To mark the 50th anniversary of the release of A Hard Day's Night – the bold, madcap 1964 comedy classic that not only made heretofore Beatles naysayers fall in love with the band's undeniable charms but also launched the career of director Richard Lester, who seemed to presage the impact of music videos 17 years before MTV – Janus Films is releasing a new 4k digital restoration version of the picture to almost 100 cities in the US on July 4.
For both longtime Beatles aficionados and newbies, experiencing the film in theaters – the new print was assembled from the original 35mm camera negative and is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.75:1 – is the way to go. But for those who can't make the trip, a Criterion Collection Director-Approved Dual-Format Blu-ray and DVD Special Edition package has already been released.
In addition to it other myriad attributes – the film is currently ranked as the number one best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 99% – A Hard Day's Night was also a breakthrough in sound recording and editing. To preserve the true sonic representation of original presentation, while taking advantage of today's technology, Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, spent months overseeing a knockout 192-kHz/24-bit 5.1mix.
Martin sat down with MusicRadar recently to discuss the challenges he faced mixing A Hard Day's Night for surround sound, one that involved locating tapes from various sources, some of which were thought to be long gone. "It really took a lot of effort, finding the tapes and then making everything flow seamlessly," he says. "You want to update the sound and make everything appear totally accurate and normal, but you don't want to change anything, really. It's not about trying to put a mustache on a Mona Lisa."
Giles, I would assume you saw A Hard Day's Night countless times as a kid. Is it a little different for you to watch the movie than for other people? You're obviously so close to the individuals involved.
“Yeah, that's an interesting point. The movie impacts me differently than it probably does most people. You have to approach a project like this with two heads on, so that involves being deeply emotional and incredibly cold all at the same time. It’s a bit like being a surgeon.”
“The movie was made before I was born, so I wasn’t really conscious of it growing up. The truth is, I didn’t really watch it as a kid; it was one of those films that wasn’t shown on TV a great deal. I think I saw Help! a lot more. But when I did see it, I loved it, and of course, the chance to work on it was tremendously exciting.”
When you did watch the film with your dad, did he ever say things like, ‘Oh, I wish we could have done this with the sound?’ Did he ever bring certain things to your attention?
“Well, it’s funny: He used to say that he wished they didn’t have two-track or four-track – they should just have more tracks. [Laughs] What I found out was that half of A Hard Day’s Night is two-track. He had four-track available to him, only he didn’t use it. I guess there was no point, as the band was writing these instant hits. You didn’t really think about what was going to happen in the future.
“The great thing about The Beatles, and this is hard to get across, is that they would go in and make stuff that was bursting with energy. They’d finish it and move on to something else. Everything moved at an incredible speed, but it’s a speed that must’ve felt normal to them, or at least ‘This is the way that we do it.’ They did things brilliantly by instinct and by accident."