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Restored first Beatles film looked 'fantastic' at film fest premiere

A display for Saturday's screening of "A Hard Day's Night" at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
A display for Saturday's screening of "A Hard Day's Night" at the TCM Classic Film Festival.
TCM/Matt Hurwitz - used by permission

The newest restoration of the Beatles' first film, “A Hard Day's Night” premiered April 12 at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles and Matt Hurwitz, who attended the screening, told Beatles Examiner the new version is a big improvement. The film features a new 4K digital film restoration, approved by AHDN director Richard Lester.

“The image looked fantastic. It’s in its original 1.75:1 aspect ratio, common in England at the time, so you’re seeing the entire frame, uncropped,” Hurwitz said. “The restoration looks amazing – really great gray scale, as a well-photographed black-and-white movie should look and not too contrasty. They’ve done a great job with it.”

The screened film also had a new 5.1 surround soundtrack supervised by Giles Martin, Beatles producer Sir George Martin's son. “Giles Martin’s new stereo soundtrack was very good, the songs particularly. It’s carefully done to be a 1964 stereo mix, not a 2014 one,” he said. “The music is really rich – a lot of punch – but not all over the theater stereo, which is the way it ought to be. There's just a slightly noticeable stereo spread.”

A Criterion Collection representative told Hurwitz they’re expecting to have a theatrical rollout of the newly restored film hopefully around the time of its 50th anniversary of its release in the UK, which took place on July 6, 1964 before an audience in Liverpool that included HRH Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon. The film was released in America the following month on Aug. 11.

The newly restored film will come out in a three-disc Blu-ray and single disc DVD version on June 24 in the U.S. Both the DVD and Blu-ray versions will feature a monaural soundtrack and Martin's new 5.1 surround soundtrack. Also included will be “In Their Own Voices,” a new behind-the-scenes documentary with Beatles soundbites; an interview with Mark Lewisohn, author of “All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In”; and “You Can’t Do That: The Making of “A Hard Day’s Night,” the documentary previously released on the MPI VHS and DVD versions in 1994.

The Blu-ray version will have a few exclusive special features, as well. These will include uncompressed monaural, uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio; a new audio interview with director Lester; “Things They Said Today,” a documentary released in 2000 on the Miramax release of the film; and Lester's pre-AHDN “The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film” from 1960 with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

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