A Hard Day's Night - Blu-ray Review

'A satisfying slice of mid-1960s British pop culture'.

Considering it could quite easily be cynically viewed as a ninety minute promotional film for The Beatles at the height of Beatlemania (which was in fact the film's working title) made not long after the group had cracked America, A Hard Day's Night does well to continually come across as lighthearted, off-the-cuff fun. Despite the film's ongoing influence on cinema, music videos and pop culture in general, its successful tone is arguably one which many have attempted to replicate but very few have achieved, including the Fab Four themselves in some of their later cinematic efforts.

Taken purely as a narrative movie, A Hard Day's Night is pretty unremarkable. The story is simple and unashamedly episodic, recounting a few days in the life of the band alongside manager Norm (Norman Rossington), road manager Shake (John Junkin) and Paul McCartney's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell). The dramatic turns from The Beatles themselves are rarely more than perfunctory, none of the musicians being particularly strong actors. McCartney arguably demonstrates the best acting ability from the foursome throughout, although John Lennon is clearly at home as a comedian providing a great deal of the film's most memorable moments of genuine humour. A scene featuring Lennon fooling around with toy boats in the bath is a particular highlight.

There are thankfully several factors here to lift matters, not least Richard Lester's direction. Lester employs throughout the film some stylish and impressive cinematography, especially during the scenes where the band performs. Lester's style also fits well with the more surreal elements of the film that crop up more regularly than you might expect, catching you off guard every now and then leading you further and further away from dismissing A Hard Day's Night as a mere promotional exercise. The film's historical importance in the years and decades following its release also deserves to be taken into account, presenting as it does a satisfying slice of mid-1960s British pop culture.

The other key element here is the music. If you're not a Beatles fan already, it's unlikely that A Hard Day's Night will be a film you'll actively seek out, nor is it likely to be a film that will convert you to Beatlemaniac status. The band's music unsurprisingly features heavily, the film replete with a visual jukebox of early Beatles hits. The presentation of the quartet's performances is charmingly varied, with intimate performances either worked or simply slotted into the narrative, proto-music-video sequences of the mop-topped Liverpudlians larking about, and the satisfying concert performance which closes out the film. It pretty much goes without saying that the band's back catalogue stands up incredibly well, regularly making A Hard Day's Night a genuine treat for the ear.

With hindsight, it's perhaps easier than it should be to dismiss as insincere the humble presentation of the band members, constantly seeking opportunities for mischief and attempting to escape their own fame, being as they were willing to make a feature film in which they play (fictionalised versions of) themselves. But A Hard Day's Night's charisma and charm wins out time and again making this consistently entertaining and fun, even if that fun is at times delivered as a somewhat disconnected patchwork of ideas rather than a concept clearly and consistently realised.

A Hard Day's Night is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 21st July 2014.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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