I like to browse through Netflix's instant streaming recommendations, because sometimes you find some films you never knew existed but sound really interesting. When I see a title like Paul McCartney Really is Dead, there's no doubt I'm going to check it out. I was raised on the Beatles, and have had a minor obsession since the Beatles Anthology premiered on television. The "Paul is dead" phenomenon is a fascinating one. Like all conspiracies, there can be some parts of it that make you think and others that seem like people grasping at straws or flat out losing their minds. For the record, and probably made obvious by my title, I do not think Paul McCartney died in 1966. I do think it's possible that John Lennon at the least may have decided to tease us all a bit. It's the sort of cheeky thing he would do. However I'm of the opinion that most of the "clues" are just people desperately looking for them.
I sat down to the documentary not really expecting to be convinced, but still interested to see what they were going to do. I did not expect to be completely outraged.
We start off with the filmmaker, Joel Gilbert, telling us that some mini cassette tapes were delivered to his offices in 2005. These tapes contained the voice of someone claiming to be George Harrison, recording them on December 30, 1999, the day that he was attacked by a knife wielding maniac in his home. He was supposedly recording from the hospital recovering from the attack, and he was recording the events because he believed the attack had occurred because two weeks earlier he had told "Faul" that he planned to reveal the secret to the world. Faul is the name the Beatles supposedly gave William Campbell, the Paul lookalike who underwent plastic surgery and speech therapy to take Paul's place in the group.
Gilbert tells us that all attempts to verify the tape were inconclusive, but that he had his team research various events mentioned on the tapes and what they found was shocking and seemed to corroborate the story. We then begin to listen to the tapes for the remainder of the film, Gilbert providing us with images, stock video footage of the Beatles, highlighted lyrics, etc. supposedly supporting what is being said.
The second we begin to hear the tape is the second that anyone who knows anything more than passing knowledge about the Beatles will realize this is bullshit. The voice doesn't sound anything like George I've ever heard, the accent is terrible and probably a bad imitator rather than an actual Liverpudlian or even an Englishman at all, and there is absolutely no trace of a hiss on the recording. He supposedly taped this in a hospital on a mini tape recorder, like one of these. Not exactly a producer of crystal clear audio. There's also the simple fact that Harrison was suffering from a punctured lung and head injuries from the attack - not exactly the kind of thing that would leave you in a state to produce over an hour's worth of audio or being able to recount things down to finite details.
So that was just bad choice number one on their part. The number of bad choices that follow are simply too innumerable to count, but here's some more that really set my blood boiling as I watched this thing.
George claims that Paul's funeral was attended by the three remaining Beatles and Paul's parents. Paul's mom died when he was 14. Also, why did they leave out his brother?
While recapping the Beatles history (because, you know, that's what you would do when trying to reveal a specific point while being sick, tell the entire story) George says that during the height of the Beatles' popularity, they "felt like gods." This is not a thing that George Harrison, nor any of the other Beatles, would ever say. They did not understand their popularity and were generally overwhelmed by it.
He claims that the reason his songs only showed up on the albums after Paul's death was that his songs were "never needed" before then. It's well documented that George desperately wanted to contribute, but felt intimidated and discouraged by Paul & John. Hell, most of his later songs are passive aggressive jabs at the two of them.
Supposedly Taxman was originally "Taxidermist" but they made him change the words because it was too obvious a clue. Taxidermists work on animals, not people, so this particular clue is one of those really far fetched ones.
"George" (maybe I should start calling him Feorge? He IS a forgery after all) tries to claim that all the Yesterday and Today clues were their decision. This was an American release album, made up of singles that in England the Beatles refused to put on albums. They didn't want you purchasing tracks twice. Capitol Records chose the songs, not the Beatles. The cover is notorious - they took a photo in lab coats covered with baby doll parts and meat - not to symbolize a car crash, but to symbolize the way they felt like pieces of meat for being always photographed. The cover was replaced not because the powers that be were angry at them for revealing the secret, but because the cover was judged to be too disgusting.
He claims that their experiences with the Maharishi were an attempt to transfer Paul's spirit into Faul. He then goes on to mock transcendental meditation. George was the one Beatle who took to the process the most, and stayed in India the longest. What an insult to George's memory to make it seem like he didn't believe in any of it.
They highlight a lot of backward messages in the records.. some sound close, others are a severe stretch. Of course the thing with backwards messages is they tell you what to look for, and your brain fills in the pieces, so you can't trust any of this stuff anyway. Perhaps the most insulting is supposedly on "I Am the Walrus", where they say "Ha ha Paul is dead." He speaks over and over again that they were mourning and in grief, and that the whole reason they were putting clues there was because they felt terrible about being forced to hide it. Why would they laugh about it here?
Once again, Feorge claims credit for an album the Beatles barely had anything to do with - Yellow Submarine. He even claims that one of his own songs "Northern Song" was written by John. Judging by the image used, there must have been a mistake on the album back that credited it to Lennon-McCartney, and no one bothered to fact check this.
Perhaps what flew me most into a rage was when Feorge makes fun of Ringo, saying he had no musical talent and very little personality. George and Ringo were best friends for a long time, at one point living together at the height of the Beatles fame. Why would he say such cruel things about one of his very best friends?!
He claims Let It Be was made after Abbey Road. This is a mistake often made by people who don't know much about the Beatles, because Let It Be was released last. But any simple Google search or Wikipedia entry will tell you that Abbey Road was their last recording session, and that Let It Be was simply delayed due to the disaster surrounding its recording. Similarly, he acts like Two Virgins was released after the Beatles broke up.
Supposedly Linda figured out that Faul was a fake because she had a crush on the real Paul and could spot the differences. She blackmailed Faul into marrying her to help promote her singing and music career. Another insult to the memory of a good person.
He claims that the pot arrests Paul had post Beatles were because Faul started using marijuana to cope with the plastic surgeries. Various other statements scattered throughout the narrative make it seem like he's claiming that Faul was the only one to take drugs at all. Considering that Joel Gilbert usually makes Bob Dylan documentaries and even has a Bob Dylan tribute band, I find it amazing that he didn't know that Dylan is the one that introduced pot to the Beatles.
In short, this film is an inaccurate mess full of lies that tries to pass itself off as truth. There's nothing in the film or the credits to say "just kidding" and the idea that people who haven't followed the Beatles' career like I have could watch this and believe it really infuriates me. Even if you think the claim is too far fetched, you could walk away thinking things about George Harrison, Linda McCartney, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr that are just flat out wrong.
This is lazy film making. If they had put their efforts into simply making a documentary covering the "Paul is dead" theory, we could have had a much more interesting film. This is essentially a film that covers all those backward messages, album art, and lyrics clues, and it tells the story commonly told by the conspiracy theorists who spread it around. So if you want to watch it to learn more about that, you can. Just please don't go thinking there's an ounce of truth anywhere in it. I'd also urge you to not actually give them any money - download it or watch it on Netflix Streaming.
The credits of the film list two people as researchers: Daniella Arnold and Lance Lewman. I hope these two do a Google search for their names and find this review, so they can see just how bad a job they did in their fact checking for this fallacy. Shame on both of you, and shame on Joel Gilbert too. If you really want people to believe a lie, the least you could do is get your facts straight. And if you don't want people to believe it, don't go trying to present it as truth.