Despite the insistence of punk rock saint Joe Strummer, Beatlemania seems no closer to biting the dust in 2014. Apple Corps have made quite the big deal out of this year's 50th anniversary mark of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr making their first trip to America in 1964, branding a generation with their blend of highly original, mania-inducing pop/rock. November saw the release of a second volume of recordings for the BBC and a copyright-busting, officially-sanctioned digital box set of bootlegs, while this winter has seen surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo reuniting for a Grammy Awards-produced television tribute as well as the release of a box set approximately containing the band's catalogue as it first appeared in the United States.
The most exciting release commemorating The Beatles in 2014, however, may have just been revealed: on June 24, the band's first film, A Hard Day's Night, is added to The Criterion Collection's line of high-quality Blu-Ray and DVD releases, newly remastered and packed with some enticing special features.
Widely considered to be one of the most influential films in pop music history, with a style and tone that influenced countless imitators (and later, clips on MTV), the black-and-white film finds The Fab Four heading from their native Liverpool to London for a show, dodging fans and getting into bizarre comedic situations along the way. An Oscar-nominated script by Alun Owen and keen direction by Richard Lester (whose loose style would be utilized in 1965's follow-up, Help!) kept the film from being a quick cash-in, and the soundtrack, bolstered by the chart-toppers of the title track and "Can't Buy Me Love," further immortalized the picture as a key piece of that first wave of Beatlemania.
The package comes loaded with special features to please both cinephiles and audio enthusiasts. The film has been completely restored in 4K (a transfer approved by director Lester), and can be heard in both its original mono soundtrack and a brand-new 5.1 surround mix commissioned by Apple Corps. Additional features on this single Blu-Ray/double-disc DVD set include:
- Audio commentary featuring various members of the film’s cast and crew
- In Their Own Voices, a new piece combining interviews with the Beatles from 1964 with behind-the-scenes footage and photos
- You Can’t Do That: The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night,” a 1994 documentary program by producer Walter Shenson
- Things They Said Today, a 2002 documentary about the film featuring Lester, music producer George Martin, writer Alun Owen, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor and others
- New piece about Lester’s early work, featuring a new audio interview with the director
- The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film (1959), Lester’s Oscar-nominated short featuring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan
- Anatomy of a Style, a new piece on Lester’s approach to editing
- New interview with Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn
- Deleted scene
- Booklet featuring an essay by critic Howard Hampton
A single-disc DVD will also be available. Amazon links are not yet live, but Criterion's page has pre-order links there; stay tuned to The Second Disc for pre-order links as they're available.