Of course, fandom can get out of one’s control, which is what happens in the picture’s most entertaining subplot. Pam Mitchell (the great Nancy Allen) is really only tagging along with her friends, in lieu of a bachelorette party; she’s planning to elope the following evening. But she’s the one who actually makes it into the holy sanctuary of the Beatles’ hotel room, and her semi-orgasmic ecstasy as she lays hands on their instruments, their dishes, and their hair is a rich comic gift that keeps on giving. By the time she’s in the Sullivan audience, her reaction to their music and physicality is so sexualized, it nearly calls the film’s PG rating into question.
But before she’s caressing her upper thighs to the sounds of “She Loves You,” she’s confronted by her baffled fiancé, who reprimands her sternly: “You are going to have to start acting a little more responsible.” This makes him the villain, obviously; this is a film about the joy of being young and a little bit crazy, ruled by the organizing principle of all Zemeckis and Gale’s early work: barely controlled chaos. It’s all over the following year’s 1941, which they wrote for Steven Spielberg (who’s credited as executive producer of Hand, and cast four of this film’s players in 1941); it comes to full roar in 1980’s deliciously vulgar Used Cars.
But none of those films were hits, so after Zemeckis found success as a hired gun on Romancing the Stone, his next collaboration with Gale, 1985’s Back to the Future, tempered that chaos to a more manageable, audience-friendly speed. It worked, and Zemeckis became one of our most financially successful filmmakers. But he’ll never work as wildly as he did in those early pictures again, and that’s both his and our loss.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand is available for purchase or rental on DVD.