DVD Review: Mock songs give life to 'The Rutles'

It was 35 years today — or thereabouts — that Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Gary Weis, and Lorne Michaels let loose “The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash” on an unsuspecting world. (Also, one must add, a largely uninterested world: Its debut on NBC was the lowest-rated prime-time show of the week.)

Python Idle and Bonzo Dog guitarist Innes created this, the first rock mockumentary, five years before “This Is Spinal Tap” rocked our world. For this absurd alternate-world take on the Beatles and their history, Innes provided more than a dozen songs, some so perfectly Beatles-like that he got sued by the Beatles' publisher. They remain the best Beatles pastiches ever recorded.

This new package collects all the official Rutles material. It contains a Blu-ray disc and a DVD, each of which has a remastered version of the original 73-minute special, along with a trailer and the Saturday Night Live sketch that inspired it. The video isOK: given the low budget of the 1978 show, that's the best to be hoped for. The DVD features one extra bonus — the 2004 semi-sequel “Can't Buy Me Lunch,” which is a pale reflection of the original and really seems like nothing but a payday for Idle. (“Can't Buy Me Lunch” is 55 minutes and lacks the outtakes that were on the earlier video release.)

On both discs, “All You Need Is Cash” is accompanied by a commentary, which ends a little more than halfway through. It is, sad to say, one of the worst commentary tracks I've heard, with interviewer Jonathan Gross fawning over Idle and still apparently managing to irritate Idle. I'd be harsher if I hadn’t been caught in similar situations.

"The Rutles: Anthology" (Video Services, Blu-ray/DVD combo, $24.95)


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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