Mousetrap on a train: decoding 59 seconds of A Hard Day’s Night

12 Hanged Man

Well, I had a vision when I was twelve. And I saw a man on a flaming pie, and he said, ‘You are the Beatles with an A.’ And so we are.” – John Lennon to CBS, Jan. 20, 1964 (CBS News: Out of a “Flaming Pie” comes the Beatles)

The elephant can be discerned through millions of reflections. The Game’s core is reflected in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, especially as pertains to The Mousetrap: the play within the play. Just as Hamlet’s father’s murder is woven into The Mousetrap, The Game is encoded in movies and television shows. It can be seen in The Addams Family Episode 23: Thing is Missing (1964) and The Monkees Episode 7: Monkees in a Ghost Town (1967).

Here is the game summarized in A Hard Day’s Night (1964).


The Beatles are all traveling in a compartment on a train. They are immersed in, and reflect the sun.

00:00-00:05
E/B (Bugatti)Paul is combing his hair in the mirror. There is a logo etched on the mirror, BR, with the B turned backwards. It no doubt stands for “British Rail” but it looks like the Bugatti logo. Paul wears a chain on his left wrist.

Mirrors mean twins and reversal and hair is thoughts. Paul combing his hair in the mirror suggests that he is grooming (even reversing) his thoughts, speech, and mannerisms. Through the scene you see that Paul’s manners seem more “groomed” than the other band members. Between 00:07 and 00:09 you can see “hole” and “x” shapes in the compartment decor behind Paul.

Still from A Hard Days Night: Paul looks into the mirror.

In this scene, Paul represents the right-eye, and John takes on the role of the outcast left-eye.

00:05
John says “Get out” – as in, get out of the box.

Paul says, “No, straight up” as in up on the ceiling.

00:06
John makes “left eye” sign with his left hand on top of his right arm.

John Lennon reps left eye in still from A Hard Day's Night

00:07-00:11
Shake enters the room and gets the party going with cigarettes and soda pop. “Voila!” Paul and George say “Hello, Shake.” I think that the character is named Shake because Shake sounds like “Sheikh.” From Miss Maybelle’s 1955 “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” released August 18, 2014 (ten days ago), the shake/Sheikh double-entendre has been running for a very long time.

00:11-00:18
Shake asks, “You got on all right, then?”

John answers “No.” You can see the fabric on the chair back behind him is a leafy pattern. What John is saying with this answer is that The Beatles are not O.N. A.L.L. right – “right” as in right vs. left. The Beatles are using the word “right” similar to the ways Kurt Cobain did in the song “You Know You’re Right.”

The Beatles are not all “right.” But Shake shakes it off, replying “Oh. Well we’re ‘ear. Norm will be along with the tickets.” He means “tickets to R.I.D.E.” And I think that the word “long” is important too, since this game lasts a very long time.

Next to Shake’s head is the word “first.” This might be a reflection of Shake’s position in the game (if he is the Magician) or to the Beatles’ position on the charts, or both. Of one thing I’m certain: the word doesn’t appear in the frame by accident.

00:19
Shake is introduced to Paul’s mysterious grandfather. The running motif with Paul’s grandfather is that everyone always agrees that he is very clean, which is an odd way to describe one’s grandfather. Add to that, no one really seems convinced. Everyone just agrees that he’s very clean, and moves on.

00:36
Norm enters the compartment. John mischievously lifts up one of the fastening belts on Norm’s bag. “Now look,” says Norm, “I’ve had a marvelous idea. Just for once, let’s all of us try to behave like ordinary respectable citizens. Let’s not cause any trouble, pull any strokes, or do anything I’m going to be sorry for, especially tomorrow in that television theatre.”

The phrase “pull any strokes” is a double entendre referring to masturbation. This would be especially clear to the in-crowd because it is followed by a television reference. Similar to the “clean old man” joke, this monologue is an ironic reflection on how “respectable citizens” behave. The phrase “I’m going to be sorry for” is interesting because it suggests that Norm is responsible for The Beatles’ behavior.

While Norm is giving this speech, the Beatles respond by acting out parts of The Game and throwing symbolic eggs. Ringo points a camera at Norm’s face, and focuses. He’s wearing a square on his ring finger, and a circle on his pink-y.

Still from A Hard Days Night: Ringo with a camera.

When Norm says “pull any strokes” Paul places his left hand in front of his chin, fingers curled back. This is a sign which I think means keeping your hand and fingers under control. Paired with the phrase “pull any strokes” it’s a double entendre. Don’t point your finger at anyone (finger), don’t exercise your power (hand), and don’t masturbate (strokes).

Still from A Hard Days Night: Paul puts his hand on his chin, fingers back.

00:46
As the camera pulls back, you see that George is looking intently into a paper bag. The bag is a symbol for where the Sun is kept.

00:47
As Norm says “Especially tomorrow in that television theatre” you see John famously snorting from the Pepsi bottle switching it back and forth, nostril to nostril.
Still from Hard Days night. George looks into bag while John snorts Pepsi.

00:53
Norm: Are you listening to me, Lennon?
Lennon (looks at him): You’re a swine. In’ne, George?
George (looking over the paper bag): Yeah, a swine.

The last thing you hear in this clip is Norm saying “THANKS” and a “crunch crunch crunch” as George begins to eat what looks like the end of a baguette.

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