By Gillian G. Gaar
“Produced by George Martin”
Eagle Rock Entertainment (DVD/Blu-ray)
This first-rate documentary was originally aired in Britain as part of the BBC’s award-winning “Arena” TV series (a show from which American TV could learn much). The show looks back at George Martin’s incredible career as a producer, and those who most associate him with The Beatles might be surprised to learn just how extensive that career has been.
Martin is mostly shown not being interviewed by a professional journalist, but by his colleagues (including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr); his admirers (the Monty Python troupe’s Michael Palin, who talks to Martin about the comedy records he produced); and his family (Giles Martin, his son and producing partner).
The results are impressive; Martin is obviously relaxed with the people he knows, coming across as a congenial elder statesmen, with an understated sense of humor and no small measure of self-deprecation. When Giles jokes that his father exudes something of a James Bond-type aura, Sir George rises to the occasion by showing how to prepare a first-class martini.
The soundtrack is comprised of clips of music that Martin produced. While most people will be familiar with The Beatles’ material, it’s great fun to hear other records Martin worked on, such as Peter Sellers’ records, the jocular “Right Said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins, and the cute “Nellie the Elephant,” the theme song to a children’s TV show, sung by Mandy Miller.
Because the film covers Martin’s entire life, you pretty much only get an overview of Martin’s work, but there are still some interesting insights, such as his approach to producing, which he sees less as trying to capture exactly how something sounds — making a photograph, which simply reproduces what’s there — but more how you want something to sound, like making a painting, which can have greater depth than a photo.
Also discussed is his growing deafness (turn those speakers down, kids), which has meant he rarely does interviews these days. But he remains in good spirits, considering himself quite lucky for having such an interesting life.
The only thing really wrong with this documentary is that you wish it was longer, though the DVD extras provide some further interviews. Beatles fans in particular will find this a great portrait of the producer who introduced the Fab Four to the world.