A Hard Day's Night
Reviewed by Kent H. Benjamin, Fri., Oct. 18, 2002
A Hard Day's Night(Miramax Collector's Series)
This nearly definitive DVD reissue of the Beatles' debut film contains a terrific documentary and an entire second disc that features modern-day interviews with nearly everyone connected with the film (excepting the Beatles themselves), illustrated by 30 minutes of exclusive backstage and rehearsal footage. Add to that, glorious 5.1 sound and first-time presentation in letter-boxed format, plus subtitles so those without a fine ear for Scouse slang and dialect can follow along, and you have an absolute must-own DVD. The only things missing are the montage of clips to "I'll Cry Instead" and the director's first film, the 15-minute short Running, Jumping, Standing Still. It's now clear just what an achievement the film was -- untested director, relatively unknown scriptwriter, first-time actors, a shockingly low budget, and only about two months to write, shoot, and edit the film before its scheduled release date. There are few low-budget films in history that have been so critically acclaimed and financially successful, and almost none that have stood the test of time so well. The real revelation may be the truth behind all the myths that have grown up around the film: It was shot with hand-held cameras, achieved its excitement from jerky and innovative editing, was full of ad-libs and real Beatle humor, and accurately portrayed a real day in the life with the real Beatles. In truth, it was nearly 100% scripted, hand-held cameras weren't used, much of the innovative editing was done to hide or cover problems, the Beatles personalities were largely fictional, and only the screaming fans were real. Richard Lester is as near a genius as anyone in film for being the right guy in the right place, with the right combination of talented crew and actors, magically pulling out of his hat a film that wound up changing the history of popular culture in the 20th century.