Release Date(s)1978 (March 26, 2019)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Criterion - Spine #967)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A+
In 1978, then little-known filmmaker Robert Zemeckis made his feature film directorial debut about U.S. teenage madness for The Beatles, later going on to make films you may have heard of, such as Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, receiving an Oscar for Best Director for the latter. He’s had a prolific career and made an incredible amount of beloved films, and I’m here to tell you about the Criterion Collection’s restoration of his first, I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
Set within a 24-hour period, I Wanna Hold Your Hand is about a group of teenagers getting into shenanigans with a goal, which is to see The Beatles, at whatever the cost. Throughout their adventure, comedic chaos ensues, but they finally get what they want... well, most of them.
The film features many familiar actors from the 1970s and 1980s, such as Nancy Allen (RoboCop, Dressed to Kill), Marc McClure (the Christopher Reeve Superman franchise, Back to the Future), Dick Miller (Gremlins), Theresa Saldana (Raging Bull), Wendie Jo Sperber (also from Back to the Future), Eddie Deezen (Grease, 1941), and Will Jordan (The Doors).
I Wanna Hold Your Hand was originally released on DVD by Universal Pictures in 2005. In 2018, it was released on Blu-ray in France under the title Crazy Day. In between those dates, it’s had a couple of minor home video re-issues. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray presentation of the film comes with a new 4K restoration, approved by Zemeckis and his longtime partner Bob Gale, in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The 35mm transfer went through a Lasergraphics Director film scanner for the 4K scan while debris, such as dirt, scratches, flicker, warps, hair, and lint, were removed manually using both MTI FIlm’s DRS and Digital Vision’s Phoenix systems.
The 4K resolution makes the film look like it was made today, yet still retains the atmospheric feel of a film from the 1970s. There’s some minor debris leftover, but it’s hardly noticeable. The audio is presented in an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that was created in 2004 (the film was originally released in mono). The sound is pitch perfect and complements the avalanche of screaming teenagers without blowing out speakers or ear drums. There are also optional subtitles in English SDH.
This Blu-ray release, which features gorgeous cover art by Manasseh Johnson, also comes with some groovy extra features:
– a new conversation between Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and Steven Spielberg
– a new interview with actors Nancy Allen and Marc McClure
– an audio commentary from 2004 featuring both Zemeckis and Gale
– The Lift (1972) and A Field of Honor (1973): two early short films by Zemeckis
– a trailer and a set of radio spots
– an insert booklet containing an essay by film critic Scott Tobias
I Wanna Hold Your Hand represents America in 1964, a time when everyone was insanely obsessed with The Beatles upon their arrival in America for the first time. There was no social media and the only way to see them in person was on The Ed Sullivan Show (other than sneaking into their hotel suite that is). It’s poetic to look back and think about how much has changed since then, which makes the film a fascinating watch in 2019 as no band on Earth could now do what The Beatles did back then. If you’re a fan of 1970s cinema like me, Criterion’s Blu-ray release of I Wanna Hold Your Hand is one that you’ll wanna hang on to.
– Chase Whale