As American Graffiti focuses on one night in the lives of a group of California teenagers, I Wanna Hold Your Hand goes across the plains two years later and focuses on A Day In the Life of Beatle-crazed teenagers hoping for a glimpse of the best band in history (their opinion which I share). Released in 1978, the same year as the god- awful Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, this does a much better job as an homage to the Beatles and equally deserves the exposure and saturation of the Pepper movie. Wendy Jo Sperber, Nancy Allen and Teresa Saldana are manic fans who travel from New Jersey to New York to catch even the slightest glimpse of their idols while in town to appear on "The Ed Sullivan Show". Pandemonium appears to dog their every step as they try to break into the band's hotel as well as the CBS Studio hosting the live broadcast. Supported by beatnik-folk-purist Susan Kendall Newman, jealous Beatle-hater and Four Season fan Bobby Di Ciccio, obsessive Beatle- geek Eddie Deezen and mild-mannered future Jimmy Olsen actor Marc McClure (see what I did there?) as an unlicensed getaway car driver (actually one of the limos from his father's funeral parlor), the girls fight a never-ending battle for an encounter with John, Paul, George, Ringo, and the American Way (sorry).
Seriously, all the leading and supporting actors give this film 110% in hilarity, likability and authenticity. You really want them to get what they want and you're laughing your head off at everything that goes wrong during their exploits. One of the biggest laughs comes early in the film in which Rosie (Wendy Jo Sperber) goes insane and screams at the top of her lungs when she mistakes a life sized cardboard cut- out of Paul for the genuine article.
This movie made me think of the Hairspray yet to come at that time, as Rosie's character is what Tracy Turnblad might be like two years after desegregating the Corny Collins Show. Her hair is still straight, although some of it's bunched up in a hideously hilarious looking ribbon. The hysteria, the screaming, chanting crowds, the cop chases, and the pandemonium are all chief ingredients of every John Waters movie. Could it be he might have seen this and it seeped into his subconscious?
Finally, I think this movie, this film, this cinematic comedic masterpiece (and yes, I'm as obsessive a Beatles fan as they were) should be reissued through the Criterion Collection as it paints a very accurate as well as affectionately satirical picture of Beatlemania on "Sullivan Day". Music licenses were a lot less expensive to acquire in 1978, and this may not be the case these days, with the Beatles now enjoying a higher level of popularity than when they were a band. This wasn't the case in the late 70s, and the Sgt Pepper movie didn't do them very many favors. In fact, the Beatles were so "over" then, there wasn't much interest in anything to do with them, so the licensing of their music was obtained for...a song (okay, yes I had to say it, very sorry). Hopefully good will triumph over evil and this film will see a remastered release (with a stolen limo full of extras). If you're either a fan of broad slapstick comedy, the Beatles music, or both (as I am), and you haven't seen this yet, try to get yourself a copy whether owned or loaned. You know this can't be bad.