Let It Be – review


“Watch Paul and The Beatles in their 1970 film, Let it Be – streaming May 8th.”

We had the opportunity to attend an exclusive theatrical viewing of “Let It Be” in Oslo, Norway on Monday, so we thought we should give our impression.

The screening was introduced by a spokesperson from Disney, who merely repeated the “unavailable for more than fifty years” lie, which laserdisc and videocassette audiences in USA, Germany and The Netherlands who got their copies from the stores in 1981-1983 could testify to be at least inaccurate. Not to mention members of film clubs, where the film has lived a life after the general release and reprises.

The film started with what looked like a conversation between Peter Jackson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, but obviously filmed separately and joined together. This intro was without any big revelations.

Having just missed theatrical screenings in Oslo in 1978 and in Berlin in 1981, we were happy to finally see this film on the big screen.

“John Lennon and The Beatles in their 1970 film, Let it Be – streaming May 8”

Compared to DVD boots

But since we have had it on VHS since 1984 and on DVD since DVD-R’s were introduced in the mid-nineties in several versions, and probably remember every line by heart, the film was familiar to us. Picturewise, it felt just like it has been on the best of the bootleg DVDs. You might remember the 1992 by Ron Furmanek remastered and remixed edition which, although cropped at the bottom, leaked on a bootleg DVD from His Master’s Choice. An even better bootleg DVD has been an amalgamate of the BBC2 screening from 1982 and the South-West German 1983 TV screening, both almost uncropped 16mm versions, with Furmanek’s 1992 stereo mix added. Far better than your standard bootleg DVD using the pan and scanned 35mm U.S. laserdisc version in mono with the yellow hue.

Some of the Let It Be bootleg DVDs we’ve collected over the years, each with its own pros and cons.

In the theatre with this restored edition, we didn’t feel the look being very different from the best DVD, although of course the images were clearer. Throughout, the sound seemed to be mono or very close stereo (we positioned ourselves in the center of the theatre) and we got no Atmos feeling at the rooftop concert, it felt more like they just turned the sound up a notch for that segment. A report from the screening in Copenhagen, which happened simultaneously to the one we attended, informed that the sound went from stereo to Dolby Atmos once the concert segment started. Of course, giving us the feel of mono in a stereo mix was what Furmanek went for in 1992 (assisted by a puzzled George Martin), and Giles Martin has in interviews informed us that this is also his new approach.

There were some slight differences in the mix, soundwise (we didn’t remember the tongue-clicking on “Two Of Us”), and at the end, the still image with the “Get Back Reprise” from Glyn Johns’ album was replaced with white text on black for the credits, the accompanying sound being a rehearsal of “Oh! Darling”, “River Rhine” and finally an instrumental which title escapes me.

George and The Beatles

At the screening, which was for members of the Norwegian Wood Beatles Fan Club, we also got reactions from original fans, who saw the film in 1970, where the Norwegian premiere was on August 31, 1970. The conclusion was, in general, that the film was a lot better when viewed now, rather than when people thought that it depicted the break-up of the Beatles. In hindsight, we know that the Beatles rolled on after the January film making and went on to produce more singles and a new album, “Abbey Road” and even had further plans for the continuation of the band. In reality, it was the introduction of Allen Klein, and the three other band members disregarding Paul McCartney’s veto against the “new manager” which ultimately proved to be the band’s demise.

Ringo and The Beatles

Comparison to Get Back

Compared to Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” documentary, essentially a documentary about the filming of the “Let It Be” documentary, the original film is a lot more dense in music, having much less dialogue and context. George quitting and getting back into the fold is not part of the film, the move from Twickenham to Apple never explained, Billy Preston never introduced and Ringo and especially George getting less screen time. These things have all been addressed in the “Get Back” series. The images in the restored “Let It Be” film was much less processed which gave it a more natural look, compared to the almost plasticky images of faces and hair in “Get Back”.

Also, the focus is more on the music, giving us more and fuller songs, including the “Suzy Parker” improvisation and the full songs from the day after the rooftop concert, “Two Of Us”, “Let It Be” and “The Long And Winding Road”. Having these three songs back to back without any dialogue in between made this a somewhat dull part of the film, we have always thought. In “Let It Be”, these songs appear in the segment before the rooftop concert, because the director felt the concert would be a fitting way to end the film.

The Walt Disney Company published a “featurette” with bits from Peter Jackson and Michael Lindsay-Hogg:

Still, Lindsay-Hogg’s film holds up, even though historically inaccurate, and we especially enjoyed that the rooftop segment had a lot less interrupted sequences from the police arrivals and the interviews with people on the street than what the “Get Back” series had. Lennon is allowed to not remember lyrics in “Don’t Let Me Down”, something which was fixed in the “Get Back” series by mixing two performances together.

The 2024 trailer:

Here’s the original 1970 trailer for your enjoyment and comparison:

The film just premiered on Disney+, so stream it from there or wait for the inevitable blu-ray/dvd. If we’re lucky, it will get a short theatrical run for the general public, which is what happened also to the rooftop episode of the “Get Back” series.

15 Responses

  1. Simon says:

    So they have not restored the scen3s Paul, Ringo and George asked to to be cut then?

  2. Tim Wilson says:

    I tend to be exacting in my audio/visual experiences and note a clear difference and substantial improvement over the prior bootlegs. In my opinion, the video was improved fantastically over anything before. However, I feel that the studio audio of the incomplete music they played could have been a little bit better. I have heard the NAGRA reels of the originally recorded sound and from the awful postproduction of the original film with all its wow and flutter and grain.
    The original NAGRA reel, say for example, in the opening piano Adagio for strings sound so much better than what is on the new LIB release. They wanted to achieve a “film” look which seems to have slightly softened some video details. I appreciate the desire not to show every detail of every pore on their faces, but I think in some cases it was done well and other cases to excess.
    Having said all this, it’s great to have it as the improvements very much outweigh the deficiencies and with the effort by Apple/Disney to bring this back, it will be an easy decision to buy the DVD when it is released.

  3. Win Corr says:

    The new Let it Be is better than any of the bootlegs. The picture and sound quality is superb. Throw away the bootlegs and the laserdiscs. I was pleased they smoothed out the first Down Let Me Down. It was very harsh. Having the context of the Get back series is helpful, but Let it Be stands on it’s own very well. They really were a great band. It’s a must see and will be better on repeated views now.

  4. Glenn Milam says:

    I’m going to have to watch my old bootleg copy again. Because I remember the movie being much more tense than this seems to be. I guess after seeing all the dirty laundry in Get Back, this seems almost joyful.

  5. Cláudio says:

    I don’t think they did the restoration the right way. It doesn’t make sense for the film Let it Be to return with the same aspect ratio as an analogue TV from the past. My perception was that I was watching one of my DVD-R boots of Let it Be film on the big screen. It also doesn’t make sense in 2024 that the film’s sound editing is the same as it was in 1969 in mono and taken from the Nagra tapes. It’s a shame that the “new” Let it Be movie didn’t use sound recorded on multitrack tape, not even in the rooftop sequence. So to see this falsely restored re-release is a huge disappointment. Will we never have the Let it Be movie in widescreen? So I prefer the documentary Get Back

    • Glenn Milam says:

      That would be difficult since it wasn’t filmed in wide screen or recorded on multitrack.

      • Cláudio says:

        I do not agree. We are in the era of high digital technology. We have Get Back in widescreen format with pristine sound editing. So it is neither understandable nor acceptable to re-release Let it Be in mono and in an outdated screen format. Does not make sense. The right way to relaunch was with new image editing. Get Back proved that this is possible…

        • admin says:

          The 16mm film is in 4:3 ratio. Making it go widescreen either means stretching it, which will be skewing the images, or zooming in, which means losing top and/or bottoms of the image. A new approach could be using the 4:3 image in the middle and make AI fill in the left and right part 😀

          • Cláudio says:

            Yes that’s it. If it was possible to do what they did in Get Back from the same rolls of film from which the final edition of Let it Be also came, then we can dream of a re-release that rescues Let it Be for the modern era in audio and image

    • Tim Wilson says:

      I prefer the Get Back movie as well for the reason that you feel like you are really seeing the dynamic and the friendship of the band along with the music. Those first several days were a seemed a little rough at times, but there was laughing also, and it seems things got better between them after George returned from his walk-out.
      The flowerpot conversation reveals to me that things weren’t as bad between John and Paul as some believed, although clearly with the arrival of Klein things rapidly got dark. So much negativity was read in to the Let It Be film by the dialogue editing and Paul has said as much. A good example of that was the Paul George disagreement. It was not as snappy as was portrayed in Let It Be but more a simmering discussion and disagreement and other dialogue with pauses between the barbs and then a return to rehearsing.

  6. debjorgo says:

    The worse I thought it got was the bit of dialog that turned up on a bootleg: Paul – “Okay. Back to the drudgery.” John – “It’s you that’s making it this way , Paul. It’s you.”

    When you see this in Get Back, you see Paul and John with big smiles on their face. They were joking.

  7. Paul Denison says:

    I was able to watch about half of Let it Be last night at my brother-in-law’s. It was great to see it again after such a long time.

    The two things which I missed the most (comparing it with Get Back) were the superb high definition and watching Kevin Harrington bringing the drinks every 15 minutes!

  8. John N Kaelin says:

    On a slightly related topic, I just watched the new Let It Be video now on the official website. I think they used the mix made with George’s new guitar solo from Jan 1970. Can anyone confirm this?

    • John N Kaelin says:

      I should clarify – the new music video for the song Let It Be. Not the complete restored movie now on Disney +.

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