Review: A Hard Day’s Night

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Starring: The Beatles

Directed By: Richard Lester

Written By: Alun Owen

What can one possibly say about The Beatles that hasn’t been already said? I honestly can’t think of anything. They were (and still are) the best ever. Period. After all, even Public Enemy’s Chuck D was influenced by the Fab Four, showing just how wide ranging they were. The leaders of the British Invasion which brought American music back “home,” they changed music forever. More than just a music group, The Beatles were a phenomenon as the young people of the world came down with a case of Beatlemania. A Hard Day’s Night was filmed during the zenith of Beatlemania.

A Hard Day’s Night is simply supposed to be a day in the life of The Beatles. The film follows their various adventures and the mayhem they tend to cause as they head to a televised show. John Lennon tries to make their manager Norm’s (Norman Rossington) life a living hell (and Norm blames all the trouble The Beatles get into on John); Paul McCartney is on the road with his troublemaking grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell); George Harrison gets to tell an executive what he thinks of a “trendsetter;” and Ringo Starr gets to have his own lonely stroll toward the end of the movie. And that’s about it. No, really.

The Beatles are very funny and are quite good in the film, though they’re really just playing themselves a bit amped up. John is the smart-ass and plays it up perfectly. I personally loved the scene where he’s talking to a woman who thinks she looks like John Lennon but he denies it. Paul is the nice and sensible one. He seems to be the leader, the rock of the group in context of the movie. George is quiet, but when he has something to say, he lets it be known. This kind of resembles his tenure in the group as when Lennon/McCartney finally gave some of Harrison’s songs a try, they gave us “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Ringo has low self-esteem and is usually the butt of the jokes the guys say. The lonely walk he makes is very good, but he attributes that not to his acting ability, but to a hangover.

Richard Lester does a superb job in directing the film. He allows the guys to be themselves and play off one another as only they can. He doesn’t try to make them actors by any means. He simply lets the incredible chemistry the group shine through. He does more than that, however. A Hard Day’s Night is one of the more influential films of all-time. No, it’s true. This is the pre-cursor to every music video ever made. One will notice that during “Can’t Buy Me Love” that Lester makes his cuts to the beat of the music, something that had never been done before. It also influenced much of the 1960s British comedies as well as the television show “The Monkees” that followed in it’s footsteps.

As it is The Beatles and a musical, I have to mention the soundtrack. It is spectacular. From the opening title song “A Hard Day’s Night” to their now standard “She Loves You,” the hits just follow one another. Their performances are mostly impromptu. Examples of this are the playing “I Should Have Known Better” in the baggage car of the train they’re on (including Pattie Boyd watching on: the future Mr Harrison and influence for Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla”) or while setting up for their show, they sing “If I Fell” as if to cheer up Ringo. The concert itself doesn’t let down, lead by “Tell Me Why” among others. By the way, try to spot a young Phil Collins in the crowd. It is interesting that their producer George Martin was nominated for an Oscar for the songs within the movie, but the group themselves weren’t.

Bottom Line: A Hard Day’s Night is certainly not plot heavy and it’s better off that way. While initially an excuse for United Artist to be able to release a Beatles album, it becomes something much more than that. It is an highly influential look at the lives of four young men (who only made the movie because “they never made one before”) as they were conquering the planet. The soundtrack is as amazing as expected and the opening scene is one of the best ever.

9.5/10 (Highly Recommended).

Just a tip, I would watch this with the subtitles on. The Beatles have HEAVY Liverpudlian accents and speak rather quickly at times. I found that I could only understand Paul the entire time, the rest are 50/50.

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9 Responses to “Review: A Hard Day’s Night”

  1. You make some very good observations here, ones I’d never be aware of. For example, considering AHDN as the precursor of the music video is something to think on.

    What would you say, then, about all the other teenage movies that preceeded AHDN. I’m thinking of all those movies that took place on the beach and had stars like Annette Funicello frolicing on the sand while lip synching her songs? Or maybe Anne Margaret in “Bye Bye Birdie”?

    • I’m not sure what the question is?

      • “A Hard Day’s Night is one of the more influential films of all-time. No, it’s true. This is the pre-cursor to every music video ever made. One will notice that during “Can’t Buy Me Love” that Lester makes his cuts to the beat of the music, something that had never been done before. It also influenced much of the 1960s British comedies as well as the television show “The Monkees” that followed in it’s footsteps.”

        My question: Do you think the beach party films of the early 1960s also contributed to the development of the music video?

    • Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough. I’d just finished visiting the following website about 1960s beach party films and was thinking about the quote I’m excerpting from there:

      http://www.beachpartymoviemusic.com/TheScoreofBeachParty.html

      “Dale then grabs his Stratocaster and jumps into Swingin’ and Surfin’, an upbeat number that of course immediately gets the gang dancing. Now, from a contemporary perspective, this sequence may not appear to be anything particularly special. However, one must keep in mind that that the scene of a hot rock band driving a crowd “wild” in 1963 was pre-Scopitone, pre-Hullabaloo, pre-Shindig, pre-MTV, etc. In other words, it’s music video before music video. So forget about current standards and imagine the kind of impact that imagery had on audiences – adolescent audiences (the target for these films) — in 1963. Note: Dick managed to leverage the popularity of this film to get an appearance doing this song on the Ed Sullivan Show on October 6, 1963 (two months into the release ). “

      • Oh, absolutely. You can look at the beach party movies as the transition. You can look at a musical like The Wizard of Oz and watch Dorothy sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Standing alone, you can make a video out of it, but in context, its part of the narrative and expands the plot/explains the character.

        From what I’ve seen of the beach movies, the bands just happen to be there. Hey, it’s a party and we totally have this cool band playing. It doesn’t add anything to the plot nor does it develop any characters. But they do play party songs for the party, so there’s that.

        The difference between that and AHDN, is that The Beatles perform songs in different situations and the songs don’t always match that scene it’s in. I point to “If I Fell.” If my friend is down in the dumps, I don’t think I would sing, “if I feel in love with you, would you promise to be true…” to him lol. This mostly, “Okay, The Beatles are in the luggage car and they’ll sing ‘I Should Have Known Better’ with a bunch of girls looking on.” Or “The Beatles are running around a field and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ will be overheard.” The scenes are mostly stand alone and don’t add much to the total narrative (not that there’s much of one to begin with).

        But the beach movies are certainly influential to what would become the music video and that’s a great point you bring up. They’re often so corny that they’re easy to overlook for anything.

  2. I understand better now the point you are making. This gives me a whole new way of looking at the gradual evolution of the music video! And yes, I agree with you completely that AHDN influenced the TV show “The Monkees”. This was a very enjoyable review and I’ll check out your others as time permits.

  3. Gee I wonder what it was like living during beetlemania? Maybe it was like Bieber fever? Will the critics of 30 years from now say he was the greatest pop singer of all time? I hope not. Anyway, I never knew what this movie was even about. Now that I know, I’ll have to pick it up.

    • I don’t think Bieber can even hold a candle to The Beatles when it comes to the madness of fans. lol

      Yeah, it’s a fun movie with great songs. Knowing just how much it influenced is rather special as well.

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