Second Sight Films have done a reasonable job of bringing us what will probably become the definitive UK Blu-ray Disc release of the Beatle's first film. The film itself is now apparently owned by a rich American lawyer, Bruce A. Karsh, who I think controls the estate of Walter Shenson, and he has made this restoration possible! As this release was outside of Apple's control the extras are not quite as lavish or current as they perhaps might have been otherwise - but they are still fairly interesting and worth a watch.
The restored film itself was shown on BBC4 recently to coincide with the films 50th anniversary so you may have seen it already - but even on BBC4 HD the resolution would not have been as good as the Blu-ray Disc version. So that is really the point of this release - even though the film was shot in black and white over 50 years ago the new 4K remaster makes it look as though it could have been filmed this year. The sound has also been improved with the mono soundtrack now being joined by new stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes by producer Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell at Abbey Road.
This release is obviously a must for most Beatles fans but the more casual viewer may be content with an earlier DVD version if they have one. There is no booklet included here, the detail on the cover is fairly limited and the bonus features are just OK. The restoration of the film and sound make this an unreserved five star release, and I guess Second Sight Films have done the best they could with the resources available to them. Not quite the product Apple could have produced had it been their call, however.
A couple of technical points about the video restoration - although the remaster was into 4K the Blue-ray Disc format only gives us full HD at 1080P, the aspect ratio here is 1.75:1 (not quite 16:9 but almost) and the speed is 23.98 Frames Per Second. This UK release is similar to, but does not have all the extras of, the US release from the Criterion Collection.
This is so much more than just a great film.
It is certainly an important film - both a great piece of cinematic art and also a valuable contemporary social record. The shoulder-mounted 35mm black and white cinematography and stunning locations, the editing and scripting are all first class. The script is entertaining and the somewhat stilted performances from the Beatles themselves are neatly offset by three excellent comic turns from Wilfred Bramble, John Junkin and Norman Rossington.
Not that their performances in any way detract from our utter fascination with this unique documentary about the biggest band in the land, their personalities and their awesome global journey; a journey cleverly symbolized here by a Liverpool to London train trip. They are traveling from Liverpudlian nowhereness to the very top of their profession where, arguably, dead and alive, they remain.
But all of this, of course, is secondary to the music which is beautifully reproduced here although, for me, earlier stereo and mono soundtracks were just as enjoyable.
Ringo, one of the survivors, came up with the title. He was famous for syntactical cocktails and this was one of them. Muddled, but poetic. Like The Beatles themselves. Don't deny yourself. This is one you have to see.
Unlike those reviews posted well before the release date, I've actually watched this.
I remember going to see this with my brother at the Dartford Granada ("We're all for one and one for all, we're the Dartford Granadiers. Granadiers!" was sung before Saturday morning pictures). We were two of a very small number of boys in the cinema, and I also remember it being the only film I've ever seen at the 'flicks' when I couldn't hear anything. Why? Unbelievable as it may seem, there was a relentless barrage of screaming from the other 98% of the audience. At moving images on celluloid! Fifty years on, those memories come flooding back (not that they ever left) with the anniversary reissue of what is considered to [still] be the best film of it's genre.
There's no point in going through what the film itself is about, as that has been de-constructed, analysed, pored over and commented on more times than I want to know. This review is about what it looks like, what it sounds like, and the extras. As an aside, not many realise this was officially released on a CD-ROM in 1993.
Second Sight saw sense (now there's an alliteration for you) and this now has a decent, partly embossed slip case cover pertaining to what's inside. And inside that slip case is the Blu-ray case. And that's it! Unlike the USA issue, there's no booklet. There are a dozen photos on the reverse that you might think are taken from the LP sleeve; seven aren't. One strange thing is that the BBFC rating for this is 'PG' whereas it was '12' on the Miramax DVD.
First of all, it looks superb. It's bright, clear and the picture jumps out at you. It could have been filmed last week. Whilst this has 16 scene selections, the earlier Miramax DVD has 14. (I'm not sad enough to bother going through it but it's probably down to the way a scene was judged to have ended.)
The sound, and particularly the music, is an aural delight. There are three sound options here; mono, stereo and 5.1. However. If you have this set to mono in your audio options, for some reason at the start of the card game scene the "One for you, two for me..." speech is missing, which is why the song appears to fade up, but it's there in the other two sound options. And Lennon's "Cheat!" comment is completely absent whatever option you select. Also, in stereo and 5.1, 'If I Fell' is isolated enough to hear McCartney seemingly coming in too early with "...was (in vain)" the second time round, which I've never heard on any other stereo version. It could just be the remix, as it isn't there listening in mono. 'I Should Have Known Better' has the missing mouth organ note, or not, depending on how you're listening. It seems weird that they seem to have remixed it for both mono and stereo. [For those unaware and students of Beatles' minutiae, the version here of 'Tell Me Why' has a different Lennon vocal to that heard on anything else.]
Some of these were on the Miramax DVD a few years ago, and the 'Making of...' was issued on VHS. They haven't bothered to restore any of this, including 'You Can't Do That', which is a shame. Of the remainder, there's a 2014 trailer, what I consider to be a throwaway interview with author Mark Lewisohn (any interview with someone unconnected with either an artist or their work I think is a waste); a commentary with some cast and crew, which is rather enlightening, and a look at the work of the director. Also included is 18 minutes of interviews with the Fab Four over some behind the scenes footage and stills. It's unfortunate that most people never watch any of these more than once.
It's a superb film in its own right and though far from being actors, they do take it in their stride. The most amusing part is Paul's reaction when his 'Grandfather' rises from the trapdoor during the broadcast; it's as if he didn't know what was going to happen. There are also things you didn't really notice before such as John making faces at Ringo at the start of 'If I Fell' and George falling against an amplifier and looking up sheepishly during the same song.
However, seeing as this is a 50th Anniversary release, I feel a bit cheated. I realise it was out of Apple's hands, but at least they managed to give us some lavish packaging and lots of bits and pieces with the reissues of both 'Help!' and 'Magical Mystery Tour', albeit at an increased price if you wanted it. This has nothing.
Even so, for the price, it's an essential purchase for all Beatles fans as well as those who want to see the best example of the group's foray into celluloid, as well as the pinnacle of the pop musical. (It also has a bonus in the casino scene of one of the most stunning girls ever to appear on film; Margaret Nolan.)
EDIT: I've watched this many times now and I've noticed something strange. The second time they run into the police station, John gasps at the desk, nods to George and they all run out again, John at the front. However, it's just occurred to me that he must have ran round the set to run out the door a second time behind the police. I originally thought he must have gone to the right (it does happen quickly) but he clearly leads out everyone. As the camera lingered on that scene, someone must have been in on the joke.
There once was four lads who met each other, picked up musical instruments and created a phenomenon to the point that their influence is still being felt in the music industry today. This film is a day in the life of The Beatles, The Fab Four, The Mop Tops from Liverpool.
The soundtrack itself is enough to ensure that Richard Lester's film is something of a requisite for anyone interested in the history of Rock "N" Roll. As it happens, it lets the lads be loose and free, to get away with biting the hand that feeds them, with Lester using a whole bunch of film making techniques that wouldn't be out of place in some Pernod sodden production from an independent studio in the alleyways of Montmartre.
Slapstick, homage or just a chance for the lads to blow off steam without fear of repercussions? Either way, it rocks, wholesale. 8/10
This is a mad-cap, whimsical insight into a day in the life of 'John' 'Paul' 'George' and
'Ringo' --'The Fab Four'
The film was made at the very height of the groups popularity, this their first film was of
course also a great vehicle to both promote their music and naturally give the groups
large fan-base the opportunity to see their 'idols' on the big-screen.
A day in the life ...running from the screaming hoards, a train journey which introduces
'Paul's' pretend Grandfather played by 'Wilfred Brambell' (Steptoe) one or two studio
sessions, 'press-calls' and interviews winding up with a TV filmed stage-show..........
plenty of banter and several comic sketches, of course the reality was during those
crazy days the four were always in the public eye.
The film, crazy, madcap, and yes...........great fun, coupled with the memorable songs,
at the end of the day ....it's 'THE BEATLES' in truth that's all that matters.
THE SONGS ON BOARD -
* 'A Hard Days Night'
* 'I Should Have Known Better'
* 'I Wanna Be Your Man' (part)
* 'Don't Bother Me' (part)
* 'All My Loving' (part)
* 'If I Fell'
* 'Can't Buy Me Love'
* 'And I Love Her'
* 'I'm Happy Just to Dance With You'
* 'This Boy' (Instrumental Version)
* 'Can't Buy Me Love' (again)
* 'Tell Me Why'
* 'If I Fell' (again)
* 'I Should Have Known Better' (again)
* 'She Loves You'
* 'A Hard Days Night' (again, with closing credits)
'A GREAT RESTORATION' (Worth Owning)
Special Features -
* In Their own voices - A new piece combining 1964 interviews with 'The Beatles' with behind
the scenes footage and photos.
* You Can't Do That' - The Making Of 'A Hard Days Night'
a documentary by producer 'Walter Shanson' including an outtake performance by 'The Beatles'
* Things We Said Today' - Featuring director 'Richard Lester' music producer 'George Martin'
screenwriter 'Alun Owen' and cinematographer 'Gilbert Talor'
* Picturewise - a new piece about 'Richard Lester's' early work featuring a new audio interview
with the director.
* Anatomy of Style - a new piece on 'Richard Lester's' methods.
* The Beatles - The Road to 'A Hard Days Night' - a new interview with author 'Mark Lewisohn'
* Audio commentary with cast and crwew
* New 50th Anniversary Trailer
* Main Feature Optional English SDH subtitles for the hearing impaired
on 1 September 2014
What can I say about this classic movie that hasn't already been said? Probably nothing!
The 50th anniversary edition features a cleaned and restored print of the movie and a whole bagful of extras that are entertaining in their own right. Probably best not to watch all of them in one sitting as I did, since depending on the same source material in many cases, there is a fair level of repetition, particularly in the interview sequences.
But regardless of the extras - just enjoy The Fabs' first and best foray into the movies.
on 14 September 2014
It's the Beatles. Great music,great insight
to Beatlemania circa 1964.
A different society, different constraints.
It was this film apparently that encouraged the
group the Byrds to take up chiming Rickenbackers.
(Many guitar books subsequently attribute the fame of the guitar
to the Byrds.....odd... as it was George and John who used them.)
The film also led to the creation of The Monkees as imitations of the fun,fab,mop top Beatles
portrayed in the film.