The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night
Meet the Beatles! John – Paul – George – and Ringo, all four of these scouse musicians, just about managing to escape from their adoring fans by jumping onto a train, before heading ‘down south’ to perform on a live television show there.
However, the Beatles are not the only ones going on this trip you know. As accompanying them is their manager (Norman Rossington), their roadie, Shake (John Junkin) , and let’s not forget Paul’s very clean Granddad (Wilfred Brambell) too.
Well, not only is Granddad very clean. Because during the course of their journey, he is revealed to be, for use of a better word – a shit-stirrer – and he gets up to all ends of mischief whilst the train is in motion. Still, this is nothing more than a mild annoyance in the scheme of things, and once ‘down south’, they all check into a hotel, to rest before the show.
Or do they? Well, their manager asks the Beatles to answer a pile of fan letters, and stay in their room for the night. Though, the Beatles being the Beatles, they head out to a nightclub, whilst Paul’s Granddad heads to a casino.
Regrettably, this ‘diversion’ is fleeting one. And on two separate occasions, both the Beatles and Paul’s Granddad are returned to their rooms – somewhat reluctantly of course.
The very next day, the Beatles head off to the studio for a spot of ‘public relations’ prior to the show. But whereas their initial endeavor is a jovial one, the lead up to the show is not. You see, Paul’s Granddad is at it again. Because after numerous frantic Beatles hijacks are lavished upon all in sundry, this clean old man manages to persuade Ringo to escape the shackles of ‘road life’, and break free to the outside world.
And how does Ringo do this? He changes into drab clothes – he walks the streets like a vagabond – he befriends a small child – he goes to a pub – and he gets himself arrested in the process too.
Meanwhile, upon seeing Ringo walk out on them, both the Beatles and Paul’s Granddad, individually search for Ringo. But where the Beatles unintentionally fail, Paul’s Granddad unintentionally succeeds – getting himself arrested whilst touting Beatles autographs.
Thankfully, Paul’s Granddad is also able to escape, and go back to the studio to tell them of Ringos plight. What next? Do the Beatles manage to save Ringo? Do the police give chase? Do fans scream? Do Beatles sing? Or will it be another hard days night?
Now before I start my ‘love me do’, please allow me to get some tantalising trivia out of the way first, OK? (1) The writer of 'A Hard Days Night', Alun Owen, wrote the basic premise of this script, whilst he was with the Beatles in Ireland. (2) Each member of the Beatles had a solo scene in the film. But Paul’s scene was omitted because he overacted, and that with it in, the film ran a tad too long. (3) George Harrison met his first Wife, Patty Boid, on this film – she played one of the schoolgirl’s on the train. (4) The film was named ‘A Hard Days Night’ due to one of Ringo’s malapropisms. Also, the name that the producers initially come up with, ‘Beatles Number One’, wasn't really that accommodating. (5) 'The Monkees' television series was a gut reaction by American producers due to the success of this film. (6) Paul McCartney does come from Irish ancestry – as implied by his Irish Grandad. (9) Director, Richard Lester, got the job on this film, because of his collaboration with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on their television shows, ‘Son of Fred’ and ‘Idiot Weekly, prices 2d’. And (10) The title song ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, was written and produced a mere two week’s before the films release, because of the point raised in (4).
OK, so now that the trivia is out of the way with - what about the film? Is it any good? Well, if you took the Beatles out of the equation, I would honestly say that it is a passable film. Granted, it would not be anything like the other more notable films of that era - like ‘Dr Strangelove’ for instance. But I would classify its as an art-house movie – and that in itself is just fine.
For example, it paints a portrait that John is the rebel – Paul is the performer – George is the surly one – and Ringo is the backbone. Saying that though, the only place where this film does fail, is in the plot.
Simply put, the structure of this film is fleeting one - as it only tells a journey that starts as easily as it begins. There is no villain’s – there is no heroes’ – there is no story arch or character progression either – there is only the Beatles and their music that drives this film.
Still, give credit where credit is due, Richard Lester did help immensely visually.Plus, in recent years, due to this film, he was given the title of ‘Grandfather of MTV’, which in essence is true. As I think that without ‘A Hard Days Night’, there would be no music videos or reality TV.
But is that a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.
THE RATING: B