A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles

It’s a clean old film, isn’t it?”

“Oh, aye. It’s very clean.”

And that’s kind of the problem here, on this latest “definitive” version of the Beatles’ first foray into cinema, now spruced up, jazzed up and, finally, conjured up on DVD as a deluxe double-disc edition from Miramax. I will not even try to review this film—after all, it is “the Citizen Kane of jukebox movies,” as film critic Andrew Sarris declared it back in 1964, the year of its release. But I will comment on this particular “definitive” version.

Right off the cricket bat there’s a problem: What’s happened to George’s clickity-clack-simulating arpeggio that ends the title song as the train the Fab Four has just boarded leaves the station? Those pristine and wholly satisfying notes are gone without a trace in a torrent of screams. You can’t help but suspect the notes disappear because the film makes its updated jump from the enhanced stereo of the songs back to the regular mono of the dialogue. Fortunately, this seems to be the only time these stereo-to-mono-and-back sound jumps eradicate an important sonic aspect to the film. After that, you’re free to enjoy some good times with some old friends. The black-and-white film has never looked sharper, and the remastered songs sound great.

The second disc contains recent interviews with surviving crew members, including director Richard Lester (dubbed the “father of MTV” by the video-slinging cable station; as a reply, Lester demanded a “blood test") and music producer Sir George Martin. Plus, interesting tuppence worth from the likes of longtime Beatles buddy Klaus Voorman, photographer Robert Freeman, former Fab Four press agent Tony Barrows, and more.

But I’m still a bit sore over that missing arpeggio!