It's impossible to ignore the success story of one of music's most famous groups, The Beatles. From the early 60's onward, the band has been a pop culture landmark of sorts. Today, the music of The Beatles is just as legendary as ever, with compilation CDs still topping the charts! They've sold millions of records, and won the hearts of fans across the globe. Even you're not the biggest fan, it's hard to deny their lasting influence on the music industry.
For American fans, perhaps the biggest event in Beatles history occurred in February of 1964, when the Fab Four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show to perform their highly popular music. Scores of screaming fans were in attendance, and a record-setting number of rabid viewers tuned in as well. It was a truly historic performance, and has been referenced many times over (even in Nirvana's classic music video for In Bloom). This appearance would later solidify The Beatles' status as the most popular band of the 20th Century. In short, this film (The First U.S. Visit) chronicles the two weeks in which The Beatles officially took America by storm.
To help capture the moment, the team of Albert and David Maysles was there, along with co-directors Kathy Dougherty and Susan Froemke. For the record, the Maysles brothers have been responsible for many music-related documentaries, including The Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter and The Monterey Pop Festival. With The First U.S. Visit, they captured the band both on stage and behind-the-scenes, providing an almost surreal look into the absolute chaos of popularity. This is truly A Hard Day's Night, and perfectly captures the excitement surrounding The Beatles (especially in the form of swarming female masses!). While it's obvious the young lads are under a tremendous amount of pressure, they're in great spirits and seem truly appreciative of their fans. It's a unique spectacle, to say the least.
1. The Arrival: February 7, 1964
2. All My Loving
3. Till There Was You
4. She Loves You
5. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
6. I Saw Her Standing There
7. I Wanna Be Your Man
8. She Loves You
9. From Me To You
10. This Boy
11. All My Loving
12. Twist And Shout
13. Please, Please Me
14. I Wanna Hold Your Hand
15. The Departure: February 21, 1964
Surprisingly hard to find on DVD thus far, our friends at HKFlix.com have really come to the rescue! Throughout February 8, this new release can be had for the exceptionally low price of $14.95, which makes this DVD quite a bargain. While not the full-blown Special Edition many fans may have been hoping for, this all-region import features an excellent presentation of the film. At this price, you really can't go wrong. Let's see what's included:
Quality Control Department
The video is presented in 1.33:1, but it's a little inconsistent. The Ed Sullivan performance looks great for its age, albeit a little on the soft side. The behind-the-scenes footage looks better…there's slighty more grain present, but it's a very pleasing image overall. However, the second performance isn't as clean as the first, and features a moderate amount of dirt on the print. When taken into consideration, though, the source material is largely to blame. These problems shouldn't hamper your enjoyment of this film, but don't expect to be blown away.
The audio was good, but it wasn't as powerful as I'd hoped it would be. The main reason? This performance is over 40 years old, and comes from a television broadcast of that era. Remember, home theaters of the 60s usually consisted of a TV and a radio. However, fans who witnessed this event during its original broadcast will likely be pleased. It's a good effort overall, and any imperfections are undoubtedly from the aged source material. It's as good as we're going to get for now, and this is likely the best it's ever sounded as a commercial release.
Menu design and presentation:
The menus are somewhat disappointing…they're static and don't have music, which could have been an easy fix. The navigation is also a bit spotty, as the 'Chapter Selection' menu is confusing and hard to follow. Still, at least there are no forced trailers or advertisements. The packaging is slightly better…it's relatively simplistic, and features a nice insert too (although the majority of it is in Chinese). Overall, it's not a bad job, but could have been better.
No extras are here...not even the trailer. This is a let-down, but at least the price is right.
Should anything else have been included?
Beatles fans are typically of the rabid variety, so any extra stuff would have been most welcome. Specifically, a commentary track or interview would have been great, either featuring the remaining band members or the Maysles brothers. This is a very historic performance, so it should have been given more attention from a historical perspective. Still, I'm wondering just how much was available to pick and choose from, but maybe we'll see more in a future release.
For Beatles fans, this one's a no-brainer. If you're even remotely interested, take advantage of this limited time offer from HKflix.com to get this DVD for only $14.95. It could have been much more substantial in the extras department, but it's hard to complain at this price. The First U.S. Visit is a monumental event, and will be preserved for future generations to discover. I'm hoping for a Special Edition someday, but this will tide over the masses until then. This disc is easily Recommended for Beatles fans (and future fans) alike.
Other Links of Interest
The Beatles: Help! - Review by Randy Miller III
Ed Sullivan Presents The Beatles - Review by Glenn Erickson
The Beatles Anthology – Review by Chris Hughes
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.