A Hard Day’s Night (1964) | 4K Blu-ray Review


Criterion is out with another 4K release, this time in the form of the Beatles 1964 movie, A Hard Day’s Night. Criterion has previously released a Blu-ray from the same remastering work back in 2014, so now that it’s hitting the native format, is it worth adding into your collection?


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!


Please note: As highlighted in this review, there are a couple of editing issues for the movie on the UHD disc. Criterion has not broadly announced a replacement program, however they are offering replacement discs (when available in March 2022) if you contact them at orders@criterion.com.

A Hard Day’s Night 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-100)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:Criterion
Release Date:January 18th, 2022
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: Native 4K, 2160/24p
BR: Full HD, 1080/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (from negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision (FEL), HDR10
Aspect Ratio:1.75:1
Audio Format(s):English (4K/BR):
LPCM 1.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English SDH
Packaging:Dual disc digipack with slip case*

*Packaging may be limited to earlier pressings
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region A (locked)

Video Review:

Criterion has been looking at some of their existing licensed work to push out their early releases on the UHD format. As such it was not surprising when A Hard Day’s Night was selected to get the treatment. The previously released Blu-ray was already excellent and the 4K release comes from that same transfer. On the detail front there is an improvement in overall fine detail, but I will say up front that it is a subtle improvement. Skin textures look a bit more refined, the separation in hair, fibers on clothing, and that shaggy sweater all are a bit more sharp. The subtleties of set pieces, props and environment all just get a bit better. I’ve purposefully used the words “a bit” a few times here as it really is just a small improvement, but sometimes that small improvement takes a great look picture and makes it stunning.

The film grain for me was better displayed here in 4K, being a bit sharper and more organic, although the grain structure on the Blu-ray was certainly not bad.

The movie is presented in black and white and the Dolby Vision and HDR10 both do a nice job of pushing the dynamic range just that much higher (Note that in the included screenshots, these are all tonemapped using my standardized process, and while the picture does look a bit dimmer, it is definitely much brighter on a proper HDR powered display. As always, screenshots should be mostly used to assess detail). The black levels are a bit deeper and the picture pleasantly has a bit more contrast on board. The in studio scenes with the bright lights gets the biggest improvement here and one that makes this the superior presentation of the movie.

The included Blu-ray was the same content as released in 2014, although it does sport a new look on the label. In its own right, it’s a great looking disc with a lot of the same beneficial aspects as seen on the UHD Blu-ray, but just not quite as refined. That said, this is really splitting hairs as it’s also an excellent looking picture.

NOTE: As mentioned above, there are a couple of very brief editing errors only found on the UHD Blu-ray where a couple of brief scenes were accidentally cut into the film at the wrong point. Keen observers will absolutely pick those up, and Criterion is rightfully correcting the issue with a replacement disc and a corrected release in March 2022.

Video Score (4K): 4.7 / 5 (Excellent – assuming corrections on replacement disc)

Video Score (BR): 4.7 / 5 (Excellent)

Comparisons:

Audio Review:

For audio, the 4K release gets the same 3 audio tracks that we had on the previous 2014 Blu-ray release. The sonic presentation of all three tracks sounds appropriate for the film, each presenting with clarity, richness and dynamics. The 1.0 and 2.0 Mono tracks are both solid, with little reproduction errors, a full quality sound and an era appropriate mix. The 5.1 mix opens up the front sound stage a small amount, but the surrounds are not used heavily except to sprinkle in a little ambiance here and there. Bass sounds full and provides a more enriched sound ,especially for those music performance scenes. That said, I definitely found myself preferring the mono track. It just sounds and felt the most at home for this movie, but none of the  tracks I would refer to as anything less than very good.

Audio Score (4K/BR): 4.4 / 5 (Very Good)

Special Features and Packaging:

If you own the 2014 release, you pretty much have everything included here. That said, its a fairly deep list of extras, with interviews, scene breakdowns, trailers, a couple of documentaries, short films from  Richard Lester, video essays and more. There’s a lit to dive into and it is all interesting for a fan of the film. All of the extras come on the Blu-ray except the audio commentary is also included on the 4K disc.

For packaging, this also looks very much like the 2014 release, with the same cover art, black and white color scheme (except a nice pop of color on the interior of the digipak), and the same included booklet which includes an essay, excerpts from interviews, and the credits. The only major difference is the dual-disc case versus the old single disc version. Overall I like the presentation of it, but it would have been nice to see something a little different.

Features Score: 4.4 / 5 (Very Good)

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

As of publication, you cannot currently buy this except on the secondary market. The reason for this is due to the editing errors mentioned above. That said, once the corrected version is made available then the answer to this is going to be different if you are buying for the first time or upgrading. If you do now own the existing Criterion Blu-ray, then the answer will be an absolute yes, as the refinements here do make it the superior version and it’s only a few dollars more than that standard Blu-ray. But on the other hand, if you do own that 2014 release, it would be a hard decision to double dip on this release. Given how similar the releases are in quality, packaging and extras, you really are not getting much more. Even if you sold the standard Blu-ray, the price you would get and the premium on this would still be a hard choice for any except die hard fans.


Buy Recommendation: Yes! (once corrected disc is available)

Upgrade Recommendation: Probably not (if coming from the existing Criterion Blu-ray)

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!

Summary and Overall Scores:

Setting aside the editing errors, as Criterion is correcting that, this is definitely a very solid release from Criterion. The picture quality and audio presentations are excellent, and its rich in features. It’s biggest problem is that the 2014 Blu-ray is also fantastic, and this does not really offer too much more than what you get in that version which will make it a tough upgrade choice for those who own it already.

Experience Score**: 4.5 / 5  (Excellent – again assuming corrected edits)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.


If a video version of this review is made, it will be posted here. If you are looking for video versions of my other reviews, please check out the Freshly Tapped Media channel on YouTube.


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