I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Robert Zemeckis / U.S., 1978):

"There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: Beatlemania." George Sidney is Robert Zemeckis' model, his film debut derives from Bye Bye Birdie as a helter-skelter memory of youth. The cyclone at hand is the Fab Four's epochal 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, for a batch of New Jersey teenagers it's a journey of screaming crowds and magic tickets and much lickety-split mischief. The besotted McCartneyite (Wendie Jo Sperber) keeps a radio glued to her ear, leaps out of moving cars, and meets her match in the ambulatory Beatles-trivia dispenser (Eddie Deezen). (The centerpiece of his shrine is a clump of grassy dirt stepped on by one of his idols.) The enterprising shutterbug (Theresa Saldana) negotiates her entrance into Carnegie Hall by posing as an escort, while the undertaker's son (Marc McClure) works up enough courage by spiking his Coke with hooch. Finding herself in the visitors' hallowed hotel room, the timorous bride (Nancy Allen) fondles the bass guitar like a most lascivious Excalibur; hidden under the bed, she gets a privileged view of Liverpudlian ankles but faints at the sound of pants unzipping. Bringing up the rear is the two-person Beatles boycott, the earnest folk-music enthusiast (Susan Kendall Newman) and the bellicose gel-head (Bobby Di Cicco) who's had enough of "those limey fairies." The great American whirl (cp. Tashlin's Artists and Models), "hysteria, hyperventilation, fainting fits, seizures, spasmodic convulsions, attempted suicides—all perfectly normal." Characters are crammed into phone booths and elevators, a barber with electric clipper and eyepatch receives the the mop-topped mascot, and the unseen troubadours breeze through on their way to the televised orgy. (Pop culture is the faith of the land, the heavens themselves halt the saboteur on the CBS tower.) "How do I know which one's Ringo?" For the Beatles, a far preferable cinematic jukebox than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; for Zemeckis, the maiden voyage in his sarcastic time machine. With Christian Juttner, Will Jordan, Read Morgan, Claude Earl Jones, Dick Miller, and Murray the K.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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