|Directed by||Joe Massot|
|Produced by||Andrew Braunsberg|
|Written by||Gérard Brach (story)
Guillermo Cabrera Infante
|Music by||George Harrison
The Remo Four
|Editing by||Rusty Coppleman|
|Distributed by||Compton-Cameo Films|
|Running time||85 min.|
Wonderwall is the title of a 1968 film by first-time director Joe Massot that starred Jack MacGowran, Jane Birkin, Richard Wattis, Irene Handl, and Iain Quarrier, and featured cameos by Anita Pallenberg and Dutch designers The Fool (who were also set designers for the film). The film is best remembered for its soundtrack, composed by then-Beatle George Harrison.
The story of the film revolves around the reclusive, eccentric scientist Oscar Collins (MacGowran), whose next-door neighbours are a pop photographer (Quarrier) and his girlfriend/model (Birkin), named Penny Lane. Discovering a beam of light streaming through a hole in the wall between them, Collins follows the light and spots Penny modelling for a photo shoot. Intrigued, he begins to make more holes, as days go by and they do more photo sessions. Oscar gradually becomes infatuated with the girl, and feels a part of the couple's lives, even forsaking work to observe them. When they quarrel and the couple split, Penny takes an overdose of pills and passes out, but Oscar comes to her rescue.
The soundtrack was composed by Beatle George Harrison, whom Massot approached specially for the project. Harrison had never done a film soundtrack, and told Massot he did not know how, but when Massot promised to use whatever Harrison created, Harrison took the job.
Deciding to make the soundtrack a kind of introduction to Indian music, Harrison recorded a series of short ragas at EMI's recording studio in Bombay in January 1968, then a selection of rock and other musical styles, at De Lane Lea Studios in London, England. Timing the segments with a stopwatch as he watched the unfinished film, Harrison built up a healthy, varied musical programme. The soundtrack album (Wonderwall Music), the first "solo" Beatles record, was released in November 1968 by Apple Records as the company's first LP. Wonderwall Music also appeared on compact disc in 1992, during reissues of the Apple catalogue.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 1968, with George Harrison, his wife Pattie, Ringo Starr, his wife Maureen, and the cast members of the film in attendance. The premiere in London was on 12 January 1969. The film won an award, but did not gain a proper distribution deal, and its showings were limited, leading some writers to mistakenly state that the film "was so poor, it was never seen by anyone". A print did finally appear on the American midnight movies circuit in the 1970s, and on home video in the 1980s and 1990s, all of rather low technical quality.
In 1998, thirty years after the film's release, and with Massot an established film director, he decided to restore and re-release his first film. Harrison's search for master recordings turned up a lyrical song, "In the First Place" by the Remo Four, which he hadn't submitted the first time around, believing Massot wanted only instrumental music. "In the First Place" was released as a single in 1999. Harrison is believed to have not only produced it, but sung and played on it, although he asked to be credited only as producer. Massot was happy to include the song in the restored film, which was released to critical acclaim the second time around, and got a distribution deal.
The restored version of Wonderwall is currently available on DVD through Rhino Entertainment in the United States, with bonus features.