Hard Day's Night, A: Collector's Series (1964)

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Released 23-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Things They Said Today…
Interviews-Cast & Crew-17
Featurette-Listen To The Music Playing In Your Head…
Featurette-Such A Clean Old Man!
Featurette-I've Lost My Little Girl…
Featurette-Taking Testimonial Pictures…
Featurette-Dressed To The Hilt…
Featurette-Dealing With "The Men From The Press"
Featurette-They And I Have Memories…
Featurette-Hitting The Big Time In The USA
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 84:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Lester
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
Case Slip Case
RPI $39.95 Music The Beatles


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Is this a genre-defining film? Well, consider that director Dick Lester is often dubbed the 'Father of MTV' and even the music video for his efforts in The Beatles' first feature film A Hard Day's Night and perhaps you'll agree. His revolutionary camera techniques together with short lines of dialogue and rapid editing cuts were all seen as the precursor to the modern rock video. In early 1963, United Artists in the USA saw a loophole in the contract that EMI had signed with Brian Epstein and The Beatles. Apparently, film soundtracks were not part of the deal, so a couple of UA executives decided to fund a rapidly-produced, low-budget film starring the Fab Four, get a few new songs penned and release a soundtrack based on the film. Remember at the time that The Beatles had yet to crack the US market, so the threat that they may be short-lived one-album-wonders was possible (though quite ludicrous in hindsight). Therefore, the movie had to be made quickly to capitalise on the band's current popularity. Filming started on 2 March 1964, just after their famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and wrapped a mere six weeks later on 24 April. Post production was also an incredibly speedy process with all the editing and dubbing happening in a little over three weeks. The film was a huge success when it premiered on 6 July 1964 and took over eight million US dollars in its opening week, and has since become one of the most loved and critically acclaimed rock 'n' roll films of all time.

    The film contains several songs that Sir George Martin had tucked away in the cupboard and several others that Lennon and McCartney penned specifically for the film, including the title track, which became hits in their own right and are counted as being amongst the most memorable of all The Beatles' tunes. Tracks such as Can't Buy Me Love, And I Love Her, I Should Have Known Better, and of course A Hard Day's Night all feature throughout. The story is relatively simple. It had to be of course. None of The Beatles were real actors, so getting them to deliver complex and lengthy dialogue was asking for trouble. Screenwriter Alun Owen was hired to come up with a story and script that would be easy for the Fab Four to handle. He delivered a story that really mimicked their everyday lives and gave each of them lines that they would probably normally deliver. This turned out to be the crucial item in the success of the film. With the boys delivering lines of short dialogue that were best suited to each of their personalities, the film took on an almost documentary feel, so despite being a fictional story, it meant that the adoring public could almost believe that they were seeing the definitive personal insight into their heroes. Was this perhaps also the first reality show?

    Playing themselves and taking place over a couple of days, the story sees The Beatles leaving their home town of Liverpool and travelling by train to London, where they were to perform before a studio audience for a live television broadcast. They encounter some problems along the way with Paul's wayward grandfather (Wilfred Brambell) taking great joy in thwarting the boys' fun. The boys must also counter their overprotective manager Norm (Norman Rossington), who guides and directs them virtually every minute of the day. When Ringo goes missing just prior to the televised concert, the remaining three lads hit the streets of London in a desperate search to find their missing drummer.

    Using humorous lines and situations, The Beatles are able to be themselves, even though most of the film was scripted. Their own personalities shine through, with Paul seen as the charming boy, John, quick of wit and highly cynical, George as the unassuming type, and Ringo taking on the role of laconic larrikin. Hounded by thousands of screaming fans and shoved and hounded by the media at all times, this was a true glimpse of just what it was like for A Day in The Life of the greatest band of all time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I wasn't expecting a whole lot of pristine quality in terms of video, but overall this isn't half bad for a film that is just about forty years old.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but the overscan on my television made it appear as 1.78:1. It is also, thankfully, 16x9 enhanced. IMDB lists the original aspect ratio as 1.37:1, but I tend to think this is inaccurate. I have seen a Region 1 review that states it was originally shown at 1.75:1 and the R1 release is an open-matte transfer, but I'm also not too sure about this. I would have thought that the 1.66:1 aspect ratio would have been more like the originally intended aspect ratio.

    The film was captured in black and white, and on what was an incredibly tight budget and short time frame between shooting and post production (remember that the whole process from the first day of shooting to the world premiere in London was a staggeringly short 127 days). Add to this the fact that this is nearly forty years old and you'll have some idea of the quality of the source material here. Despite these factors, the transfer (which according to the end credits has had some form of restoration applied to it) is not all that bad. Shadow detail is lacking in a couple of scenes, but given the director's intention for tight cramped shots early on in the piece, these scenes are not that bad. Edge enhancement appears throughout and while distracting at times, doesn't overburden the viewer. Some of the shots are quite soft, with poor focus on the source being the prime culprit. There is also some serious grain at times, but it really adds to the gritty realistic look. Blacks have scrubbed up pretty well with no evidence of low level noise.

    Colours are obviously not a concern at all, as this film was originally shot in black and white. Apparently colour was never even considered purely for budgetary reasons. It really doesn't matter.

    I noticed no obvious MPEG artefacts. There was somewhat surprisingly no evidence of any aliasing or any other film-to-video artefacts. There are a fair number of film artefacts present throughout, though most are certainly not that large or noticeable.

    There are two sets of subtitles available, these being English and English Captions for the Hearing Impaired. Both are well-presented in easy-to-read typeface and contain few inaccuracies.

    Disc one is a dual layered disc. I was unable to spot the layer change, and with the film only running for 85 minutes, I assume that the film is on one layer and the documentary is on the other layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Contrary to the packaging which states that the only soundtrack present is a Dolby Digital 2.0 version, the soundtrack available here is actually a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. Again, I wasn't expecting a great deal of separation or directional effects from this soundtrack, which was originally recorded in mono. On the whole I wasn't surprised, as it pretty much sticks to the front and centre with almost all dialogue and sound effects emanating from the centre channel. The main exceptions to this are during all the songs, when the soundstage opens right up and the dubbed/lip synced songs take on a new life and sound quite impressive, though perhaps a little out of place in what was originally a fairly low quality audio soundtrack.

    Dialogue is fairly harsh with little dynamic range, thus betraying its mono origins. There are some audio sync problems during the songs, but this is attributed to the source and nothing to do with the transfer.

    The score was arranged by Sir George Martin, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. The songs of course are all Lennon/McCartney compositions, with some already recorded songs joined by ones specifically penned for the film. Songs such as Can't Buy Me Love, And I Love Her, Tell Me Why, and of course the hastily penned title track A Hard Day's Night.

    Surround channel use is limited. During the concert performance in the last scenes of the film, the surrounds spring to life to provide audience sounds (primarily screams - lots of screams) and some reverberated instruments. The subwoofer is also seldom used. It isn't really missed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Featurette - Things They Said Today

    This is the only extra on Disc 1. It isn't really a documentary, rather a summarised version of the other separate full length interviews that are selected individually on Disc 2. Running for 36:19 minutes it is presented full screen 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There are no subtitles available for this featurette. It contains interview segments with just about everyone who had any involvement with the film's production. Made quite recently, we are treated to the nostalgic thoughts of some of the other cast members, director Dick Lester, the producers, assistant editors, Sir George Martin, and even the film's hairdresser.

Disc 2

    Disc 2 contains what appears to be a whole swag of extra material, but on further investigation it is really just a series of extended interviews with the same people that contributed to the extra documentary on Disc 1.

Interviews-Cast & Crew

    A whole range of interviews with just about everyone even remotely associated with the film's production. There's the important people like director Dick Lester (12 minutes), Sir George Martin (7 minutes), UA Executive David Picker (3 minutes), Associate Producer Denis O'Dell (10 minutes),  and various cast members including John Junkin, Lionel Blair, David Jaxon, and Anna Quayle. There are also brief snippets with Cameramen, Assistant Directors, and even a Hairdresser by the name of Betty Glasgow.

Featurette - Listen To The Music Playing In Your Head

    There's more detail here. Running for 11:43 minutes, presented full screen 1.33:1 with audio from a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this featurette is more interview material with Sir George Martin. He summarises each of the songs featured in the film, his memories of how they came about, and how Lennon and McCartney tackled song-writing together. There are no subtitles

Featurette - Such A Clean Old Man!

    Running for 5:03 minutes, this full screen featurette is an interview with Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, the two creators/writers of the original Steptoe and Son series, discuss the casting of Wilfred Brambell to play the role of Paul's grandfather. Brambell starred in the original BBC series. Director Dick Lester also lends his thoughts on the role and there is a little behind-the-scenes footage. Full screen 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. No subtitles are available.

Featurette - I've Lost My Little Girl

    Running for 4:21 minutes, this featurette deals with one of the deleted scenes. Isla Blair was the actress who played a young woman in a scene with Paul. The director decided he didn't need it and ended up having her role cut. She didn't appear in the film but sure enough she gets trotted out here for her four minutes of fame. Full screen 1.33:1 is the aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. There are no subtitles here, either.

Featurette - Taking Testimonial Pictures

    A 9:55 minute featurette showing further interview material with Robert Freeman, who was the photographer responsible for the poster and promotional photos. He outlines the shots he took during production and the famous photos he took for the main film poster and the end title credits. One of the more interesting featurettes.

Featurette - Dressed To The Hilt

    A rather boring 7:36 minute featurette with the son of The Beatles' original tailor. He outlines some of the designs that were produced for the band and the role that his father enjoyed in the actual film.

Featurette - Dealing With "The Men From The Press"

    Running for 17:51 minutes, this feature is more a summary of  the script and the overall coverage the film received after its release. Featuring interview footage with Tony Barrow, who was an early publicist for The Beatles, it is mildly interesting but runs out of steam and becomes a little monotonous after about ten minutes.

Featurette - They And I Have Memories

    Long-time friend of The Beatles, Klaus Voorman details his personal experiences with the band in its early days and his involvement with the film. Running for 7:28 minutes, this is a much more personal and touching account from someone who was truly close to the band. Full screen 1.33:1 with audio again from a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Hitting The Big Time In The USA

    Concert promoter Sid Bernstein details his memories of bringing The Beatles to the United States of America in early 1964. Not particularly enlightening. Total running time is 3:53 minutes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc would appear to be identical to the Region 1 offering. Superior PAL formatting sees me select the local disc as the version of choice.

Summary

    A Hard Day's Night is certainly an important piece in the history of rock 'n' roll cinema. Befitting its importance, it has been treated to a decent transfer and a slick all-round package. The extras are a little baffling and some more diversity in this department would have been nice. There was a proper making-of documentary originally made about this film, and its absence is sorely missed.

    The video is black and white, and befitting its age and low budget productions is far from perfect. It has been restored somewhat and does a suitable job.

    The audio is nothing startling, though the remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track makes a fair attempt,  especially with the dubbed songs throughout coming across as clean and concise, if perhaps a little out-of-place at times.

    The extras are comprehensive, featuring interviews with just about everyone involved in the original production (except The Beatles themselves). A little more diversity or a commentary track from the director would have been invaluable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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Comments (Add)
Audio sync is not only in the songs. -
Overscan -