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Beatles' 'A Hard Day's Night' Is Still Fab

September 26, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It only took 16 weeks to complete the Beatles' seminal 1964 movie "A Hard Day's Night." The spectacular new two-disc DVD (Miramax, $30) was 2 1/2 years in the making.

Miramax gave Beatle historian Martin Lewis carte blanche to produce the digital edition of the joyous musical comedy that starred the Fab Four--John, Paul, George and Ringo--at their most fab.

"You get this opportunity once in a lifetime," Lewis says. "I don't think they thought I would be as zealous and obsessed. How many DVDs do you know that have 30 separate interviews? I couldn't stop."

Lewis obtained terrific interviews from director Richard Lester, musical director George Martin (who discusses each song in the film), producer Walter Shenson, associate producer Denis O'Dell, United Artists executive David Picker, actors John Junkin, David Janson, Jeremy Lloyd and Kenneth Haigh, director of photography Gilbert Taylor, hairdresser Betty Glasgow, tailor Gordon Millings, photographer Robert Freeman and the Beatles' buddy, German artist Klaus Voorman.

Lewis even found actress Isla Blair, whose role in the film--as an actress who encounters Paul--had been cut. "She had never spoken about it," Lewis says. "Can you imagine the exhilaration being cast in a movie with the Beatles and then you are cut? Even though it wasn't her fault, she felt embarrassed. She was the most charming lady and such a good sport."

"A Hard Day's Night" has been digitally transferred from the original 35-millimeter negative. The original soundtrack also has been digitally restored.

Lewis believes the film has never become dated because it captured the truth of the Beatles' personalities as well as their spirit. "There is almost a giddy exuberance, a joyous optimism with life," he says. "Seventy-five percent of the people who buy Beatles records are 25 and under, so the Beatles aren't nostalgia to them. What they react to is the spirit, the joy that they bring and communicate. It has nothing to do with the '60s; it has everything to do with the passion for life."

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Next to "A Hard Day's Night," Paramount's digital edition of the 1978 musical comedy blockbuster "Grease" ($20) is pretty much a fizzle. The John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John musical comedy features a trailer, a songbook and a passable retrospective that was produced four years ago for the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release. On the plus side, the wide-screen transfer is crisp and pristine.

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There's also a lot of toe-tapping music in Mira Nair's joyous romantic comedy "Monsoon Wedding" (Universal, $33). This delightful Indian import--which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face--revolves around an upper-middle-class New Delhi family that is preparing for the arranged marriage of its eldest daughter.

The DVD includes a nice documentary on the making of the film that originally aired on the Independent Film Channel, and sparkling commentary from Nair, who made this art-house hit in 30 days.

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New from Warner Home Video are two-disc collector's sets of the Oscar-winning best films "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" from 1975 and the 1992 Clint Eastwood western "Unforgiven" ( $27 each).

The digital edition of "Cuckoo's Nest" includes an excellent documentary on the inspired drama that stars Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in their Oscar-winning roles, several fascinating deleted scenes (including an alternative first meeting between Nicholson and Fletcher), a beautiful new wide-screen digital transfer and amusing, intelligent commentary from director Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz.

Clint Eastwood biographer, documentary filmmaker and film critic Richard Schickel is actually the star of the digital edition of "Unforgiven." He supplies the thought-provoking, informative commentary featured on the first disc, and the second disc includes two of his documentaries: the candid, on-set piece "Eastwood & Co. Making 'Unforgiven' " and the acclaimed career retrospective, "Eastwood on Eastwood."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

What's Coming

Tuesday: "The Scorpion King" and "Brotherhood of the Wolf."

Oct. 8: "Enough," "Big Trouble," "The Son's Room," "Lucky Break" and "Jason X."

Oct. 11: "Scooby-Doo: The Movie."

Oct. 15: "About a Boy," "Mr. Deeds," "Insomnia" and "Windtalkers."

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