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A Hard Day's Night

Starring Wilfrid Brambell, "The Beatles," Norm Rossington and John Junkin
Screenplay by Alun Owen
Directed by Richard Lester
website: /

IN SHORT: Been there done that... [Rated G. 94 minutes]

My God, isn't there a drop of originality or creativity left in the world? Yes, I know Ebert's said that it's all been done to death but really . . . Cranky sits through 300 movies a year, so tell my why we plant ourselves down A Hard Day's Night, yet another "mockumentary" in the style of This Is Spinal Tap, only this time about a rock and roll band with a rabid fan following resembling what Duran Duran had back in the early 80s. This film, following a 1960s band called "The Beatles" (with a sound remarkably like the Dave Clark 5, who ruled the top of the charts back in the time period of this flick) not only rips Tap; it is shot with handheld cameras a la Blair Witch Project; in black and white (of course) for that air of independent artfilm respectability and featuring first name only characters, a la The Monkees, whose classic film Head, written by Jack Nicholson, still stands as the high mark of rockflicks. We should have known better than to sit down for this. If we were younger, we might have popped some lucy in the sky to make the music easier, but we never did chemicals. We shouldn't have wasted any time at all on it, but it's our job. Onwards . . .

These "Beatles" -- sheesh, they can't even spell their name correctly -- are a neatly trimmed quartet of thickly accented Brits from Liverpool whose passable pop ditties inspire crowds of boys (including Phil Collins, way too old to be playing a teen) and girls into sheer frenzy. The story, such as it is, has them coming to London to perform on a television show. They are, of course, bombarded by press and fans and paparazzi and go through the usual band breaks up, band makes up shtick -- while a Grandfatherly type (Wilfrid Brambell) makes trouble by trying to peddle counterfeit "signed" pictures of the group. Trying to keep a hand on it all are the band's handlers, Norm (Norman Rossington) and Shake (John Junkin), in a helter skelter mish mash of a story where everything comes together just in time for the Big Show and the final credit roll. Sheesh.

The music is a passable homage to the pop of the period, though it ain't Herman's Hermits, that's for sure. Will it work with the ticket buying teens of today? We doubt it. There's not an expletive or a "ho" or "bitch" or drug reference to be heard. Rather, we get an earful of harmony and melody and musical themes that have absolutely no overwhelming bass or percussive rhythm like good music does. What's even worse is that we can understand every single word these guys are "singing". As for musical ability, these "musicians" can't even do a decent synch to the pre-recorded songs. Guitarist George doesn't touch his strings and the drummer, "Ringo," looks as if he's not even playing the same song as the rest of the band. The actor playing "John" shows a bit of talent, though he seems to have dropped off the face of the planet, as has George. Excepting the age there's an old guy named "Ringo" doing commercials for Charles Schwab. We suspect it may be this actor's dad.

Which bring us to "Paul," played by an actor with cajones enough to call himself "McCartney" (!!!) We grew up with Wings. We know Paul McCartney and this is not Paul McCartney . . .

Well, actually, we worked with McCartney on a radio special we did back in our rock 'n' roll days (around 1983). Ringo did the Robert Klein Show with us and participated in a special about rock drummers created by Mighty Max Weinberg -- which is where he copped to the fact that he never played the same song the same way twice. John Lennon's guitarist, Wayne Gabriel, was a friend of ours. Lennon was murdered a week before we were to meet him. We've also interviewed the "true" fifth Beatle, Sir George Martin, numerous times.

Sheesh, what did you expect me to say about A Hard Day's Night that hasn't already been said? If you didn't cop to the fact that we were jerking your chain, well, you've been jerked (and long time readers know we normally goof once a year, in the summertime, but it's been a lousy year).

It's like Ivory Soap: A Hard Day's Night is 99 and 44/100ths percent pure and perfect. Everything from the mockumentary format (though every word in this flick was scripted by English playwright Alun Owen) on down started here. A Hard Day's Night is the greatest rock and roll movie ever made. The cleaned up and remastered big screen print, now in limited release, in theaters is something that should be seen there, before you go out and get the DVD to replace the laserdisc to replace the videotape, and so on and so forth, for your personal collection.

We don't put ratings on re-releases, unless there have been major changes so no number here. But we've got the DVD and the LV and the VHS and have seen 'em enough times that we can quote dialog verbatim, so you figure it out <vbg>. Highly recommended.

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