NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been 50 years since the Beatles stormed the U.S., and Beatlemania is making an anniversary comeback. The Beatles have been honored in a special Grammys ceremony, on Apple's (AAPL) iTunes, and in re-releases like Vivendi's (VIVHY) The Beatles: U.S. Albums. (Not that the Beatles ever really disappeared, either.)
Now the Beatles' quasi-autobiographical film, A Hard Day's Night, will be screening again in theaters. Originally released by United Artists (now MGM) and directed by Richard Lester, the film has been remastered by Janus Films' Criterion Collection in 4K Ultra HD video and in 5.1 surround-sound audio. The film will be widely re-released mainly to art-house theaters. For a full listing of screenings, take a look at the Janus Films Web site.
A Hard Day's Night is well worth seeing even for those who aren't big Beatles fans. The story is a silly romp that takes the young musicians through a publicity tour and to a live performance on TV.
A Hard Day's Night is also a fascinating take on biography. The film stars the actual musicians, and they are playing themselves -- or versions of themselves. Yet the film is scripted in a kind of reality TV. Ringo is cast as the star -- the most worshipped and perhaps most creative -- and the Beatles joke about the ridiculous nature of press conferences and celebrity interviews. Paul's on-screen (but not real-life) "very clean" grandfather also has a star turn, singing A Nation Once Again as he plays a disgruntled Irish nationalist.
The film ends with a classic trope from musicals: let's put on a show. And the show is spectacular.
The message of the film, and why it is still so appealing, is that its kinda-fictional John, Paul, George and Ringo all seem so real and so normal. This is fun. Really, all the band members want is to run around in a field, joke and play music for their fans. The film, which is fiction, seems more real than a documentary could. Biography is tricky, and autobiography even trickier. But A Hard Day's Night creates a plausible illusion that seems as fun as reality.
A Hard Day's Night has also been a perennial source for music videos and films to rip off its images, lighting, setpieces, costumes and characters. (The movie's 360-degree perspective on the stage, complete with blazing light in the camera lens, has been mimicked relentlessly.) In A Hard Day's Night, you'll see a lot of characters who appear in later reality TV and musical biographies. That's because the film took from prior musicals and also pioneered some new ways to portray big pop stars, even as they're transparently playing a role.
The studio originally viewed the film as a kind of loss leader to prompt sales of the accompanying soundtrack record. Made for a mere $560,000 in 1964, the film grossed more than $12 million on the U.S. initial release alone.
In the U.S., the album spent 14 weeks at the Billboard No. 1 spot. Can't Buy Me Love, And I Love Her and A Hard Day's Night are among its better-known songs. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote all the songs on the album, a first for the band and a hint about the auteur turn the Beatles would take a few years later.
If you like A Hard Day's Night, you might head to iTunes or Netflix (NFLX) to watch more classic fake-autobiographies of musicians.
- Al Jolson's Jazz Singer (at the beginning of sound in film; Jolson wears blackface)
- Prince's Purple Rain
- Eminem's 8 Mile
- Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain
- And the star-powered, critically panned Mariah Carey, Glitter
Don't miss TheStreet's prior coverage of the 50th anniversary Beatlemania.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.