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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

USA 1978
produced by
Robert Stigwood, Dee Anthony (executive) for Universal
directed by Michael Schultz
starring Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb), Frankie Howerd, Paul Nicholas, Donald Pleasence, Sandy Farina, Dianne Steinberg, Steve Martin, Aerosmith, Earth Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper, Billy Presten, Stargard, George Burns, Carel Struycken, Patti Jerome, Max Showalter, John Wheeler, Jay W. MacIntosh, Eleanor Zee, Scott Manners, Stanley Coles, Stanley Sheldon, Bob Mayo, Woody Chambliss, Hank Worden, Morgan Farley, Delos V. Smith jr, Patrick Cranshaw, Terri Lynn Wood, Tracy Justrich, Anna Rodzianko, Rosa Aragon, Peter Allen, Keith Allison, George Benson, Elvin Bishop, Stephen Bishop, Jack Bruce, Keith Carradine, Carol Channing, Charlotte Crossley, Sharon Redd, Ula Hedwig, Jim Dandy, Sarah Dash, Rick Derringer, Barbara Dickson, Donovan, Randy Edelman, Yvonne Elliman, José Feliciano, Leif Garrett, Geraldine Granger, Adrian Gurvitz, Billy Harper, Eddie Harris, Heart, Nona Hendryx, Barry Humphries, Etta James, Dr.John, Bruce Johnston, Joe Lala, D.C.LaRue, Jo Leb, Marcella Detroit, Mark Lindsay, Nils Lofgren, Jackie Lomax, John Mayall, Curtix Mayfield, Cousin Brucie Morrow, Peter Noone, Alan O'Day, Lee Oskar, Jonathan Paley, Robert Palmer, Wilson Pickett, Anita Pointer, Bonnie Raitt, Helen Reddy, Minnie Riperton, Chita Rivera, Johnny Rivers, Monti Rock III, Danielle Rowe, Sha-Na-Na, Del Shannon, Joe Simon, Jim Seals, Dash Crofts, Connie Stevens, Alan Stewart, John Stewart, Tina Turner, Frankie Valli, Gwen Verdon, Diane Vincent, Grover Washington jr, Hank Williams jr, Johnny Winter, Wolfman Jack, Bobby Womack, Alan White, Lenny White, Margaret Whiting, Gary Wright, George Harrison, Linda McCartney
written by Henry Edwards, songs composed by the Beatles (= John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr), music produced by George Martin, special effects by Phil Cory

review by
Sam Jones from DVD is Go

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Mainstream Hollywood has committed more than a few crimes against the viewing public in its long history but some stand out more than others when it comes to sheer loathsome inanity. During the 70s, when snow-blind cocaine excess and egotistical hubris met in an orgy of spending and box office recriminations, one film stood out above all others as both a financial and artistic failure of such epic proportions that the soundtrack album alone lost millions.

What is this classic of bad movie making I hear you unwillingly groan? It's the filmed adaptation of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton play the group in an musically inept, expensive folly that shoehorns as many Fab Four tracks into it's grindingly long two hour running time as is humanly possible, paying adequate tribute to neither the song writing talents of the most famous pop group of all time, nor the intelligence of its audience.

Producer Roger Stigwood had already struck commercial gold with his screen version of Grease and his Disco epic Saturday Night Fever, both of which made serious money at the box office before bringing in even more cash with lucrative soundtrack albums. What better way then, to make even more filthy lucre than to sacrifice the Beatles canon for a 70s spectacular of hideous stage design, discofied musical numbers and cringeworthy cameo appearances by some of the big stars of the day.

They queued up to star in this classic turkey. Look out for Steve Martin as Dr. Maxwell, George Burns as narrator and town Mayor Mr. Kite, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Frankie Howerd as twisted real estate conman Mean Mr. Mustard.

The plot exists only to link musical set pieces together but runs a little something like this. Sgt. Pepper was a hero whose music brought peace to the Earth and joy to the people of Heartland, a Norman Rockwell fantasy of Disney America that has precisely nothing to do with The Beatles and the experiences that informed their music. When Pepper dies he bequeaths his instruments to the town and a new band take on his mantle. Soon they are signed to an evil, corrupting record label run by Donald Pleasence in a comedy toupee, Mean Mr Mustard takes over Heartland, something about brainwashing happens, Alice Cooper murders Father Sun, Steve Martin embarrasses himself and his family in possibly his worst performance, more songs get murdered and then randomly, everything works out just peachy. I'm trying to remember the plot but all I can see in my minds eye is a weathervane turning into Billy Preston sporting a skin tight Flouro-band leaders uniform. He starts shooting lasers from his fingers, before doing a funktastic rendition of Get Back in which he testifies like a Southern Preacher and dances like a camp James Brown.

This film is a complete delight as long as you either watch it in manageable chunks or keep your finger on the fast forward button. You'll thrill to Earth Wind & Fire as they turn Got To Get You Into My Life into a disco monster. The problem is that the rest of the soundtrack suffers from muso noodling overload, with songs previously rendered classic because of their simplicity ruined by over zealous bassists throwing down walking funk basslines where they aren't wanted. Vocodered robot voices abound and tacky late 70s synths fill the spaces inbetween. Elsewhere, George Burns makes a mockery of Fixing A Hole by performing it with the kind of cute, toothsome stage school brats that may inspire infanticide. The Bee Gees and Frampton meanwhile slaughter song after song with dubious harmonies, poor miming and sickly MOR arrangements that seem designed to suck the heart and soul from the originals, leaving only a bland husk.

The acting skills of the main players are none existent but luckily, dialogue is kept to a bare minimum, allowing us to revel in the Bee Gee's melodramatic facial mugging and Frampton's doe eyed winsomeness. The Bee Gee's famous teeth are thrown into sharp relief but Frampton's set of classically British tombstones, which burst forth, filling the screen with his rictus grin far too often. Everyone comes away from this awesomely bad, hilarious movie covered in shame. No one is convincing. Half the players are clearly high, with Maurice Gibb looking particularly stoned throughout. He's deprived of the stoner award however, by guest artists Aerosmith, who look so worse the wear for heroin that it's a miracle they could stand up long enough to limp through a wretched demolition of Come Together.

Sgt. Pepper is without doubt, one of the great follies of the 1970s and is a film that will reward lovers of bad cinema. Fans of the Beatles will be hunting throughout the house for knitting needles with which to pierce their eardrums before the halfway point but patience is a virtue, as the film saves it's final insult for the closing number, in which a bizarre assortment of 70s players who had nothing to do with the rest of the film show up to sing us out with yet another spin through the Sgt. Pepper song. Spotting these deluded fools, many of which made great music and fine films, in the massed choir of ego at the end is a joy. Look, there's Bobby Womack next to Wolfman Jack. Dr. John is there too, and Curtis Mayfield. Leif Garret, The Pointer Sisters and numerous other stars of stage and screen forever link themselves to this vile film, presumably because there was a free party afterwards.

I heartily recommend this film to everyone who wants to experience just how bad a film can be when enough money is thrown at it. Thought League of Extraordinary Gentleman was a stinker? Still bitter about The Fountain? Wait to you see this...

Worryingly, a new Beatles potential travesty is upon us in the form of Across The Universe ... Can't wait for that!

 

review © by Sam Jones from DVD is Go

 

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