The Beatles: Let It Be Is Meticulously Restored

(L-R): Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison in THE BEATLES: LET IT BE. Photo by Ethan A. Russell. © 2024 Apple Corps Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Following 2021’s epic The Beatles: Get Back, The Beatles: Let It Be has been meticulously restored by Peter Jackson and company.

Long out of print and only available through bootlegs, the original 1970 film is finally available once again. It opens with a brief conversation from April 2023 between Peter Jackson and director Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Lindsay-Hogg’s original footage is what forms the basis of Jackson’s epic documentary series. It is amazing how different the rooftop performances are just because of using different shot selections. The music sounds as equally amazing as one would expect. A lot of credit goes to Jackson’s Post Road Post Production team for their restoration work. Without them, this film would still be in the vault. It did not get a planned DVD release with the release of Let It Be…Naked in 2003. Only now are fans able to experience the film on Disney+.

“I was knocked out by what you were able to do with Get Back using all the footage that I shot 50 years previously so in a funny way, I look at Let It Be as the father of Get Back,” Lindsay-Hogg told Jackson.

The filmmaker isn’t “a self-pitying person at all” but is glad the film is coming out again is that “it really didn’t get a fair shake the first time.” Something that excites him “about Let It Be coming out again is that finally, it’s going to get a chance to be embraced for the curious and fascinating character that it is.”

As everyone knows, the original basis of the film was the first Beatles concert since ending touring in 1966. There was much debate about where to perform and ultimately, it would be on the rooftop of Apple Corps. That’s only because all talk of performing a massive concert came to an end after ten days. They originally rehearsed in a massive studio soundstage before going back to the comfort of Apple Corps. Lindsay-Hogg and his team captured them rehearsing not only songs that would appear on Let It Be but their final recorded album, Abbey Road. The rooftop concert is the only way that the film can end in a satisfactory way. Otherwise, what would it be for?

The album’s recording would mark the beginning of the end. At one point, George Harrison would leave The Beatles, only to come back days later. His comment to Paul McCartney after being criticized is in The Beatles Anthology: “I’ll play what you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.” One wonders how much of this is because of rehearsing at the Twickenham Film Studio. To put things simply, it is not Apple Corps. The change to Apple and bringing in Billy Preston would be a game changer. Peter Jackson would capture all of this in full but Lindsay-Hogg would need to release something with approval by the film’s producers. It’s a challenge but Jackson’s work adds more context and perspective.

Things would change between the recording and the film’s release. By the time of its US and UK premieres in May 1970, none of The Beatles would attend. And yet, the rooftop concert would become a concert for the ages. The last public performance of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr together as The Beatles. Lennon’s 1980 murder put an end to any Beatles reunions. And yet, The Beatles have given fans new songs in the form of “Free as a Bird,” “Real Love,” and last year’s “Now and Then.” It’s unlikely that we’ll get anything else from them unless Peter Jackson and Giles Martin find something magical in the remaining footage.

Several years ago, it seemed like a release would not happen with Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr alive. This is where Peter Jackson came in. Sure, you could see the fracturing but you can still see moments where The Beatles are having fun doing what they do best, especially during the concert. That’s one of the beauties in watching the film. After all, we are talking about the greatest rock band of all time! But anyway, any decision that The Beatles make is up for a vote. Everything has to be unanimous for something to go forward. The release of the film only adds to the band’s legacy. Obviously, it’s a time capsule but it’s still something that any fan of The Beatles should see, for better or worse.

I’m glad that Apple Corps asked Peter Jackson and his team to restore Let It Be. By releasing the film on Disney+, it allows old and new Beatles to watch the film and legally, I must add. In addition to restoring the picture from its original 16mm negative, the sound also gets remastering by way of the MAL de-mix technology. Because of this, The Beatles: Let It Be looks and sounds as great as it ever has.

The Beatles: Let It Be is not a perfect movie but it doesn’t need to be–however, it is only following Jackson’s epic documentary series that fans of The Beatles are able to experience the film with a new perspective. Some will be watching for the first time while others might be watching for maybe a second or third time. Speaking for myself, it was fascinating to experience the film after watching Peter Jackson’s epic work in 2021.

DIRECTOR: Michael Lindsay-Hogg
FEATURING: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, with special appearance by Billy Preston

Disney+ will stream The Beatles: Let It Be exclusively beginning May 8, 2024. The film originally premiered on May  13, 1970. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.