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DVD Review
A Hard Day's Night
by Jürgen Fauth

Guide Rating -  

What's not to love? In their first movie, the Beatles clown around for 88 minutes, interspersed with musical numbers from one of their finest earliest albums -- "She Loves You," "Can't Buy Me Love," "If I Fell," and the boisterous title track, written overnight and with one of the most distinctive opening chords in all of pop music.

The film, directed by Richard Lester, is unrelentingly kinetic. From the first scene on, the Beatles are on the run, fleeing from the screaming victims of Beatlemania, diving into taxi cabs and trains, and the fracas never stops. There is something vaguely resembling a plot involving Paul's Grandpa (Wilfrid Brambell), a mean-spirited old geezer out for trouble, and a TV performance by the Fab Four, but what carries the film is the spirit of hilarity. John, Paul, Ringo and George goof, mock, and ridicule in the spirit of the Marx Brothers, filtered through a Liverpudlian sensibility. The anarchy extends to the form, which is full of holes, set pieces, and nonsense interludes that never go anywhere in particular and are all the more charming for it.

In today's climate, a movie as goofy as "A Hard Day's Night" is unimaginable for a hot property as the Beatles in 1964, nearing the first cusp of their fame and poised to take America by storm. Surely, the marketing department would have insisted on a more experienced director than Lester (who had virtually nothing but "The Goons" TV show to his credit, a precursor of Monty Python's Flying Circus), and the film would have been focus-group tested and streamlined into blandness. That Lester and the Beatles got away with the irreverent and superb "Hard Day's Night" is, by today's standards, a miracle.

Miramax's two-disc edition does the film justice with a full set of special features that digs deep into the surrounding circumstances. The second disc is crammed with interviews with everybody from Lester to Sir George Martin, the Beatles' musical director.

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