Written by Dan Bradley
Rifling through my father’s LP collection as a child produced many musical memories, ranging from Kiss and Pablo Cruise to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. It wouldn’t be until years later when I would fully understand the impact those very Beatles had on the world’s culture then and continued to influence today.
For most Beatles fans, their memories are relived through new digital masters of the original recordings on compact disc. With this digital revolution, the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night can f…nally see the same restoration the music has and open up the secrets behind the film for the very first time. For me and countless others not alive during the 1960’s, this exemplary presentation of the film and its extras represents a first look at Beatlemania.
A Hard Day’s Night was written to accurately portray a hectic day in the life of the Beatles, capture the distinct personalities of the band and portray the youthful attitudes of the band in a society where they don’t necessarily fit. This could have been accomplished haphazardly and resulted in a teen jukebox movie, but the filmmakers took a professional artistic approach that set a precedent for music videos that were to follow years later. I was extremely impressed by the integration of the songs into the film as well as the juxtaposition between reality and occurrences that aren’t quite plausible.
Because the film was written based on the actual behaviors of the band members, the performances are true and feel unscripted. At times I felt as if I were watching a VH1 “Behind the Music” special and had to remind myself that this is a scripted motion picture. This type of storytelling helps lend to the believability of the characters.
Often overshadowing the band’s great performance is Paul’s shady grandfather. In one of the few sub-plots, he works diligently to get a signed picture from the entire band so he can sell it on the streets for profit. His crazy antics and charismatic delivery of lines made me smile on more than one occasion and broke up the monotony of the band’s schedule.
When crisis’ are avoided and the Beatles play their performance for a packed house full of screaming girls, the adolescent personalities fade away and professional performers stand out as something truly special. The highlight follows shortly thereafter as the last song ends and the band takes a bow. The Beatles then scurry off the stage and revert back to their youthful attitudes.
By the time the boys are rushed from their appearance to the helicopter and I saw them spiral upwards into the sky, I felt like I knew who the Beatles were. I’m sure many others will have the same experience and a whole new generation will be exposed to John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Re-mastered in a brand new 5.1 surround mix, some audio purists will be disappointed to hear that the original mix is not included. This in no way detracts from the presentation as surround is only evident in the final act as the band plays their live performance. Otherwise, only the front channels are used and the balance is well executed.
The only quirk in the audio occurs when the band launches into one of its songs. The sound level really picks up and it comes across as sounding detached from the non-musical portions. As this happened throughout the film, I became accustomed to it and began to enjoy it. The loud song mix really caught my attention and immersed me in the music, then gently laid me back down into the dialogue upon completion.
Miramax has gone back to the original 35mm film and created a brand new digitally mastered 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer. For a black and white film now 40 years old it really shines. The grain and spots usually present on films this age have been reduced to a bare minimum and after a minute or two didn’t register in my mind at all. There’s no edge enhancement and the range of contrast, although not perfect, is more than acceptable.
Taking full advantage of digital storage capacity, the producers of A Hard Day’s Night have left no stone unturned to bring Beatles fans the definitive impressions from every and anyone who was involved with the film. Disc one starts the barrage with a 30 minute documentary Things They Said Today. This acts more like a trailer to the in-depth interviews and includes small snippets in chronological order of the film from conception to after-thoughts.
Special Features List
- “Things They Said Today…” – New Promotional Special
- 30 Interviews