Latest Review – The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years [Blu-ray]


Director: Ron Howard

UK Distributor: Studiocanal

Genre: Documentary • Year: 2016 • Country: United Kingdom | United States • Running Time: 106 minutes (1:45:53) • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Rating: 12 • Region: Region B • Video: 1080p High Definition [Resolution] | MPEG-4 AVC [Codec] • Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 | English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English Dolby Digital 5.1 | English Audio Description 2.0 | French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Subtitles: Optional English HOH | French | German

Let’s face it, there have been so many Beatles documentaries and featurettes churned out over the years that it would be an almost impossible task to tally up the exact number. With that in mind, the challenge then lies in producing a piece of work that explores something ‘new’ and gives a fresh insight into areas that are not quite as well-trodden as some of the others. In honing in exclusively on The Touring Years, director Ron Howard does just that, wisely limiting his outlook to arguably the most compelling component of their early career and using perfectly rendered and beautifully restored archive footage to explore the cultural and social revolution of the 1960s.

Through new interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and a number of other unusually selected contributors – mixed seamlessly with archival interviews with John Lennon and George Harrison – Howard’s whistle-stop tour through the rigorous and exhausting concert years (from 1963 to 1966) ticks of all the boxes any good Beatles aficionado might hope for.

From the early days at the Cavern and their first UK tour dates at the likes of the ABC Theatre, Manchester, through to their landmark US TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Hollywood years and their notable refusal to play to a segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Eight Days a Week is a social, political and cultural time-capsule of Beatlemania not only at its most powerful, but often its most cumbersome and debilitating.

An arduous and demanding daily schedule of gigs, interviews, television appearances, filming – combined with problematic live concert conditions, health and safety concerns and the deafening screams of hyperventilating worshippers – quickly took its toll, and the Fab Four sought refuge in the familiarity of the recording studio as a means of escape and recovery. At one point George Harrison states that he has no idea how Elvis did it alone, and puts their survival down to their close brotherly bond and shared experiences of super-stardom.

There may not be anything revelatory in the material, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating film. Set to a five-star soundtrack of remastered live recordings, outtakes and iconic studio tracks, Eight Days a Week makes for intriguing and incredibly watchable viewing. Provided you can stomach the incessant screams in the DTS 5.1 surround mix you’ll be fine!

Special Features: 

 Words & Music – John, Paul, George & Ringo reflect on songwriting and the influence of music from their parents’ generation, Lennon/McCartney writing for other artists, The Beatles as individual musicians, and the band as innovators. Also featuring Howard Goodall, Peter Asher, Simon Schama and Elvis Costello (24:13)

Early Clues To A New Direction – A special feature touching on The Beatles as a collective, the importance of humour, the impact of women on their early lives and songwriting, and the band as a musical movement. Featuring John, Paul, George & Ringo, along with Paul Greengrass, Stephen Stark, Peter Asher, Malcolm Gladwell, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Curtis, Elvis Costello and Simon Schama (17:54)

The Beatles Live – 1963 – 1965 – Full-length versions of five archive concert clips featured in the film – She Loves You (ABC Theatre, Manchester, 1963); Twist And Shout (ABC Theatre, Manchester, 1963); Can’t Buy Me Love (NME Awards, London, 1964); You Can’t Do That (Melbourne, 1964); Help! (ABC Theatre, Blackpool, 1965) (Total: 12:00)

A Deeper Dive – A series of short featurettes – Liverpool (11:42); Three Beatles’ Fans (8:20); Ronnie Spector And The Beatles (4:02); Shooting ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (5:54); The Beatles In Australia (4:17:); Recollections of Shea Stadium (3:44); The Beatles In Japan (5:14) (Total: 43:13)

An Alternative Opening For The Film (3:06)

Credits (3:53)

• 64-page Booklet – Featuring an introduction from director Ron Howard, an essay by music journalist and author Jon Savage and rare photos from The Beatles’ private archive

Available Now (click image to buy):

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