Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Movie Poster 
 

ave you ever opened a gift from your grandparents, knowing it’s going to be awful, but then it actually turns out to be really cool? Me neither, but that would be a really good analogy for this movie, which has unfortunately gotten a bad rap over the years...

The story opens in world war one, where Sgt. Pepper and his band use their “magical” instruments to help bring about the armistice. (I say magical in quotations because, in spite of their importance to the plot, they never really do anything) They return to their hometown (Heartland) as heroes and continue to play until 1958, when, at the dedication of a weathervane in his honor (presided over by the Mayor, Mr. Kite (George Burns) brace yourself, this is but one of many Beatles-based puns) Sgt. Pepper up and dies while playing one last song. He leaves his instruments to the city, and passes on his band to his grandson, Billy Shears (Peter Frampton), who assembles a new band with the Henderson Brothers (The BeeGees) with his brother Dougie (Paul Nicholas) as their manager. They debut to tremendous fanfare (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Friends.)

Word gets out fast (ten seconds to be precise) as B.D., president of Big Deal Records immediately offers them a HUGE contract (literally, everything in this movie is larger than normal.) Mr. Kite fantasizes about getting his own contract (Fixing A Hole) while the boys go off to record a demo (Getting Better). B.D. likes it, as does Lucy, his girlfriend and lead singer of the group The Diamonds (Starguard). (Lucy also seems to be B.D.’s driver and photographer, but I’m assuming she gets more than one paycheck.) Off to Hollywood, Billy and his girlfriend, Strawberry (Sandy Farina) spend one last night together (Here Comes The Sun.) They arrive, and upon being introduced, everybody starts lusting after everyone else (I Want You(She’s So Heavy.) B.D. gets them drunk and has them sign a contract (which conveniently already has their names on it.) They wake up with really bad hangovers, but B.D. has them go right to work anyway (Good Morning, Good Morning.) Their album becomes a smash hit, landing them a month-long gig at a club (Nowhere Man, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window) and their own tv special (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise). Everyone back in Heartland seems happy with their success, except Strawberry, who just can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong...

With good reason too, as there’s a new villain in town (Mean Mister Mustard) and he works for the mysterious F.V.B. (Aerosmith) He steals the Sgt. Pepper’s instruments from a museum and distributes them amongst F.V.B.’s agents. The town takes something of a downturn, which allows his real-estate company to buy up most of Heartland. (The lesson in all this: Real Estate people are bad.) Finally fed up, Strawberry catches a bus to Hollywood (She’s Leaving Home) to find Billy, even though she suspects him of being unfaithful (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.) (Although students of musicals should know that boyfriends are never untrue.) After interrupting a recording session (Oh! Darling) she enlists the band to help get the instruments back. Fortunately, Mustard has followed them, so it’s simply a matter of stealing his van and figuring out how to use his mechanical Computettes (Robot women, surprisingly cute.)

Since Mustard already had one of the instruments, they only have to find three of them. They manage to retrieve two of them from Dr. Maxwell Edison (Steve Martin, in a show-stopping rendition of Maxwell’ Silver Hammer) and Father Sun (Alice Cooper in a very weird cover of Because.) In these scenes Billy is repeatedly shocked with electricity, and only the power of Strawberry’s love can revive him (Strawberry Fields Forever.) (I always thought it was strange to sing someone a love song that has YOUR name in it, but I suppose it fits in with the general weirdness of the movie...)

Needless to say, this hasn’t left the band very much time to tour, so Dougie organizes a benefit for Heartland to get them to perform again (For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite.) Things are going along just swimmingly until Dougie and Lucy see all the money that the benefit has raised (You Never Give Me Your Money) and they just have to steal it. But they don’t get the chance, because Mustard shows up and kidnaps both them and Strawberry while Earth, Wind and Fire sing “Got To Get You Into My Life.” The boys go after them in (in typical Sgt. Pepper fashion) a balloon, while Mustard humorously fails to seduce Strawberry (When I’m 64). This, of course, all leads to a showdown with F.V.B. (Come Together), and, while they are defeated, Strawberry is killed in the process...

There is a brief funeral (Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight), and Billy wanders off by himself, completely despondent (The Long And Winding Road) while Mark Henderson ponders the weight of their success (A Day In The Life.) Utterly destroyed by Strawberry’s death, Billy attempts to kill himself, but, because musicals always have a happy ending, the Sgt. Pepper weathervane comes to life (only now he’s played by Billy Preston) and sets everything right (Get Back.) The town sings a reprise of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise.) (A reprise of a reprise, cosmic...)

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Okay, the only way to understand how truely weird the Beatles were is to watch this movie with the subtitles on. Freaky, freaky stuff. Subsequently, this movie is very weird. But that's not to say it's bad, mind you, because sometimes weird can be a good thing. Looking at the lyrics, you can tell that it must have been exceptionally hard to make a musical out of Beatles songs (well, ones that already existed anyway) but the guy who wrote this movie clearly did the best he could.

The movie is also very well made cinematically, and contains a lot of interesting visual metaphors (my personal favorite being that once the band signs their recording contract, all their clothes have B.D. Records written on them.) The movie seems to have gained a bad reputation based mostly on the very idea of making this movie sent Beatles fans into a tizzy. Not that Beatles fans weren't used to tizzies, but this one didn't even involve the Beatles.)

All in all, this movie is a musical, and as such is bound to the conventions of musicals, which some people automatically find off-putting, and with some of the songs in this movie you'll just be left wondering "Why?" When put next to the BeeGees, Peter Frampton doesn't have as strong a voice, but he harmonizes pretty good) But if none of this bothers you, this is a great movie for the family.


Rewind Factor: 8.5

The movie truely does have an all-star cast, look for cameos by Sha-Na-Na, Wolfman Jack, Heart, and Minnie Ripperton, among others.

In the scene with the circus performers, you can tell Peter Frampton's charater is his stunt double. His wig is not at all convincing.

In "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" when he de-ages the woman he missed the first time, notice that the dancers get out of step.

Every woman that the boys meet at the mansion are The Diamonds.

Do you know some Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band trivia that we could add? [Please send it in]


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was filmed at locations in Los Angeles, S. California.

Can you help? Do you know any of the Los Angeles, S. California filming locations used for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? [Please send them in]

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band DVD  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on DVD?
 
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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack

The songs are pretty good, but they really work best within the context of the movie. Track listing as follows:

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help From My Friends
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing A Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

Soundtrack Available: On CD

 


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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Movie Details
Year:
1978
Studio:
Universal Studios
Director:
Michael Schultz
Starring:
Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, The Beegees, George Burns, Earth, Wind, and Fire
--
Genre:
Dance / Musical
  
+
expertly made, great comedy, inhuman harmonizing by the BeeGees, Steve Martin
-
some of the songs are overly produced, needless sound-effects, may be too weird for casual viewers

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