Starring The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night is the latest classic title to get a 4K Ultra HD upgrade from The Criterion Collection.
Richard Lester, who also plays piano and turns 90 years old on January 19, approved the new 4K digital restoration. Fans have three different audio options to choose from: a monaural soundtrack, stereo, and 5.1 surround mixes supervised by sound producer Giles Martin at Abbey Road Studios. The sound mix is presented in uncompressed monaural, uncompressed stereo, and DTS-HD Master Audio. A Hard Day’s Night can be found on both the 4K UHD disc and Blu-ray. However, all of the bonus features are on Blu-ray.
Their first feature film is less documentary but more of an exaggerated version of their lives. All you really need to know about the film is that A Hard Day’s Night depicts the 36 hectic hours leading up to a television performance. What can possibly go wrong? It turns out that anything that can go wrong will go wrong! But in any event, director Richard Lester captures a zeitgeist in action. Life for The Beatles would never be the same following 1964. They were already a hit in the UK but their arrival to the US was much-needed for the country’s mood.
The Blu-ray includes documentaries that go behind the scenes. The early 1960s were not kind to music on film. A Hard Day’s Night would help change this. Production took place following their first US tour in 1964, starting in March and ending in April. If you want to talk about how quickly the filmmakers had a final product in hand: the UK release was on July 6, 1964. The American release followed just over a month later. Interestingly, a United Artists executive also wanted to dub The Beatles with mid-Atlantic accents. I’m sorry, what?!?
Alun Owen discusses their first meeting in a documentary on the Blu-ray. Owen’s Oscar-nominated screenplay has no shortage of comments about the band’s fame. Take John Lennon’s encounter with Millie (Anna Quayle). Millie believes that Lennon is Lennon but Lennon denies it. Ultimately, Lennon comments that “she looks more like him than I do.” Meanwhile, Wilfrid Brambell is frequently referred to being clean in his portrayal of Paul’s grandfather. The funny thing about this is his character on Steptoe and Son is the complete opposite. But unless you knew anything about the British television series, the joke went over your head.
Let’s talk about the use of music for a moment. If you don’t cut at the right moment, it won’t work. In this film, the music works because of both Richard Lester’s choices as director and editor John Jympson. Take the opening moments the film. George Harrison trips and falls. John Lennon looks back and he’s suddenly laughing. Most filmmakers would probably ask for another take. Right off the bat, the opening of A Hard Day’s Night sets the tone for the rest of the film. Help! is more pioneering in terms of music videos but “Can’t Buy Me Love” is sheer perfection and predates the MTV generation. Another music sequence is “I Should Have Known Better” transitions in and out of them playing cards. Pay attention to how the shots are used when you watch it again.
A Hard Day’s Night was a game-changer in so many ways. The use of music in movies has never been the same. This is something that cannot be stressed enough. Similarly, the it is an artistic decision to shoot the film in black and white. I have to say that I agree with the late film critic Roger Ebert about the film being in black and white. A Hard Day’s Night in color just would not be the same. By filming in black and white, this film remains timeless. Help! is in color but it is a very different film. It’s the same reasoning with this film because of the documentary style.
Almost 60 years after it was first released, A Hard Day’s Night is still one of the best musical films of all time and it has never looked better than in 4K Ultra HD.
- Audio commentary featuring cast and crew
- In Their Own Voices, a program featuring 1964 interviews with the Beatles and behind-the-scenes footage and photos (18:02)
- You Can’t Do That: The Making of A Hard Day’s Night, a 1994 documentary by producer Walter Shenson including an outtake performance by the Beatles (1:02:10)
- Things They Said Today, a 2002 documentary about the film featuring Lester, music producer George Martin, screenwriter Alun Owen, and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (36:17)
- Picturewise, a program about Lester’s early work, featuring a 2014 audio interview with the director
- The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1960), Lester’s Oscar-nominated short
- Anatomy of a Style, a 2014 program on Lester’s methods (17:07)
- Interview from 2014 with Beatles biographer Mark Lewisohn
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- PLUS: An essay by critic Howard Hampton and excerpts from a 1970 interview with Lester
DIRECTOR: Richard Lester
SCREENWRITER: Alun Own
CAST: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell, with Norman Rossington, Victor Spinetti, John Junkin, Deryck Guyler, Anna Quayle
United Artists released A Hard Day’s Night in theaters on August 11, 1964.
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