clothing while it was rather cold.
According to interviews conducted with Paul, George, and Ringo for The Beatles Anthology the director, Richard Lester, had more money to spend due to the success of A Hard Day's Night. Thus, this feature film was in color, and was shot on several exotic foreign locations ( Switzerland , the Bahamas ).
A sequence featuring Frankie Howerd, Wendy Richard and Paul McCartney was filmed but left out of final editing owing to its length.
The "channel swimmer" who makes appearances during the curling scene and at the end of the film is Beatles' road manager Mal Evans.
Critical opinion at the time of release was positive, but the film has not achieved a comparable level of acclaim as A Hard Day's Night. The absurd comedic style and frenetic pacing was in some ways a forerunner of future British comedy, such as Monty Python's Flying Circus. It had a direct influence on the American television series The Monkees, which was patterned very closely upon the film.
The Beatles did not particularly enjoy the filming of the movie, nor were they overly pleased with the end product. Lennon said in 1970 they felt "like extras in their own movie." A contributing factor was exhaustion from their incredibly busy schedule of writing, recording and touring in 1965, and the demands of their worldwide fame. Afterwards they were hesitant to begin another film project, and indeed Help! was their last full-length scripted theatrical film. Their obligation for a third film to United Artists was met by the animated Yellow Submarine in 1968.
The Beatles later said the film was shot in a "haze of marijuana". According to Ringo's interviews in The Beatles Anthology during the Swiss Alps film shooting he and Paul ran off over the hill from the "Curling" scene set to smoke a joint. Also Paul called them "Herbal Jazz Cigarettes".
The film was mockingly dedicated to Elias Howe “who, in 1846, invented the sewing machine."