DVD review: 'Yellow Submarine' resurfaces on Blu-ray

Back in 1999 (31 years after its 1968 debut), a restored version of this animated Beatles film was shown in theaters and issued on DVD, with a stereo remix and the “Hey, Bulldog!” scene (deleted in the original American version) reinstated.

Outside of the musical numbers and a brief appearance at the end, the four jolly lads themselves didn't have much to do with the film, which was designed to fulfill their contractual obligation to United Artists for a third film; their speaking voices are provided by John Clive, Geoffrey Hughes, Peter Batten, and Paul Angelis.

The script, credited to Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Erich Segal (in his pre-“Love Story” days) and Jack Mendelsohn, has a good number of wonderful groaner puns in the Lennon style. The wide-ranging, “Mod”-ish animation invokes illustrator Peter Max, Tex Avery's “Porky in Wackyland” and Richard Lester's earlier Beatle films; its influence was quickly felt in the work of Ralph Bakshi and Terry Gilliam.

Now there is a new DVD and Blu-ray release, transferred from a more thorough restoration, and unlike the earlier DVD, anamorphically enhanced (i.e., maximized for widescreen TVs). The case includes photos and other physical gewgaws, plus a booklet with an essay by John Lasseter. All the extras on the disc itself are ported directly from the 1999 DVD. These include “Mod Odyssey” (7:40), a “making of” short from 1968; the theatrical trailer (3:45); three very crude storyboard sequences (21:13), the first of which runs in tandem with the finished scene; behind-the-scenes photos (2:45) from November 1967, during a Beatles' visit to the animation studio; original pencil drawings (8:33); and six brief interviews with voice actors and key crew members.

The feature is accompanied by an audio commentary from producer John Coates that is, at best, moderately interesting; unfortunately it is at a level several decibels quieter than the regular soundtracks, which makes switching back and forth difficult.

"Yellow Submarine" (Capitol, Blu-ray, $34.98; DVD, $21.98)

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