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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: March 26th, 2019 Movie Release Year: 1978

I Wanna Hold Your Hand - The Criterion Collection

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Billy Russell
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, of Back to the Future fame, cut their teeth with the 1978 Beatlemania comedy, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Taking place over the course of 24 hours, a group of teens will stop at nothing to see The Beatles’ famous 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Criterion presents the Universal Productions picture in a worthwhile Blu-ray with great picture quality, stellar sound, and packed with great special features. Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio
Release Date:
March 26th, 2019

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


February 1964, the Beatles are set to perform their first appearance for American audiences on The Ed Sullivan Show and a group of teenagers will stop at nothing to see them.  The film represents the height of Beatlemania, with fainting girls, jealous boys, and floppy wigs galore. The usual over-the-top hijinks ensue, with car crashes, blackmail, and even acts of God raining down on the events as they unfold.

Taking place within a 24-hour period, almost entirely all within a single-block radius in New York City, we follow an ensemble cast on their various adventures and misadventures to find their way in, or score tickets to see the show. Starring Nancy Allen and Bobby Di Cicco, nothing goes according to plan, and the kids are all separated from each other, left to their own resourcefulness to watch the Beatles perform. Part of the fun of the film is in never seeing a clear shot of the Fab Four - even as they play their climactic number. Trick shots allow stand-ins to blend in seamlessly with stock footage, sort of like Zemeckis giving the historical integration effects of Forrest Gump a pre-CGI trial run. The young cast is full of manic energy that matches the sheer ferocity of a script that never lets up for a second and direction that never allows the audience to catch its breath.

When I was a kid, I Wanna Hold Your Hand was in constant rotation on TV. Every other lazy Sunday, it seemed this film was on and more often than not, I’d watch it. It’s a hectic, zany movie that shows an early work from a pair of masters in the making, under the tutelage of an established titan in the industry. Robert Zemeckis directed the film, and co-wrote the screenplay with Bob Gale (the two would write several more films together), with Steven Spielberg producing.  It’s a fantastic, uncomplicated comedy that revels in chaos and slapstick to wondrous highs. I Wanna Hold Your Hand is pure escapist fun.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Criterion Collection delivers Beatles fans I Wanna Hold Your Hand in a single disc release. Pressed on a BD-50 disc,  the disc is housed inside Criterion's standard clear case are the usual assortment of goodies: An essay about the film by Scott Tobias and original artwork based on the film. The disc loads to Criterion's usual static image main menu and navigation system.

Video Review


I Wanna Hold Your Hand has been restored in 4K from its original 35mm negative for this 1080p Blu-ray release.  The film was made in the 1970s and it looks like it. I mean that positively, as the look and feel suit it well. Through no fault of the fantastic work Criterion has done restoring the film, the color palate of I Wanna Hold Your Hand is intentionally drab.  It represents a moment in history most people remember as being in black and white. The film stock used allows bright colors to pop out and stand out in many of the film’s large crowd shots outside of CBS studios, as mobs of teenagers await the appearance of the Beatles. In close-ups, characters appear crystal clear and the image is sharp. Being shot on film in the 1970s, there is a decent amount of natural film grain that helps add to the nearly Cinéma vérité quality of the cinematography. The exaggerated realism gives I Wanna Hold Your Hand an almost cartoon-like quality; appropriate given that the same director would make Who Framed Roger Rabbit ten years later. 

Audio Review


When I Wanna Hold Your Hand was originally released, it was in mono, so the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack here is a very front-heavy presentation, with only the occasional screeching brakes of a car, errant horn, rumbling thunder, or crowd sound effect making its way to the rear speakers. Even during the many sequences with a Beatles song playing over the action, only a faint echo will make its way to the surrounds. Where the rear speakers shine is during the climactic performance on stage at the Ed Sullivan Show, when the sound really comes to life. The soundstage here effortlessly juggles music, screams from the audience and dialogue from characters in the midst of all this madness. While not an immersive surround sound experience, the balance is very well done, with no single effect outshining any of the others, or losing the dialog. Conversations are clear and crisp throughout. The subwoofer produces warm, rich bass in one of the many scenes that take place within a car, with its engine idling and rumbling.  

Special Features


Criterion, as usual, has delivered on special features. The audio commentary takes us through the production of I Wanna Hold Your Hand and the lengthy interview with producer Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Bob Gale, have the three aging filmmakers look back fondly on an ambitious project that was, perhaps, ahead of its time and took a while to find its audience. The commentary, coupled with the two interviews, provides a fascinating insight into the highs and lows, and daily stresses, of bringing a movie like this to life. Spielberg and company recall the troubled production that bounced from studio to studio that finally resulted in a great film that unfortunately flopped at the box office (but would become a cult hit on TV and video).

  • Audio Commentary featuring Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
  • Interview With Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (41:58)
  • Interview With Nancy Allen and Marc McClure (22:16)
  • Early Short Film #1: The Lift (1972) (7:22)
  • Short Film #2: A Field of Honor (1973) (14:16)
  • Trailer
  • Radio Spots

I Wanna Hold Your Hand is an underrated gem of a movie that shows master filmmaker Robert Zemeckis developing and honing his skills that he would later perfect with later movies like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump. This film is a bit rough around the edges, but Zemeckis’ trademark energy and sarcastic wit (aided by longtime writing partner Bob Gale) are all there. The Criterion release of this film is Highly Recommended, with its fantastic presentation in both video and audio quality, and its excellent supplemental features. This would make a great addition to any film and music nerd’s physical library. Highly Recommended