A Hard Day's Night will move one young segment of its audience to tears, hysteria and even outright unconsciousness. More than a movie, it is the answer to a maiden's prayer. Surprisingly, though, this hairy musical romp starring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starryclept the Beatlesis one of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever made solely for purposes of exploitation. It seems better than it ought to be simply because the Beatles prove themselves disarming personalities.
Looking like four errant Blue Boys, the lads hit their nimble stride in a script shrewdly slapped together by Scenarist Alun Owen and directed in racy "new cinema" style by Richard Lester. Scorning plot, Night affects to study an ordinary day or so in the wholly extraordinary lives of its heroes. They are the clear-eyed innocents, imprisoned by fame behind a whimsically improbable wall of wailing nymphets, but never for a moment blinded to the really flagrant foolishness of the adult world around them. Representing the dangers of creeping maturity is a low-comedy menace identified as Paul's granddad (Wilfrid Brambell). Though everyone remarks how clean he looks, Granddad is patently a lecherous old billygoat and a born troublemaker. His ultimate mischief is to persuade Ringo to defect from show biz to the outside worlda disaster certain to deprive the cream of Britain's youth of any reason to survive puberty.
Before that calamity is averted, there are enough mad puns and sight gags and individual comedy bits to throw any Beatlemaniac into spasms of joy. Spoofing press conferences, the Beatles give every banal question the answer it deserves: "How did you find America?" "Turn left at Greenland." "What do you call that haircut?" "Arthur."
Sometimes the humor seems forced, the North Country slang impenetrable. And, in truth, a more exciting and at the same time more perceptive view of a Beatle's insular existence is projected in a documentary feature titled What's Happening!The Beatles in the U.S.A. Made with near-perfect fidelity by Albert and David Maysles, a brother team of American independent film makers who shot it on the spot with a handheld camera and portable sound gear, this bristling, hilarious account of the sound and fury generated during a public-appearance tour was shown on British television, but has yet to be released for public showings in the U.S. Meanwhile, A Hard Day's Night fills the gap with Beatlesong, frothy fiction, and an air of high-spirited improvisation almost as amusing as life itself.