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cover: Beatles: A Hard Day's Night

Beatles: A Hard Day's Night

Director(s): Richard Lester

Theatrical Release: 1964

Cast: Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington, Victor Spinetti, John Junkin

Genre(s): Music+Performance, music, Documentary, Comedy

Countries: United Kingdom

Location in store: Please see staff for assistance

(1 / 1)
Ant Rating
Running Time: 90m.

During the first worldwide flush of Beatlemania in 1964, United Artists wanted to ship out a movie with The Beatles before their vogue was over. Working within a tight $500,000 budget, director Richard Lester turned out A Hard Day's Night in a fast 6 1/2 weeks; the picture was in the theatres three months after shooting commenced. With a built-in audience and the profits accrued from advance sales of the Hard Day's Night album, Lester would have been forgiven by United Artists had he served up a formless teen exploitation flick. But he didn't: A Hard Day's Night was not only one of the best rock 'n' roll movies ever made but also among the finest films of 1964. Using a variety of techniques cribbed from Hollywood slapstick comedies, the French "new wave" movement, and his own experiences as a TV-commercial director, Lester, with screenwriter Alun Owen, fashioned an exhilarating, frequently hilarious study of a "typical" 36 hours in the lives of the Fab Four. Onto a plot about getting to the Big Show on time are hung a series of wonderful instant-reaction gags, chucklesome character vignettes, and ebullient musical setpieces. Much of the humor arises from Paul McCartney's efforts to keep his grandfather (Wilfred Brambell), a "clean old man," from getting into mischief. Also good for several laughs is the hookey-playing Ringo Starr, whose mistimed declaration of independence lands him in jail. We are also treated to a war of nerves between the unflappable John Lennon and an uptight TV director (Victor Spinelli), who worries that, should the Beatles not show up at broadcast time, he'll be demoted to "News In Welsh." George Harrison is well-served by an irrelevant but precious sequence in which he is mistaken for an auditionee by the producer (Kenneth Haigh) of a superficially trendy, teen-oriented TV weekly ("You'll like these," intones the cynical Haigh as he tosses a pile of "grotty" clothes towards George. "They're 'fab' ... and all those other pimply hyperboles.") And let's not forget Norman Rossington and John Junkin as The Beatles' managers, who carry on a battle royale simply because one man is taller than the other. The supporting cast includes the delicious revue comedienne Anna Quayle, cartoonist Bob Godfrey, TV host Robin Ray, dancer Lionel Blair, Harrison's future wife Patti Boyd, and director Lester himself. If you need reminding, the songs include: I Should Have Known Better, And I Love Her, Tell Me Why, If I Fell, Can't Buy Me Love (used as background for a classic free-form "messin' around" sequence), and the title song. - Hal Erickson (