MOVIE REVIEW | A Hard Days Night (1964)


Firstly, this thing is brutal.  Not intentionally and not often.  For the most part, A Hard Days Night is a collection of sketches, song performances and visual montages stitched together by what can only be described as a “plot” because I can’t think of a word that means “barely there, half assed plot”.  But the few moments of brutality are what have stuck in my mind since the end credits rolled.

The first is in the film’s opening seconds.  John, Paul, George and Ringo appear, chased by a gaggle of foaming at the mouth fans.   As they run for their lives, George Harrison trips and hits the deck…  Hard.  This is no stunt.  This is one of the most famous people of the time, going ass over on a concrete footpath and landing so hard, he bounces.  To his credit, George is straight back to his feet and running again, even offering a smile and laugh.  But is it a smile and laugh of someone caught up in the moment, too deliriously happy to notice possible internal bleeding?  Or is it the smile of an indentured slave who’d rather not spend another night locked in the cupboard under Brian Epstein’s stairs for insubordination?  There are also at least two other examples of people biting the bitumen.  Both times, young, female fans in pursuit of the band.  According the IMDB trivia for A Hard Days Night, the adoring fans were played by real life, adoring fans.  I guess when you have that many free extras at your disposal, it doesn’t matter if you lose a few to massive head trauma.

As a movie, it’s a strange mix of tossed off exploitation and real ambition to do something interesting and original.  The exact same thing can be said about the band’s performance as actors.  Sometimes they seem like they’ve never spoken English before and are reciting lines they’ve learned phonetically.  Other times their comic delivery and timing is almost Marx Brothers-esque (maybe an exaggeration, but they really did surprise me a couple of times with their comic competence).  Poor old Ringo is stuck with heavy lifting of being the characters who’s actually supposed to grow and develop, so he comes off the worst, while the other three get to mug their way through vaudeville antics and slap stickery.

The story linking the sketches really isn’t worth getting into, but most of the sketches are serviceable at giving the Beatles a reason to be in a movie besides shifting soundtrack units.  The most surprising though involves George stumbling into some sort of marketing or PR office.  A ruthless advertising villain who thinks Harrison is a Liverpudlian, Beatles-fan “type”, talks about trend setting models and the exploitation of starry eyed kids through marketing.  For a movie that was made purely to exploit a few bucks out of starry eyed kids, this is surprisingly self-aware and ballsy move.

A Hard Days Night is disposable fluff trying to wring just a little bit more out of a cultural phenomenon of the day.  But it’s well made, original and ultimately entertaining fluff.  And the fact that it was the first of five movies starring the Beatles, it lead to wringing more out of them as movie stars than could have ever been expected.

4 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | A Hard Days Night (1964)

  1. Great review!
    We’re (once again) linking to your article for Band Biopic Tuesday at
    Keep up the good work!

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