A Hard Day's Night (VHS)
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During the first worldwide flush of Beatlemania in 1964, United Artists wanted to ship out a movie with The Beatles before their vogue was over. Working within a tight $500,000 budget, director Richard Lester turned out A Hard Day's Night in a fast 6 1/2 weeks; the picture was in the theatres three months after shooting commenced. Using a variety of techniques cribbed from Hollywood slapstick comedies, the French "new wave" movement, and his own experiences as a TV-commercial director, Lester, with screenwriter Alun Owen, fashioned an exhilarating study of a "typical" 36 hours in the lives of the Fab Four. Onto a plot about getting to the Big Show on time are hung a series of instant-reaction gags, character vignettes, and musical setpieces. Much of the humor arises from Paul McCartney's efforts to keep his grandfather (Wilfred Brambell), a "clean old man," from getting into mischief. Also good for several laughs is the hookey-playing Ringo Starr, whose mistimed declaration of independence lands him in jail. We are also treated to a war of nerves between the unflappable John Lennon and an uptight TV director (Victor Spinelli), who worries that, should the Beatles not show up at broadcast time, he'll be demoted to "News In Welsh." George Harrison stars in a sequence in which he is mistaken for an auditionee by the producer (Kenneth Haigh) of a superficially trendy, teen-oriented TV weekly. Then there's Norman Rossington and John Junkin as The Beatles' managers, who carry on a battle royale simply because one man is taller than the other. The supporting cast includes comedienne Anna Quayle, cartoonist Bob Godfrey, TV host Robin Ray, dancer Lionel Blair, Harrison's future wife Patti Boyd, and director Lester himself. The songs include "I Should Have Known Better," "And I Love Her," "Tell Me Why," "If I Fell," "Can't Buy Me Love," and the title song. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi