Backbeat (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Although Backbeat is not an especially great movie, it's a good one in many ways, and I enjoyed it. You may like it as well, for one or more of the following reasons:
  1. If you're a big Beatles fan, this film offers a pretty solid overview of what their lives were like in the pre-fame period in Liverpool and Hamburg, focusing most closely on the friendship between John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe.
  2. Although you won't get to hear any of the great original hits that made the Beatles what they were, you'll get to hear plenty of vintage 1950's American rock-n-roll, which is what the Fab Five (Harrison, Lennon, McCartney, Best, Sutcliffe) played in those days. They played that music well.
  3. The guy who plays John Lennon delivers an intense and excellent performance.
  4. There is plenty of sexy nudity. I have never seen Sheryl Lee look better.
  5. The movie is consistently well filmed and well acted.
  6. It's a great DVD. The film itself looks terrific, and there are lots of extras (see DVD info section below).


Sheryl Lee shows her breasts in two scenes, plus one more time in the deleted scenes. She also does a medium distance frontal nude shot in which she walks past the camera. It is also possible to see most of her pubic area in a seated view.

Several strippers show their breasts, and two of the do full-frontal nudity.

Finola Geraghty shows everything as an artist's model

I wrote that it isn't all that great a movie because, as Gertrude Stein might have pointed out, there's no there there. If you forget for a moment that the movie is about the Beatles, and pretend that it's a fictional story about five guys named Schlubb, there's really no solid reason to watch it, although it still has good points. Some guys form a band, one guy has to choose between the band and his art, chooses art, dies at 21. Yawn.

Similarly, if you aren't interested in the Beatles, and/or don't like their music or their personalities, there's no compelling reason to watch it.

The movie exists, therefore, for the Beatles buffs among us. There are many. I am one, and I found it a pleasant entertainment movie and in interesting bit of education-cum-nostalgia.

DVD info from Amazon

Good, full-featured DVD

  • widescreen anamorphic, excellent transfer

  • full length director's commentary

  • audition footage

  • deleted footage

  • two interviews with the director

  • an interview with actor Ian Hart

  • a behind-the-scenes stills gallery

For many celebrities, death was an excellent career choice:

  • For Elvis, dying saved him from being a fat guy singing crappy lounge songs in spangled jumpsuits. That awful image was expunged by his demise, and he was able to go back to being the handsome, hard-drivin' rockabilly star that he had once been, and to stay in that stage forever.
  • For Jim Morrison, death served the same purpose as Caligula's self-deification. By dying, Jim raised himself far above the Monkees and the Turtles and the Dave Clark Five and the rest of the Doors, and made himself part of the Holy Trinity of Rock with Jimi, and Janis. Mention one of the Three Martyred Jays, and you mention all three. Jimi, Janis, and Jim.

Stu Sutcliffe was not among the celebs who benefited from death. His death represented the loss of an exceptional life at a tragically young age. If you believe the legend, he was was facing a future of unimaginable promise. He had the choice of being the best-looking member of the most successful rock group in history, or becoming the greatest modern painter since Picasso. Instead of being able to live out either of those dreams, his brain exploded in a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and he died in a tiny studio in Hamburg. He was only 21 years old.

A Sutcliffe biography may be found here.


Backbeat (1993) is a biopic of Stuart Sutcliffe, one of the five members of the original group that eventually became the Beatles. He was John Lennon's close personal friend, and was in the group for a few laughs, and to help John become rich and famous, but never had much musical ability, nor did he have the desire necessary to be a successful musician. His true talent and ambition lay as an artist.

The original group was working in Hamburg as a cover band in strip clubs when Sutcliffe met the love of his life, photographer Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee). Sutcliffe left the band, as did another original member, Ringo Starr joined, and they became the Beatles. Sutcliffe achieved some success as an artist before dying of a brain hemorrhage. For Beatles fans, this has to be fascinating. It is well photographed, full of late fifties and early sixties rock and roll tunes, and has a lot of nudity.

The Critics Vote

  • Panel consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4. However, these two were exceptional among the body of critics. See below.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Other critics liked it much more than our main guys. RT has 17 graded reviews, only 4 of them negative, and two of those are Ebert and Berardinelli. So,  toss those two guys out, and it's 87% positive!

The People Vote ...

  • The box office was uninspired - about two million dollars in the UK and another two million in the USA.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. Not a great movie, but well worth the watch if the subject interests you. Tuna says, "Scoop was correct about the film being not very interesting to those of us who are not big Beatles fans. I found it a slow, tedious watch. C."

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