In 1964, the Beatles had just recently exploded onto the American scene with their debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The group's first feature, the Academy Award-nominated "A Hard Day's Night," offered fans their first peek into a day in the life of the Beatles and served to establish the Fab Four on the silver screen, as well as to inspire the music video format. Songs: I'll Cry Instead, A Hard Day's Night, I Should've Known Better, Can't Buy Me Love, If I Fell, And I Love Her, I'm Happy Just to Dance with You, Ringo's Theme (This Boy), Tell Me Why, Don't Bother Me, I Wanna Be Your Man, All My Lovin', She Loves You.
None of the remaining Beatles participated in the DVD supplements for A Hard Day's Night, but you get an abundance of the next best thing. The film's surviving cast and crew members were assembled for an extensive series of retrospective interviews, resulting in a totally fab tapestry of detailed reminiscence. Virtually all of the major and minor players are included, from director Richard Lester and musical director George Martin, to publicists, Beatles' friends, and key offscreen personnel. The result is a vivid portrait of British film production in the early '60s, placing A Hard Day's Night in rich context to further appreciate its groundbreaking audacity. Particularly amusing are vintage clips from the Brit-com Steptoe and Son in a tribute to character actor Wilfrid Brambell (a.k.a. Paul's "very clean" grandfather), and a Ringo remembrance by actor David Janson (from the film's memorable "Ringo's Theme" sequence). Best of all is an interview with Klaus Voorman, whose connection with the Beatles goes back to Hamburg in the early '60s (pre-Beatlemania), and whose affectionate, still-vivid memories add a wonderful touch of intimate nostalgia. Arguably, these and other interviews create a more fan-friendly portrait than the Beatles could've provided. With extensive DVD-ROM features including Alun Owen's original first-draft screenplay and an extensive Web site archive, the Hard Day's Night DVD is definitely not grotty! --Jeff Shannon