Do you love The Beatles? I sure do. I remember watching the band’s first film, A Hard Day’s Night, for the first time on a black & white TV set tucked way in a family room that we called The Den, and being totally enraptured by The Beatles charming shenanigans and totally amazing songs. I was probably five years old at the time, and by then the film was two years past its 1964 release date. Since that day, I’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night countless times on TV — either broadcast or via recorded media– but I’d never had the chance to see it on a Big Screen until Criterion hosted a press screening last month to promote the upcoming release of the newly restored 50th Anniversary edition of the film. Let me tell you, it is really something special, and sitting there in the dark theater with images of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr all larger than life, took me right back to being that little five year old girl who was (and still is) just completely nuts about The Beatles.
This and Image Below Courtesy of Rogert Ebert Dot Com
Directed by the legendary Richard Lester and released amid the initial global frenzy of Beatlemania, A Hard Day’s Night follows the fab four through a fictionalized ‘typical day’ of running from hoards of crazed fans, traveling by train, hanging out in their hotel room, meeting the press, cracking wise, filming a live TV show and, finally, performing for a capacity crowd of those same of hysterical fans who simply will not stop screaming. There are couple fun subplots such as a hilarious running joke about Paul’s Grandfather (Played brilliantly by Wilfrid Brambell, who was actually on 50 years old when he made A Hard Day’s Night) and a sweet interlude where a dejected Ringo runs off to have his own brief misadventure. The film is just fantastic and features a dozen original Beatles songs that still sound better than any pop music released in the past 20 years or more. I could watch it over and over again.
A Hard Day’s Night returns to theaters on July 4th, 2014 (check local listings for showings your area), but this past week saw the release of Criterion Collection’s DVD/Blu-Ray edition of the film, featuring a new 4K digital restoration approved by Richard Lester with three audio options. Up to Criterion’s usual high standards, the package also contains a booklet with an essay by critic Howard Hampton and a number of extras; some of these are vintage documentaries about the film, but two of the best are new: an interview with author Mark Lewisohn tracing The Beatles’ history up to A Hard Day’s Night, and “Anatomy of a Style,” an astute analysis of Lester’s and editor John Jympson’s techniques. This collection is must-own for all Beatles fans.
About the video and audio restoration: Using the latest in digital restoration technology, the Criterion Collection was able to restore A Hard Day’s Night from the 35 mm original camera negative, which, though incomplete, was in excellent condition. The missing material was taken from two original interpositives. The image was scanned in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner to retain the character of the film’s original printing stock without any generational loss, and the raw data was carefully treated using a variety of digital tools to remove dirt, scratches, flicker and other damage. The final result was approved by director Richard Lester, and is in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1. Stereo Audio Restoration and 5.1 Surround sound were supervised by sound producer Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George Martin), with the soundtrack and songs remixed at Abbey Road Studios and Twickenham Studios by Martin and Sam Okell.
I will leave you with some fun A Hard Day’s Night Trivia! Enjoy!
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song “A Hard Day’s Night” in one night, basing the title on a Ringo-ism.
The soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night was the band’s first record not to include any cover songs, and is also the only all-Lennon-McCartney LP in their catalog.
The film was titled Yeah Yeah Yeah in Germany, Tutti per uno (All for One) in Italy, Quatre garçons dans le vent (Four Boys in the Wind) in France, Yeah! Yeah! Tässä tulemme! (Yeah! Yeah! Here We Come!) in Finland, and Os reis do Iê-Iê-Iê (The Kings of Yeah-Yeah-Yeah) in Brazil.
A thirteen-year-old Phil Collins is an extra in the Scala Theatre scene.
Charlotte Rampling is one of the dancers in the nightclub scene, watching her then boyfriend Jeremy Lloyd (also in Help!) trade moves with Ringo on the dance floor.
The characters of Norm and Shake were based on the Beatles’ personal assistant Neil Aspinall (Norm) and road manager Mal Evans (Shake).
During the performance of “Tell Me Why,” director Richard Lester can be seen briefly toward the end of the song, walking by the front of the stage.
The words The Beatles are never spoken throughout the course of the movie.
A Hard Day’s Night competed for two Academy Awards, losing in both categories: best screenplay (Alun Owen) and best adapted score (George Martin). None of the Beatles’ original songs were nominated.
Watch the Trailer Below: