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Robert Zemeckis
Nancy Allen, Bobby Di Cicco, Marc McClure, Susan Kendall Newman, Theresa Saldana, Wendie Jo Sperber, Eddie Deezen, Christian Juttner, Will Jordan
Writing Credits:
Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

These youngsters are suffering from a highly contagious disease called "Beatlemania". The symptoms are ... screaming, hysteria, hyperventilation, fainting, fits, seizures, and spasmodic convulsions It isn't fatal, but it sure is fun!

The year is 1964. The Beatles are about to arrive in the U.S., and young America has gone completely wild. Hoping to be a part of this historical moment are six hysterical New Jersey teenagers who will stop at nothing to see the Fab Four in person. Embarking on the first road trip of their young lives, the friends reach New York City where they are determined to beat the odds and see the band in their first Ed Sullivan show appearance in this delightful coming-of-age comedy from Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis.

Box Office:
$2.700 million.
Domestic Gross
$1.900 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 9/28/2004

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis and Writer/Producer Bob Gale
• Photo Gallery


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 27, 2004)

Before and after the Beatles, many musical acts inspired hysteria in their fans. Among others, Sinatra, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and myriad “boy bands” led to massive amounts of shrieking and general nuttiness from teen girls. However, the Beatles remain the gold standard of fan craziness. Whenever someone encounters rabidly excited crowds, they don’t say they felt like Elvis - they say they felt like the Beatles.

For a wonderful look at the most famous example of Beatlemania, we go to 1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand. This movie looks at the hysteria from the perspective of some New Jersey teenagers. Six of them head from the suburbs into Manhattan to go toward the Beatles’ hotel.

Each of the six possesses a different motive. Emotional Rosie Petrofsky (Wendie Jo Sperber) is the one true Beatlemaniac, as she absolutely adores the band and fantasizes that she’ll marry Paul. She just wants to get as close to them as she can. Grace Corrigan (Theresa Saldana) wants to be a professional photographer and she thinks that some candid shots of the Beatles would act as her entry into that career. Mild-mannered Larry Dubois (Marc McClure) has a crush on Grace, so he helps out to impress her.

Soon-to-elope Pam Mitchell (Nancy Allen) pretends not to care about the Beatles. She and the girls are supposed to hang out for her pre-marriage celebration, but they shanghai her to go into town. She goes along with this even though she thinks she’s too mature to deal with all the craziness and she worries what her fiancé will think. Folkie Janis Goldman (Susan Kendall Newman) loathes the poppy Beatles, so she goes along to protest their influence. Greaser Tony Smerko (Bobby Di Cicco) also dislikes the band, though he mostly accompanies the group to be a jerk and make time with Janis.

The film follows a few storylines that revolve around the characters’ interests. Along the way, the kids meet others who share in their adventures. Rosie encounters shrill, nerdy know-it-all “Ringo” Klaus (Eddie Deezen), while Janis helps out a younger Beatle fan named Peter Plimpton (Christian Juttner) when Tony and his Beatle-hating cohorts try to cut his hair. He has tickets to the Ed Sullivan Show and offers to take in Janis as thanks, which she plans to use as her opportunity to publicly denounce the band. This leads to a dramatic confrontation with Peter’s father (Read Morgan); the boy’s dad holds the tickets and will only cede them once the kid cuts his hair.

Grace does what she needs to get into the Sullivan Theater, which almost leads her down a very wayward path. Pam gets lost in the shuffle and learns the Beatles’ power when she finds herself alone in their hotel room. As Tony suffers through one Beatle-related indignity after another, he grows to hate them more and more, and that eventually leads him to attempt severe anti-Beatle measures.

My, what a wonderful movie! It’d be a mistake to think that only Beatle fans would enjoy this light comedic romp. Instead, it’s really a flick for everybody, as I find it hard to imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this bright and dynamic effort.

Granted, it helps to love the Beatles, especially since Hand presents such a delightful “you are there” feel for things. I wasn’t even born in February 1964, but between Hand and the documentary The First US Visit, I think I get a good impression of the hysteria. The documentary lets us see things from the Beatles’ point of view, while Hand gives us the kids’ perspective.

It does that in a marvelous manner. The movie possesses an amazing energy that lets you fly through its scenarios in a peppy and amusing manner. Even with a large ensemble cast of main characters, we still get a great feel for the kids, and they all develop appropriately as the movie progresses. I’ve seen longer movies with many fewer participants that didn’t present such great character progression. Hand really lets us understand them and see them grow, albeit in comic ways.

The excellent cast helps. Also seen in Steven Spielberg’s 1979 dud 1941, Deezen plays a small role, but he’s an absolute riot. I’ve loved the broad but pointed comedy of Sperber for years, and she’s at her best as Rosie; she gets into the mindset of an obsessed teen fan so well she almost seems possessed. McClure does wonderfully as the lovably wimpy Larry, as we can see his love-struck attitude and the way it affects his actions.

It’s amazing to think that Hand was Robert Zemeckis’ first directorial effort. He creates a very self-assured movie on a low-budget and fires on all cylinders. Zemeckis would encounter much greater success in the future with flicks like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump; Hand made about $17 at the box office and sank like a stone. However, he’d never create a better film. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Zemeckis’ work, but Hand remains his best.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

I Wanna Hold Your Hand appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I was happy to finally get the flick in its original aspect ratio, as this marks the first time it’s been released that way on home video. Happily the disc did more than just that. Given the age and low-budget of Hand, I thought this DVD represented the source material about as well as possible.

Sharpness varied a little but usually looked very good. Some interiors demonstrated a little softness. However, this remained a minor issue, and the movie mainly came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement crept into the picture. Surprisingly, source flaws played almost no role in the proceedings. I noticed a speck or two, but otherwise this was a marvelously clean image.

Hand always had a subdued palette, and the DVD represented that. This made sense given the period setting and the winter atmosphere. The disc demonstrated the tones well. The colors rarely excelled, but they were appropriately full and rich, as the occasional examples of brighter hues looked good. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows seemed clean and accurately displayed. I felt extremely pleased with this positive visual presentation, as it exceeded my expectations.

Remixed from the original mono, I Wanna Hold Your Hand offered a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, as essentially offered a broad monaural piece. Music and environmental elements spread gently to the sides, and occasionally some more firmly localized bits appeared. For example, cars sometimes moved from one spot to another. The surrounds played a very minor role and did nothing more than support the front. Nothing about the remix went nuts, but it broadened the atmosphere nicely.

Audio quality was slightly dated but generally good. At times, speech demonstrated mildly hollow tones. However, the lines always seemed clean and intelligible, and they usually came across as pretty natural. Effects didn’t act strongly in the film, but the elements we heard sounded reasonably accurate and distinctive. Music consisted almost solely of Beatle tunes. These were fairly bright and lively, though not extremely dynamic. The quality of the tunes varied from solid to mediocre, with most of the tracks more than acceptable. No one should expect a killed mix from Hand, but it worked well for the material.

As for supplements, Hand includes an audio commentary from writer/director Robert Zemeckis and writer/associate producer Bob Gale. Both men sit together for their running, screen-specific track. While most commentaries spew praise for all involved, this one goes along a different path. The pair are more than happy to point out a variety of problems they encountered as they made Hand. We learn a little about the origins of the flick and various inspirations, and we also hear about the flick’s path to the screen plus legal issues connected to the band.

For the most part, though, they chat about all the issues that popped up along the way. We get remarks about lazy crewmembers, Murray the K’s vanity studio interference and the absence of support. A variety of fun anecdotes like Paul Newman’s directorial statements appear as well in this very entertaining and amusing commentary. It suffers from a little too much dead air, and a couple of factual mistakes occur; Gale states that they couldn’t depict Brian Epstein because the Beatles’ manager was still alive, but he actually died more than a decade before the film’s release. Despite those minor problems, this is a solid piece that Hand fans will definitely enjoy.

In addition, we find a photo gallery. It includes 30 shots that mix images from the flick with some from the set. It’s a nice little collection that finally lets us see the actors who played the Beatles.

A true gem of a film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand gives us a delightful look at Beatlemania through the eyes of the fans. Hilarious, charming, and even a little touching at times, it’s an excellent flick. The DVD represents the movie with fine picture and audio plus a very entertaining audio commentary. A good DVD for a great film, I highly recommend I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.931 Stars Number of Votes: 29
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