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The 100




Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1978)
Reviewed by Patrick Brogan
Rating: 0 Beans

n 1978 Producer Robert Stigwood was on top of the world with two box office successes, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER & GREASE. I'm not sure that Stigwood realized both of his successful films had John Travolta in the lead role, and that could have been a contributing factor for their successes. But that didn't stop Robert from continuing with the musical genre by adapting a musical film based on the popular Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Since the Beatle album runs about 40 mins. and only has thirteen songs, Stigwood decided to add in most of the songs from Abbey Road, a single song from Revlover and Rubber Soul and the popular and beautiful single "Strawberry Fields Forever" and make it into a 113 minute feature film.

Since Stigwood got The Who to perform and play in TOMMY, he tried to get The Beatles for this film. Stigwood attempted to get Paul McCartney to play the lead role of Billy Shears, but McCartney refused (according to a 1987 Sgt. Pepper book I have). I wouldn't be surprised if Stigwood tried to get all of the Beatles together for this film, since all four were alive at the time. But if Lonre Michales failed getting them on Saturday Night Live, what chance would Stigwood have? Instead he settled for the next best thing (at the time), The Bee Gees. Hey, The Bee Gees became a household name because of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, one of the highest selling soundtracks of all time. The Bee Gees did have wonderful harmony and talent, but there are four Beatles and only three brothers Gibb. So Mr. Peter Frampton took on the role as Billy Shears, Frampton was still popular with his successful album "Frampton Comes Alive" at the time. Stigwood felt that more big names would contribute big business, so he added George Burns, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Steve Martin, Earth Wind & Fire, as well as former Beatle co-workers Billy Preston and George Martin as the music producer.

The result is a spectacular disaster, one of the best disasters I have ever seen. A film that quite a few times is silly, yet is very enjoyable and entertaining. It is unlike any film I have ever seen, and I don't think there ever will be another film like this. VH1 ranked this film among the 100 shocking moments in rock n' roll history. It is still discussed in both the music and movie business. And after you see this movie, you could understand why.

I'll discuss the plot. The entire film is told one of two ways, through narration by Mr. Kite (George Burns) or by the lyrics of the Beatles songs, that's it. No spoken dialogue by any of The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, or anybody else, except for George Burns, just singing.

During World War I, it was Sgt. Pepper and his Loney Hearts Club Band playing their music that ended the war and started peace between the allied and axis soldiers. Sgt. Pepper was awarded the highest honor for a soldier from the war and returned to his hometown of Heartland U.S.A. a hero. Sgt. Pepper and his band played through the Roaring 20's, Depression, New Deal, and WWII. After Sgt. Pepper died, he left his distinugished medal to his grandson Billy Shears. Billy's step-brother Dougie was jealous (hint: child Dougie sticking his tongue out at child Billy). Now (at least 1978 when the film was made and released) Billy Shears (Peter Frampton)is all grown up and formed his own Sgt. Pepper Band with his childhood friends Mark, Dave, and Bob Henderson (Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb) with Dougie (Paul Nicholas) as their manager. The band submitted their music to record mongrel B.D.Hoffler (Donald Pleasance) and B.D. wants them to come to Los Angeles to record a album. So the band leaves Heartland in a hot air balloon which gets hit by B.D.'s jet which magically puts the band safely on the plane.

Once the band arrives they are seduced by drugs, booze, women, money, and the other negative elements in rock n' roll business. However, back in Heartland, real estate tycoon Mr. Mustard (Frankie Howerd) steals the original instruments of Sgt. Pepper's Band, gives them to fellow greedy business tycoons of the FVB (Future Villian Band), buy out most of Heartlands country style stores like the grocery store and turns the town into sleezy place complete with arcades, casinos, hookers with pimps, and one hour motels with adult videos.

Billy's girlfriend, Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) leaves town and heads off to L.A. to get the band's help. Little does Strawberry know is that Mr. Mustard has fallen in love with her and follows her to L.A. The band immediately helps Strawberry, steals Mr. Mustard's double decker bus and retrive some of the instruments from FVB associates. One FVB associate is Dr. Maxwell Edison (Steve Martin) a doctor who turns old people in to young corrupt adults who are loyal to the FVB. The other associate is Marvin Sunk "Father Sun" (Alice Cooper) a failed school crossing guard turned guru who brainwashes the now young faithful followers of the FVB.

However, there is still more as Mr. Mustard kidnaps Strawberry, and Sgt. Pepper's Band must stop Mr. Mustard and the FVB (Aerosmith) from corrupting Strawberry and ruining Heartland.

Like I said before, this film must be seen to believe. I enjoy bad movies, and this film is my favorite guilty pleasure of all time (along with SHOWGIRLS & SKIDOO). This isn't CITIZEN KANE or CASABLANCA, it is a movie that is a visual feast, and if people could sit through SLACKERS or CORKY ROMANO I don't see why people can't sit through this film.

Why do I enjoy this film? First there is the music. The Beatles are my favorite band of all time, and I agree, Frampton and the Bee Gees are not up to par with The Beatles. However, they do good cover versions of the Beatles songs. "Good Morning, Good Morning" "A Day In The Life" "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" and "Nowhere Man" are among the highlights. Other special guests also do good cover versions from the Fab Four. Earth, Wind, & Fire do a good cover version of "Got To Get You Into My Life." Alice Cooper does a very haunting and good version of "Because." Aerosmith give a excellent performance with "Come Together." Even Steve Martin does a good job with his cover version of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

Second, the look of the film is amazing. I said the film is a visual delight and seeing the fashions with what was suppose to be hip in 1978 and is consider hysterical now on film is enjoyable to watch. Such as hookers on Redeo Drive with gold painted short- shorts with golden blonde wigs. See a PG rated orgy during the climax of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" with some of the Bee Gees waving their hands around with strobe lights, as Peter Frampton and Dianne Steinberg make out on a waterbed in the shape of a vinyl record that spins. And seeing funnyman Steve Martin singing something else besides "King Tut" or "Dentist."

Third, there is the pacing. The film's pace is very fast and never drags. If you know every Beatle lyric word from word, then you know 80% of the dialogue of the film. Every scene does manage to be quick and there isn't really any scenes that drag or are too slow. The editing is good, it does make the film go fast, and it isn't nauseating like ARMAGEDDON.

Fourth, if you are a fan of Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, Steve Martin, and Aerosmith, then it is always fun to watch them perform and act in a film. The Bee Gees aren't Shakespearian actors, but they are more tolerable than Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Mariah Carey, and Chris Klein.

Fifth, this movie at the time was trying to be big, it wasn't. But compared to today's horrible films like SCOOBY DOO, MR. DEEDS, CROSSROADS, SWEPT AWAY and GLITTER are much worse than SGT. PEPPER. SGT. PEPPER is one of those films that you can either watch by yourself with glee, or watch and laugh with a group of people.

There are some minuses in this film, and sadly what most people remember with this film is the minuses. First there is George Burns and Donald Pleasence (famous for playing Dr. Sam Loomis in the HALLOWEEN) singing Beatle songs. Hearing George Burns sing "Fixin' A Hole" and Donald Pleasence singing "I Want You" is something that is quite uneasy to sit through. I almost forgot to mention British comic Frankie Howerd singing "When I'm Sixty Four" that takes the prize for the most irritating singing. Second, there's the slapstick humor that occurs. Since no dialouge is spoken the only means of humor is physical, and sadly most of the jokes fail. Third the plot, it is weak and paper thin, but then again watch this movie like a two hour music video then you should be fine.

Then at least stick around and watch the end of the film which is pretty humourous. I guess Robert Stigwood and director Michael Schultz wanted the biggest names in music to take part in singing the cast finale reprise of "Sgt. Pepper." Instead Stigwood and Schultz got a few big names, and more "who's that?" and "what is she/he doing there?!?!" But then again some people would say, look at the film and you can tell by the quality of the "Friends Of Heartland."

But some of the "friends" are talented and respected in the music industry like: Ann & Nancy Wilson (of Heart), Curtis Mayfield, Donovan, Bruce Johnson, Dr. John, Wilson Pickett, Del Shannon, Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner, Frankie Valli, and Hank Williams Jr.

Some of the other "friends" fall in the "where are they now?" and "what are they doing there?!?!"
list: Peter Noone(Herman's Hermit), Keith Carradine (still famous at the time for "I'm Easy" his Oscar winning song from NASHVILLE), Carol Channing, Jose Feliciano, Dame Edna, Robert Palmer, Helen Reddy, Johnny Rivers, Wolfman Jack, and Sha-Na-Na (including Bowzer!)

SGT. PEPPER is something to watch for movie and music buffs. Now that CHICAGO won Best Picture and is bringing back the musicals to Hollywood films, along with the public accepting musicals on film again. It is intresting to at least see the film that was claimed by many film critics the "death of the Hollywood musical." It is something that should at least be seen once. I'm not asking you to like it, make up your own mind with the outcome of this film. If you're a devoted Beatle fan and love their 1967 classic as well as ABBEY ROAD and their other songs and expect it to be as good as the album, then I will tell you, you'll be very disappointed. However, if you can enjoy cover versions of thier songs with a open mind, then by all means see it. If millions of people saw SCOOBY DOO, MR. DEEDS, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, and ARMAGEDDON and make those $100 millon plus hits then at least give this film one viewing. If you can sit through several viewings of TOMMY, then you can at least sit through SGT. PEPPER. If you're not enjoying the movie, then at least see it as a spectacular disaster. A disaster that didn't claim any lives, just a few careers.






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