Top positive review
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Masterpiece Film, Terribly Weak Extras
on 26 July 2006
"A Hard Day's Night" is, and always will be, one of the greatest films ever made. Its irreverent, original comedy ("He's very clean") has never been matched. The Beatles let their natural charisma and wit carry them through and, in 1964, that would have been enough if they just stood still for 90 minutes. Director Dick Lester was the perfect choice: he understood what to do, providing the viewer with the feeling of suffocation that the Beatles had to endure due to their fans and the sheer relief that they feel as they burst out of the fire escape into a field where nobody knows they are ("We're out!").
The comic lines still hold out today, a rare feat for a forty year old film. Indeed, even the slapstick parts hold out thanks to the Beatles's knowing acting. Many critics have compared the Fab Four to the Marx Bros. Fair enough, but I bet Lennon would have loved to have been as sneering as Groucho in the film. Still, he carries off his role with aplomb, especially the parts when he does get to be a cheeky rascal (note his snorting the Coke bottle on the train) and the ad libs (if they are ad libs) are fantastic ("Alright Noddy?"). Ringo is as natural as critics made out: he belonged on screen, the only Fab that seemed to truly ignore the cameras. George, too, carries his laconic, cool style seeing the whole thing as a bit of a laugh ("Well, I'll have a bash"). Indeed, Macca is not actually as bad as people make out. He tries too hard but, when he lets go, is genuinely pretty good: "I'd ask you myself, only I'm shy".
Therefore, the film is brilliant. But the DVD is not, hence the four stars. The fact is, the extras look as if they have been made for a 60+ pensioner audience. Every single one is of somebody talking. There is the odd, rare, clip of the band but this same shot is used over and over in different interviews. The interviews themselves are tedious as hell, barring George Martin's dissection of the album. Why didn't they put the 1998 "Making Of" on: an absolutely brilliant insight into the film with the deleted "You Can't Do That" performance? Where was any sort of evidence of Macca's deleted scene? Why weren't Macca and Ringo, themselves, interviewed? Quite frankly, there were better extras on the VHS version, including rare interviews with the band. Even more insulting is the fact that they have removed the "I'll Cry Instead" collage, shown in cinemas before the film. This, too, was on the VHS. Also, why not ask Dick Lester to provide an audio commentary? I'm sure he has much to say on the film, his greatest work.
Buy it for the film which, to be fair, is brilliantly restored and sounds excellent and then weep over the inadequacies of the extras.