It poured off and on most of the day, so I stayed home all afternoon and watched movies. For some reason, I didn’t feel like reading anything I needed to think about, so continuing with Emma was out. But, on my way home from church this morning, I caught a little bit of XM 59’s “Breakfast with the Beatles,” and remembered I had never watched the remastered editions of A Hard Day’s Night, Help! and Yellow Submarine that I’ve owned since they were released. So that’s what I decided to do. I spent the afternoon reliving my childhood.
IMDb says A Hard Day’s Night was first released in August of 1964, just before my 5th birthday. My parents saw the tail end of it when they went to see The World of Henry Orient (another GREAT movie, by the way), and my mother was impressed enough that she took me to see it shortly afterwards. I adored it. Even at the tender age of 5, I loved the Beatles and, to this day, I own copies of the American pressings of several of their early albums, including A Hard Day’s Night in glorious mono. She also took me to see Help! and Yellow Submarine, both of which I also loved. I’ve seen all 3 countless times over the years, on both large and small screens. Back in the 1970s, before VCRs, I would scan the TV listings and wake up in the middle of the night and sneak downstairs to watch them, if necessary. Since we only had a black-and-white television, I missed out on much of what makes the latter 2 movies so great.
Unfortunately, I spent so much time watching the bonus features on the discs that I didn’t get to Yellow Submarine this afternoon. But no worries; there’s always next weekend. I really enjoyed the extras on both discs, particularly those for A Hard Day’s Night. There are more than a dozen interviews with key players, including Richard Lester (the director), George Martin (the Beatles’ producer), John Junkin (Shake), and David Janson, who played the young boy (“Charlie”) who meets Ringo while he’s wandering around on his own. I learned a lot about the making of the film, including that the theme song was not written until late in the process and that some of the filming techniques were revolutionary for their time. Because of his involvement with these 2 movies, Richard Lester is sometimes referred to as the “father of MTV,” to which he replies that he wants a blood test.
One thing I found particularly interesting is that Wilfred Brambell, who plays Paul’s grandfather, was only in his early 50s when A Hard Day’s Night was made (he was born in March of 1912, and he turned 52 during filming). In the UK, he was most famous for having played Albert Steptoe in the British series Steptoe and Son, which was turned into the Redd Foxx vehicle, Sanford and Son, for the US market. Brambell had no problems playing characters who were older than he actually was — the man who played his son in Steptoe, Harry Corbett, was only 13 years younger than Brambell and, given that Paul McCartney turned 22 in 1964, Brambell was certainly not old enough to play McCartney’s grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night. Knowing Brambell’s real age made the scene in A Hard Day’s Night where old Mr. McCartney talks about remembering something that happened in 1909 particularly amusing, given that the actor playing Mr. McCartney wasn’t even born until 3 years later.
We also learn where the recurring joke about how “clean” Mr. McCartney is comes from. Brambell’s character, Albert Steptoe, was, apparently, called a “dirty old man” in that program, and so Alun Owen (who wrote the script for A Hard Day’s Night) took that joke and twisted it around for this movie. And, speaking of Alun Owen, we also learn in the extras that, while his name may be Welsh, he was from Liverpool, and had a similar sense of humor to John, Paul, George and Ringo which is why the dialogue sounded so natural.
Another thing I really liked hearing was George Martin saying that “I Should Have Known Better” is one of his favorite Beatles songs. It’s not just “one” of my favorites, it is my absolute favorite, so I’d say I’m in pretty good company. 😉 In his interview for the remastered movie, Kenneth Haigh, who plays Simon in A Hard Day’s Night, talks about how much of the Beatles music hearkens back to traditional Irish and Southern American music. I wholeheartedly agree with him on this — and I’ve also noticed that a lot of modern country singers regard the Beatles as an influence, along with bluegrass and its Celtic cousins.
The extras for Help! aren’t quite as extensive, but they do show the process used to remaster the movie. That was really interesting. Other than that, I didn’t learn very much about the making of this movie. But the movie itself is still a whole lot of fun. And, of course, the music is incomparable.
I am so glad I got to see these movies again. I don’t have HD or Blu-ray, but the regular remastered discs still look much better than the older copies of the movies. For anyone who grew up on 60s music in general and the Beatles in particular, I cannot recommend these enough.