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 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Movie (1978)

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Movie (1978)   Sun Aug 17, 2008 2:46 pm

The 1970's was a time of excess, Hollywood had given free reign to young up and coming filmmakers, the old regime of Hollywood had died with the arrival of Easy Rider (1969), by the end of the 70's, there had been successes, but failures were starting to show, some of which brought some studios and filmmakers to their knees. One such example SEEMED like such a good idea at the time. It was to have been the biggest musical ever made, based on a classic Beatles album. They had a massive cast, a massive budget, everyone seemed confident that it would be a big hit. How very wrong they were. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) represented 70's excess gone wrong, but now, it was a weird cult appeal. Razz

To explain the plot of the film is near impossible, all that is coherent is that it involves a band from Heartland, USA. Led by Billy Shears (Peter Frampton), and his 3 friends, Mark, Dave and Bob Henderson (The Bee Gees), they're signed up to a record label in Los Angeles, whilst they're away becoming famous, Heartland goes to pot by real estate agent Mean Mr. Mustard, (Frankie Howerd Shocked), who is out to steal magical instruments belonging to the late Sgt. Pepper, who bequeathed them to the town.

The idea for the film came from an off-Broadway stage production, which used Beatles songs to tell a story. Producer Robert Stigwood, best known for Tommy (1975), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978), saw potential with it, and optioned to make a film out of it. He got director Michael Schultz, fresh from Car Wash (1976), which had made him a hot property in Hollywood, to direct it. The Bee Gees, who were on Stigwood's label and on a roll at that time, were signed up to be in it. Peter Frampton made it a quartet. Despite being set in America, much of the main cast members were British, from comedian Frankie Howerd, (better known for Up Pompeii), in his first and only Hollywood film, and Paul Nicholas playing Billy's money-hungry brother Dougie Shears, to Donald Pleasance, as an American record mogul, singing as well!! And then there were the special guest stars, from comedian Steve Martin making his film debut as Dr. Maxwell Edison, to Alice Cooper looking like Frank Zappa and sounding like Dick Dastardly, and to top it all off, there was Aerosmith, as the villains of the film!! Coked up too, typical of them!! In all, it made one of the weirdest film casts ever, it's probably worth seeing for that alone!! Razz

Having said that, there are a few good moments to be found in here, mostly in the songs. Earth, Wind and Fire turn up to do a cool, disco themed version of Got To Get You Into My Life, and Aerosmith rock with Come Together. But, for every good song, there's about 2-3 bad ones, from Steve Martin's rendition of Maxwell’s Silver Hammer to Frankie Howerd killing When I'm 64. Then, there's a grand finale with 'Our Guests at Heartland', with celebs such as Tina Turner, Keith Carradine, Donovan and Dame Edna!! Shocked

But, ultimately the film falls flat on its backside. It's more like Tommy than Grease, its plot doesn't work, and setting it in small town America really goes against the Beatles songs, which were rooted in all things British. Had it been set in England, say Liverpool, it might just have worked. As a result, the leads can't act, let alone do American accents, so to carry the film, we have to rely on dear old George Burns as Mr. Kite to fill in any gaps.















Trailer here!!

This is the sort of film you might want to torture people you don't like with. Even if you play it as a joke, it might come off as a cruel joke. The Beatles certainly didn't approve of it, George Harrison even went as far as trying to sue the filmmakers, but to no avail. But, it's probably no worse than the Queen musical We Will Rock You or the ABBA one Mamma Mia! But, it's a maddening rock fantasia, probably one of the weirdest films ever made. Too bewildering for family viewing, and probably too excruciating for music fans to watch. Indeed, it might be enough to put anyone off Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees for life. It's one which is either so bad it's brilliant, or one a film where you'd want to burn the negative, but it's probabily worth it for Frankie Howerd. If you feel up to it, check it out. But, you have been warned, and don't say I didn't warn you!! Shocked Twisted Evil
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