Sunday, August 25, 2013

Don't Make a Scene: Help!

The Story:  Okay, a little fun.  I recently went to a reunion of sorts, where among the many things said during the evening was the repetition of the phrase..."we could...(dare I say it?)...RULE the WORLD!"

That line always makes me crack up, as it comes out of left-center here.

But, then, just about all of it does.  Charles Wood's screenplay (after Mark Behm's story) is an absurdist romp around the world, where The Beatles are, as always, victims of their own fame, this time pursued by a blood-thirsty "Eastern" cult (led by Leo McKern?) as a result of a ring sent to Ringo by a fan—who just happened to be the designated virgin about to be sacrificed in their rituals.

The ring needs to be retrieved for the victim to be sacrificed, and if that's not possible, the bearer of the ring must be sacrificed in her place.  At some point, you'd think Brian Epstein would step in to protect his business interests, but the band-members have to fend for themselves, seeking advice once it becomes apparent that "there's more to this than meets the eye."  The wildest of these episodes is with Professor Foot (played by the late and irreplaceable Victor Spinnetti), who thinks he can shift molecules around to expand the ring, were it not for British equipment, British funding, British voltage, and all things British.

That would include his (as John Lennon puts it) "fiendish, semi-human assistant" Algernon (played by Roy Kinnear, in the first of what would be many, many appearances in Richard Lester's films).  The two scientists will put in their own pursuit of the band throughout the film in an attempt to (dare we say it?)...


The Set-Up: They're threatening to break up The Beatles again!  This time, a blood-thirsty cult is trying to re-claim a ring from the hand of Ringo Starr, the band's drummer. Multiple attempts have left the band-mates, crunched, pelted, doused and nearly chopped, and, aware that their lives are in danger, they're seeking expertise...from an Indian restaurant, a famous jeweler's, and now, a scientist.


TITLE:  Finally, undismayed...THE NEAREST SCIENTIST.

RINGO: I like operations.  They give you a sense of outlook, don't they?

FOOT, a Scientist: Well, it won't work.  I don't expect it to work! It could work if the government would spend some more money.

FOOT: Made in America, you see.

(raps the console)

Lennon raps the console right back.

JOHN: You're another failure, aren't you, scientist?

ALGERNON, His Assistant: The idea is...

ALGERNON: The idea is, as I see it is that we expand the molecules and the ring grows bigger and it drops off.

GEORGE: What's your electricity bill like?

ALGERNON: It's sort of a long counterfoil...

RINGO: It's not dropping off.

JOHN: Not even a tingle?

FOOT: Voltage!

FOOT: Voltage!  Up. 

FOOT: Up...up.

FOOT: Up, up!

PAUL: Up, up!

RINGO: Are you sure I'm earthed?

ALGERNON: Oh, no! uh, hold on!  Thank you.

FOOT: Made in America, you see.  Streets ahead of anything we've got!
JOHN: This is English!

ALGERNON: Is it green, the earth in America?

PAUL: In some places, it's brown, you know.

ALGERNON: He's not earthed.

FOOT: He's an idiot.  Degree in woodwork, I ask you.


ALGERNON: 5...4....

FOOT: Come ON!

ALGERNON:  3, 2, 1, go.

ALGERNON: I do observe the correct procedure, you see.  He'll thank me for it in the end.

JOHN: Scientist, you're getting nowhere, are you, scientist?

ALGERNON: Well, it's the plugs, you see. The main thing is the plugs.  Good British plugs.  All this American rig.  Wrong voltage.  That's what foxes me.

JOHN: How d'ya feel?
RINGO: I used to use me hands.

JOHN: "He used to use his hands"...her-her

GEORGE: His hands.  Will he still be able to drum, eh?

ALGERNON: Did he do a lot of it?

FOOT: Voltage!  Up!
ALGERNON: I'm no mean hand at the old sticks meself, you know.

Algernon smacks away at the chair-back, getting a look of disdain from George. 

FOOT: The voltage...up-up, up-up.

PAUL: Hey, he's talking to you, Up-up, Up-up.
FOOT: Up, up!

FOOT: Up, up, up!  Up, up, up!

Ringo begins to glow alarmingly as the voltage increases.

 FOOT: The bunker!

GEORGE: I can't watch.

One by one, rings start falling off Ringo's fingers....

FOOT: It's working!  

FOOT: Give it the gun, Algernon!

The sacrificial ring, however, refuses to budge...

JOHN: Stop it!

GEORGE: Stop it!
ALGERNON: It's more than my job's worth it to stop him when he's like this.

ALGERNON: He's out to rule the world...if he can get a government grant.
JOHN: This is outrageous!  You're nothing but a trite-acted mad scientist!

Despite having no effect on the ruby ring, the voltage does unzip Ringo's trousers...

And they, too, drop.

FOOT: Fantastic!

FOOT: With a ring like that, I could—dare I say it—rule the world.

FOOT: I must have that ring!

FOOT: Algernon, the laser!

JOHN: AND your feindish, semi-human assistant!  Get off his hand or I'll call the Metropolitan scuffers in!

ALGERNON: The la-ser...

RINGO: Get him off.

FOOT: I MUST have this ring.  The laser!!

AHME: Hold!  

AHME: Release him or I'll shoot!  And I am a dead-eye shot, shooting.
ALGERNON: I've got it.

AHME: Switch off that machine.

Paul and George, still hiding in the bunker begin to whack at the equipment.

FOOT: (whispers) The laser...
ALGERNON: The laser, yes...

ALGERNON: I'm better with animals than I am plugs and transistors.

FOOT: MIT was after me, you know.  

FOOT: Wanted me to rule the world for them.

ALGERNON: Daddy being the local master of the hounds.  That's where I get it from—my love of animals. They trust me.  I should have been in vivisection.

JOHN: How do you know we can trust her?

JOHN: She's had your fingers before, Ringo.

PAUL: Well, that was a mistake. 

PAUL: I can vouch for her.  We're very close.

ALGERNON: Laser's ready!

FOOT: Get them!!

The laser begins to cut a path toward Ahme and the Beatles, alarming them...

But after it's initial burst, it explodes in a shower of sparks...

...and dies.

ALGERNON: It's the wrong plug. Just give me five minutes...

FOOT: It's the brain drain.  

FOOT: His brain's draining.


Words by March Behm and Charles Wood

Pictures by David Watkin and Richard Lester

Help! is available on DVD from Apple Home Entertainment

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