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A Hard Day's Night
Miramax Collector's Series

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: G

Running Time: 92 minutes

Starring: The Beatles, William Brambell

Written by: Alun Owen

Directed by: Richard Lester

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features:
Disc 1: Things They Said Today..., DVD-ROM: Script, Website, Scrapbook Weblinks
Disc 2: Their Production Will Be Second To None, With The Beatles, Working Like A Dog..., Busy Working Overtime..., Listen To The Music Playing In Your Head..., Such A Clean Old Man!, I've Lost My Little Girl..., Taking Testimonial Pictures..., Dressed To The Hilt..., Dealing With "The Men From The Press"..., They And I Have Memories..., Hitting The Big Time In The USA

Specs: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (14 Scenes), 2-Disc Set

Released: September 24th, 2002

 

 

What can I say about The Beatles? I wasn't alive for the British Invasion or even for John Lennon's untimely death. While I'm not a die hard enthusiast of the band, I do know a bit about them and certainly do enjoy their music. Many, many of their songs will always remain classics and the mystique the band created during when they were together, and certainly after, will always entice people of different cultures and different backgrounds. I suppose The Beatles were the right band at the right time. They were certainly talented, and their music is still widely known and remembered and even used well after the band hit their peak. It's certainly the mark of a great, timeless band.

Despite the group's popularity, it is easy to see why "A Hard Day's Night" remains so popular to this very day. It's just a fun film that incorporates the band quite nicely. For those unfamiliar with it (for shame! the opening scene has only been parodied about 78,378 times), the film covers a highly romanticized (to an extent), highly blown up and highly enjoyable day in the life of The Beatles. The screaming fans, that crazy Grandfather of Paul's and much more... all topped with nice music sequences of classic Beatles songs.

Many credit "A Hard Day's Night" to being like a music video and is a direct influence to that art form we see today. I can see why people would say such things, but I'm not sure if I entirely agree with the fact that the film is such a heavy influence on early music videos and whatnot. Certainly, the intention was to make a film with a decent narrative and driven by its stars and music. The idea is that it's a music film. Yet Richard Lester's directing is pretty spiffy if you ask me. While I think some scenes could be trimmed and the pace of the film could be tightened at times, it is actually a very well made and still interesting after all this time. Nice shots and with a pretty even sense, Lester's fun montages of the great music sequences are the highlights if you ask me. Let alone, I don't think he overdoes the music. He puts in songs throughout the film evenly.

Alun Owen's screenplay is fun and loopy, making it perfect fodder for The Beatles and Beatles fans alike even if it can get superfluous at times. The performances from The Beatles themselves are also pretty enjoyable... even if they are playing themselves, they are quite charismastic (maybe even snotty... life imitiating art and vicey versa?). Still, I think the supporting performers who act alongside him actually steal the show and play off well against the band. The supporting actors are into it, but not too much into it - something like that would hurt the film. All the performances aren't over-the-top at all and make for a nice balance.

It's hard to define what makes "A Hard Day's Night" so classic, but I do think it has a lot to do with Beatlemania. Is it the greatest movie of all time? No, probably not. But it is certainly one of the greatest music films of all times, and definitely a really entertaining flick no matter how you look at it. So you get great music, a classic group together and a fun story. Not a bad deal at all. It can be flawed in its plotting and pacing at times, perhaps even being too overdone and under using the more sweeter and quieter moments, but it's hard to not like "A Hard Day's Night." If you've never seen it, be sure to check it out. It is definitely one of those films that everyone must see at least once, especially to gain a greater understanding of American music culture.

 

 

Matted to 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen (even if it was originally shot in 1.37:1), this restoration of "A Hard Day's Night" looks really, really good! It still has flaws in that there is a lot of dirt pieces, scratches, blemishes and the like. All of those do pop up a lot, but aren't too distracting. Halo edges pop up from time to time as well, and the film can be somewhat grainy. Still, it may be black and white, but it looks quite amazing. The limited color scheme isn't a bad thing at all, as everything seems to be saturated quite nicely. Detail is quite nice, and while the matting can be a little squeezed at times, I actually liked how it was presented... though I'm sure people will prefer the oriignal full screen. Overall, nicely done.

 

While I am disappointed the original mono track is not included, I suppose the 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes (in English or French) are pretty suitable. However, I find the Dolby Digital track to be rather uneven. There aren't many surround opportunities that feel surround-ish, but when there are, the mix feels rather artificial. The remixing does spread through all the channels and subwoofer, but it's rather straightforward. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and while the .1 LFE is used, it doesn't sound like it's using in the best possible way. Yet I couldn't help but notice there's a change in "tone" so to speak with the Dolby Digital. Dynamic range and fidelity reach different and better heights, and everything sounds more new during the music sequences. I don't know if I liked that or not. The music and vocals certainly sound pleasant, but how it all lifts up like it's actually a remix from their greatest hits CD or something and then drips back down is somewhat annoying. Nonetheless, it's a fine remix... especially for a film that's well over three decades old. Also included are English closed captions and English subtitles.

 

After a few delays since Miramax wanted to do this "right," "A Hard Day's Night" comes back to DVD after the pretty decent MPI edition a few years back. Since I don't think many own that version especially since DVD wasn't such a major format or anything when it first came out, fans now have a chance to check out this superb version with entirely new supplements produced especially for this DVD. If you're a fan of the film, then you should be quite pleased with what this two-disc set offers.

Things They Said Today is the only featurette on the first disc. Lasting about 36 minutes and presented in full frame, I won't go too much into detail about this one because it's basically a lot of the best parts of interviews from the second disc thrown here, as well as some stuff not found on the second disc (making it worth watching). Naturally, the editing and style of this make everything rather direct and right to the point, giving off the most interesting details of what those behind-the-scenes and involved have to say. If you want a quick run down of the film itself and production, then this is for you. Certainly, the bigger fans will want to check out everything disc two offers. Nonetheless, this is a strong watch as you get to hear from MANY different people involveed and how it all came to be.

Also on disc one are some DVD-ROM features. The great website devoted to the film is here, a scrapbook, some weblinks and a very nifty script viewer.

Disc two has the bulk of the supplements. All of these are interviews with assorted people basically, all topped together with really nifty behind-the-scenes footage, stills and clips from the film. Their Production Will Be Second To None is broken down into four segments: "Look at My Direction..." with director Richard Lester, "Then There Was Music..." with musical director Sir George Martin, "Better Hurry 'Cause it May Not Last..." with studio executive David Picker and "You Know His Name..." with associate producer Denis O'Dell. Together, these run a good half-hour or so. These four talk about the project, what made it different, the approach to it, how they went about it and the importance of The Beatles, their music and their experiences with the film. A good deal of this is about origins, which I found quite interesting.

With The Beatles gains a different perspective... this time from the wonderful ensemble who worked with them. Everyone here has something interesting to say if you ask me, especially on working with the group themselves and some fun production stories. All together, this is about fifty minuts worth of footage here. These are really worth watching as ordinary actors talk about working with some of the most famous people ever. Included are interviews with John Junkin (Shake), Lionel Blair (TV Choreographer), Kenneth Haigh (Simon Marshall), David Jaxon (Young Boy), Anna Quayle (Millie), Jeremy Lloyd (Club Dancer) and Terry Hooper (Casino Croupier).

Working Like A Dog... is about the production crew, and how these people got to do the project, what they do and what part they had is pretty cool to hear about it, especially since they're all so filled with passion. Very good stuff especially since you gain a different perspective here. Director of photography Gilbert Taylor, camera operator Paul Wilson, hairdresser Betty Glasow and 2nd assistant director Barrie Melrose are interviewed here. Together, their stuff comes together at a good 20 minutes or so.

Busy Working Overtime... is about the post-production crew. Lasting a little less than seven minutes, sound editors Gordon Daniels and Jim Roddan as well as assistant editors Pam Tomling and Roy Benson talk in pairs of their parts of putting the film together. Cool stuff. Each had rather integral parts when you think about since the film's editing is key in its visual and the story being told (especially those montage music shots), and for the sound editors this is a major music movie. Good stuff, even if it's on the short side.

Listen To The Music Playing In Your Head... is actually a very nice retrospective from Sir George Martin, who works for Air Studios in London. Martin is quite insightful and quite honest, pointing out what he thinks are some of the weaker songs in the movie and why. He seems like a demanding guy, yet pretty nice and down to earth at the same time. Truly worth a watch. This lasts about twelve minutes.

Such A Clean Old Man !is a memorial dedicated to Wilfrid Brambell, hosted by "Steptoe and Son" (that's the UK version of "Sanford and Son") creators and writers Alan Simpson and Ray Galton. The two talk how they met Brambell, why the picked him for the part for their show and their memories of him. With clips from Brambell's older work as well, this is a nice and pretty short lookback running five minutes and a second.

I've Lost My Little Girl... has interviews with Lester, Tomling, Benson and actress Isla Blair who talk about Blair's scene that ended up on the cutting room floor. It has some stills too and Blair talks about her scene, how she was supposed to play it while the other three talk about the more technical aspects of the scene. By hearing them out, you get a sense on why it was all cut.

Taking Tesimonial Pictures... focuses on Robert Freeman, the designer and photographer for the film's title sequence and film poster. Lasting ten minutes, this is quite detailed and informative on what went on to be a famous poster and title sequence that is so recognizable and iconic. Dressed To The Hilt... focuses on a Beatles tailor Gordon Millings. Millings shows off original patents and costumes. This is surprisingly worthwhile.

Beatles publicist Tony Barrow is featured in Dealing With "The Men From The Press"... as he recounts in over the course of nearly eighteen minutes his work for The Beatles, their impact and much more. Barrow's dealings are really worth hearing, not to mention the footage accompanying them. I think die hard Beatles fans will like his insights a lot. They And I Have Memories focuses on Klaus Voorman, a friend of the group for a good seven and a half minutes. He recounts the first time he experienced the band, his thoughts on the film and a bit more. Finally, Hitting The Big Time In The USA is only several minutes (nearly four to be exact) as concert promoter Sid Bernstein and how he is credited to bringing the band to America. Nothing really new, but Bernstein seems to look about at those times with glee.

As you can see, this disc features perspectives from so many different kinds of people who were involved with the film and The Beatles themselves, each with their own memories and whatnot. In all, it adds up to a lot of information and lot of stuff to take in. Casual fans should enjoy it, but if you're a die-hard Beatles fanatic, then you'll surely eat up everything that's said. The only downside? I wish surviving members Paul and Ringo contributed somehow with their own thoughts. Whether they don't want to be bothered with the film, other projects, the past or whatever - who knows. Still, you get enough insight onto the band and the film from all the others here. I'm glad Disney didn't edit these into a commentary!

On a different note, the disc's menus perfectly the film, the packaging is classy yet simple and in all, this surely lives up to the Miramax Collector's Series banner.

 

A classic music film, "A Hard Day's Night" is yet another piece of work that solidfys the pop culture impact The Beatles did have. After all these years, it does hold up very well and is still pretty fun. This long awaited DVD edition does not disappoint offer, with a nifty new transfer, an interesting Dolby Digital remix and very interesting supplements that are basically a load of detailed interviews. Certainly, if you don't have it, this one's worth picking up.