Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Welcome to another installment of RETRO REVIEW, where where we take a look at films made before the year 2000. Today we review one of the less-triumphant entries in the "inspired by the Beatles" micro-genre, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is another example of the movies made during the late 60s through the 70s that were inspired by the music or career of the Beatles, but didn't actually have the involvement of John et cetera in the production. Probably the most famous project from this time is 1968's Yellow Submarine, but of course, where there is one, there are others. Sgt Pepper, a motion picture only in the most strictly academic sense, is one of those others.

The main purpose Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is, it seems, to pay tribute to the music of one of the most influential bands in history through a series of (not always successful) covers of the band's later work. The songs included on the album of the same name feature most prominently, of course, though I recognized a few tunes off of Abby Road included as well.

The majority of the covers are sung by the film's stars, disco-era trio the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, who together make up the titular band, and in the opinion of this Beatles non-fan, do a worthwhile job of each of the tunes they attempt. In addition to the title song, they also cover "Nowhere Man", and "Day in the Life", among others. And if you're worried that these songs get too much of the "Bee Gees Treatment", turning each into a mess of Barry Gibb high notes and white disco funk, calm yourself: their covers are very faithful to the source material. In fact, Barry only hits one of his signature high notes in the entire movie, and that during the film's big finish.

Other memorable covers include "Come Together", performed by Aerosmith (a good cover, though I say Michael Jackson did it better), and a cover of "Got to Get You Into My Life" performed by Earth Wind and Fire. That is the only cover from the film I'll link to here, because it gets my vote for Best Beatles Cover of All Time. On the more disappointing end of the spectrum, there's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", performed by Steve Martin, who was never a singer, and "Because", performed ("spoken", specifically) by Alice Cooper. In Cooper's defense, he originally tried to record his song in an homage style as well, attempting to imitate John Lennon's original performance. But George Martin, the Beatles' producer, encouraged him to do the song as Alice Cooper would. So Cooper did. I think the song is lesser for it, personally.

As for the story: John Landis, director of The Blues Brothers, once said that story in a musical is the shoe leather that gets you to the next song, and Sgt Pepper follows this maxim like gospel. The film's story, about four young men from the small town of "Heartland, USA" (ugh) taking up the mantle of the town's legendary marching band and the struggles between fame versus their personal values, starts off paper-thin and steadily dissolves to literally nothing as the film goes on. There's almost no dialogue in the film. Since the brothers Gibb and Peter Frampton all spoke with British accents, and presumably couldn't be trained out of them well enough, they don't speak at all. As a consequence, none of the other characters get lines either, and all speaking is done by Heartland's mayor, Mister Kite (George Burns) who functions as a kind of Greek Chorus for those moments where exposition is required.

The film makes up for this somewhat in its visuals and set pieces. The vehicle designs are particularly memorable, including the open-topped limousine used by record executive BD Hoffler, and the school bus-cum-command center used by the film's villain, Mister Mustard (Frankie Howerd). But the ending is an object lesson in contrived deus-ex-machina, a happy ending forced into place for the sake of having one. This leads into the film's Big Finish, a school choir-style performance of the Sgt Pepper outro, featuring a crowd of perhaps fifty or more random people from the entertainment industry serving as the Bee Gees and Frampton's backup singers. You can almost see director Michael Shultz washing his hands of the project at this point.

If your head is in the right place, and if you go into this movie knowing that you're going to get music and little else, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a weirdly fun musical experience. The film is energetic, colorful, and really funny in places. But if you want your music broken up by some dialogue, or you just can't get past the fact that a bunch of pretender bands would dare to perform the music of the Holy Trinity (plus Ringo), give this a miss. Sgt Pepper is not for the serious-minded.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is rated PG.

Robert's Score: 6/10

Make sure to check us out and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all of our reviews, news, trailers, and much, much more!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment