RIGHTLY HAILED as the "Citizen Kane of jukebox movies," this lavish two-disc release (Sept. 24) of the Beatles' 1964 film debut is testament not only to the Fab Four's gifts as charismatic comic performers but also to the skill of writer Alun Owen, whose sharp dialogue and talents as a scenarist remain as compelling as ever.
While boasting a luminous audio/ visual transfer, the bonus material —compiled by veteran Beatles historian Martin Lewis—is the set's real appeal. Disc one includes a retrospective comprised of fresh interviews with actors, filmmakers, and business associates who chronicle the movie's development from a quickie exploitation effort to one of pop cinema's watersheds. Commentary from director Richard Lester is especially incisive; so, too, is the always informative (if self-aggrandizing) George Martin's soundtrack analysis.
Among disc two's illuminating interviews is a tribute to Wilfrid Brambell, the British screen vet who played Paul McCartney's grandfather (finally shedding a bit of light on the film's running "He's very clean" gag). Featurettes on Night actors David Janson and Isla Blair recall with wide-eyed wonder both the thrill and dangers of being caught in the midst of Beatlemania.
Surprisingly, the project doesn't suffer from a lack of direct input from the surviving band members, although some might argue that the Maysles Brothers' rarely seen 1964 documentary What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.—a powerful piece of life imitating art—would've complemented the package perfectly.
Still, this is a must-own for Beatles fans and cineasts alike.
SEPT. 24 BRINGS more goodies, including a big, fat four-disc set of Project Greenlight; yet another DVD release of Swingers (mucho commentary); the SIFF favorite high-school football doc Go Tigers!; 1990's hard-boiled The Grifters (with Frears, Cusack, and Huston on the chat track); and Peter Jackson's 1994 Heavenly Creatures, which made a star of Kate Winslet. Other worthy titles sneaking to disc are Errol Morris' Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and the German Zen comedy Enlightenment Guaranteed. Oldies alert! Look for value-added sets of Singin' in the Rain, Amadeus (Milos Forman's revised longer cut), Unforgiven (no Eastwood commentary), and Citizen Kane.