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A Hard Day's Night
Directed by Richard Lester with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, black and white, 91 minutes, 1964
The Beatles

The Beatles performing in film

By Carter B. Horsley

A day or so in the life of The Beatles, the greatest singing group in history, in which they perform many of their most memorable.  A joyous and wacky documentary of the group early in its illustrious career. 

Although it begins slowly with a train ride to London that introduces us to Paul's mischievous grandfather, it soon spirals into open-field dashing and falling and pursuing, enraptured fans.

The film hits its peerless stride when the group sings, gloriously, many of their greatest hits.
 

In his October 27, 1996 review, Roger Ebert wrote that "After more than three decades, it has not aged and is not dated; it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock. It is one of the great life-affirming landmarks of the movies."

"...It was clear from the outset that 'A Hard Day's Night' was in a different category from the rock musicals that had starred Elvis and his imitators. It was smart, it was irreverent, it didn't take itself seriously, and it was shot and edited by Richard Lester in an electrifying black-and-white, semi-documentary style that seemed to follow the boys during a day in their lives. And it was charged with the personalities of the Beatles, whose one-liners dismissed the very process of stardom they were undergoing. 'Are you a mod or a rocker?' Ringo is asked at a press conference. 'I'm a mocker,' he says....

"The film is wall to wall with great songs, including 'I Should Have Known Better,' 'Can't Buy Me Love,' 'I Wanna Be Your Man,' 'All My Loving,' 'Happy Just to Dance With You,' 'She Loves You,' and others, including the title song, inspired by a remark dropped by Starr and written overnight by Lennon and McCartney.

"The Beatles were obviously not housebroken....Although their manager (Norman Rossington) tries to control them and their TV director (Victor Spinetti) goes berserk because of their improvisations during a live TV broadcast, they act according to the way they feel.

In his June 2, 2014 review at blu-ray.com, Dr. Svet Atanasov provides the following commentary:

"Richard Lester's pseudo-documentary A Hard Day's Night has that unique energy that is present in many of Jean-Luc Godard's early films. It is so overwhelming that it is almost irrelevant where the film wants to go and how it wants to get there.

"The film beings in Liverpool, where George, John, Paul, and Ringo board a train together with their manager Norm (Norman Rossington) and Paul's grandfather (Wifred Brambell). They are on their way to London, where the Beatles are scheduled to perform live on a popular TV show. While traveling, the boys try to relax but are frequently annoyed by pretentious adults and distracted by beautiful young girls.

Lennon tking a bath with toy ship

Lennon in bath with toy submarine

"In London, the boys are constantly on the move -- they meet curious reporters, talk to excited producers, and routinely try to avoid large crowds of screaming girls. They never seem to have any free time to rehearse or entertain themselves.

Ringo being chased

Ringo beng chased

"Hours before the band is to perform live, Ringo disguises himself with a trenchcoat and disappears. The show's producer (Victor Spinetti) panics and everyone goes on the streets looking for Ringo.

Harrison gives mirror "shave"

Harrison gives "mirror" shave

"The film was scripted but it frequently looks and feels like George, John, Paul, and Ringo are simply being themselves while Lester's camera observes them from afar. The magic is in the careful framing and editing. The entire film is essentially a large collection of uneven episodes blending behind- the-scenes footage with music clips that remind of the various music mockumentaries MTV popularized. However, these episodes are so effectively framed and edited that the energy they sustain until the final credits roll makes it quite easy for one to believe that George, John, Paul, and Ringo might have been unaware that Lester's camera was filming them....

Ringo trying to sneak a banana

Ringo trying to sneak a banana

Harrison

Harrison

McCartney

McCartney

Lennon

Lennon

Lennon2

Lennon

Harrison, Lennon and Ringo

Harrison, Lennon and Ringo

"A Hard Day's Night was the third studio album the Beatles recorded and the first to be recorded entirely on four-track tape. Initially, side one of the LP featured the songs that were used in the film's soundtrack, while side two featured songs that were composed for the film but were not included on the soundtrack. 

"In the U.S, a different version of the album was released. In addition to the songs from the UK version, there were four instrumental tracks from the film's soundtrack performed by George Martin's Orchestra. The U.S. version of A Hard Day's Night was released a month before the UK version (in late June 1964).

"The original soundtrack of A Hard Day's Night was in mono. However, because the studio album was recorded entirely on four-track tape, consequently a stereo versions of it was created."



This film is ranked 79th in Carter B. Horsley's Top 500 Sound Films

DVD cover
DVD cover

Click here to order the DVD version of the film, which contains commentary by Spielberg, from Amazon.com

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