Weekend Film Recommendation: The Rutles: All You Need is Cash

Before A Mighty Wind before Fear of a Black Hat and yes, even before This is Spinal Tap was the first mock rock documentary (or, to paraphrase Marty DiBergi, the first, if you will “mockumentary”). I am speaking of this week’s film recommendation: 1978’s The Rutles: All You Need is Cash.

Monty Python alumnus Eric Idle is in top form as writer/co-director and also on screen, including as Rutles bassist Dirk McQuickly (who bears an eerie resemblance to Paul you-know-who) and as a number of minor characters, including an “Occasional Visiting Professor of Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself, California”. Neil Innes does marvelous work sending up John you-know-who and also by penning some inspired song parodies.

The film reviews the exploits of the “pre-fab four” from their early days in the Cavern in Liverpool, to the naughtiest street in the world in Hamburg to stardom under their eccentric manager Leggy Mountbatten, who loves their tight trousers. Even if you don’t know much about the Beatles, this movie is a laugh-filled treat, not least because so many comedy (including some Saturday Night Live stars from the glory days) and music legends (Mick Jagger and a well-disguised but still recognizable George Harrison) lend their talents at perfect moments. Telling the ridiculous story of The Rutles with an ostensibly straight face and a documentary style only makes it more hilarious, most particularly during a “very expensive” visit to discover the origin of the blues in New Orleans.

If you want to see what a fantastic job Idle and Innes did parodying both the Beatles’ music but also their stage presence and mannerisms, check out this clip of that famous night on the Ed Sullivan show…

p.s. A generation later, Idle revisited the same terrain in Can’t Buy Me Lunch. Not as fresh as the first time around of course, but still a pleasing follow-up to the original.

p.p.s. Interested in a different sort of film? Check out this list of RBC movie recommendations.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

5 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: The Rutles: All You Need is Cash”

  1. iirc the rutles started with an appearance on snl by eric idle as a response to snl’s offer of $100(?) for a beatles reunion. it was something like a 2 or 3 minute bit. i picture idle and some other writers with him discovering that the material almost wrote itself. i owned the vinyl lp that was part of the promotion of the film. i definitely approve of this recommendation.

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