Escaping hordes of fans, the Beatles board a train for London to play on a live TV show. Joined by their manager Norm and Pauls grandfather, the band groove at a nightspot before Ringo goes AWOL, throwing the whole television appearance into jeopardy.
The Beatles, top selling recording artists of the year 2000, were also quite popular around 37 years ago when director Dick Lester debuted them on the big screen.
While Elvis had always struggled with those difficult character parts, the Mop Tops decided to play an augmented version of themselves (John was more caustic, Paul more boyishly charming etc.), taking us through a wild day in their life. The result was a brilliant evocation of Beatlemania, and ironically one of the best films ever made about Britain at a certain point in its history.
A Hard Day’s Night, shot in glorious black and white, captures post-war Britain as it was about to move into colour. James Bond had already given us the bait, but The Beatles and the way they made the world dance to one tune did the rest.
The Beatles led the weirdest life imaginable - chased through train stations, limo-driven from one hotel to the next - how could they not fall back on each other for comfort? More than anything, this film captures their genuine need for each other. True, Ringo disappears at one point in a near-silent section that found critics of the day hailing him as the “new Chaplin” (which would make this City Lights), but what’s wonderful about this movie is how natural its stars are.
And then, of course, there’s the songs - If I Fell, I Should Have Known Better, Things We Said Today; to these guys, this stuff was filler! We should all be so lucky. Plus you get the wonder of Can’t Buy Me Love and the title track.
A full year before Lennon was singing Help!, this is a portrait of the trappings of celebrity. Sadly, it did also mark the cinematic debut of Phil Collins, as one of the kids who mobs them at the beginning.
Great band, great music, great film. Not only that, it remains a fascinating portrait of Britain on the cusp of change.