The Beatles were very talented but they were lucky too. Lucky to find themselves a dedicated, honest manager. Lucky to find a sympathetic producer. And extraordinarily lucky to have their first feature film directed by Richard Lester; whose sense of humour was so closely aligned with the boys' that all they had to do - aided by Alun Owen's script - was act naturally. A Hard Day's Night catches the Beatles just as international megafame is about to hit them. They're still very young, and while no longer the naive teenagers who first went to Hamburg to play in the strip clubs and bars of the Reeperbahn, they're not yet jaded. It's still fun - you can see it on their faces. Only a year or two later, and they were to give up touring altogether, tired and anxious. Forty years on, and it seems like another era. It's difficult to watch this film now and see it afresh, but it was then - a blast of fresh air blowing away the stuffiness of 1950s British society. See it and marvel at the way we used to be. This two-disc set is full of the usual extras - things you watch once and don't bother with again - but they're mostly relevant and interesting. The film itself is technically in pretty good shape with good contrast and clarity and only a few scratches, but I do have a couple of gripes. Firstly, I'm pretty sure that it was originally shot and shown in Academy ratio (4:3). This version has been cropped to 16:9 and the result is that, for example, the tops of heads tend to be cut off and the film has the kind of cramped feeling that you get in a room where the ceiling is too low. If this had to be done to satisfy a peceived market need for widescreen material couldn't we have been given the original 4:3 version on the other side of the disc? Secondly, the sound for the musical numbers has been remixed into sort-of stereo and plays at a very much louder level than the dialogue. The concert scenes have had fake reverb plastered all over them to make them sound 'live'. The resulting change in soundscape from dialogue to music and back again is excessively jarring. Still, these are only gripes; the film itself survives.
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