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sgt. pepper's lonely
hearts club band

review by rob gonsalves

Michael Schultz

Henry Edwards
based (stupidly) on the album by
The Beatles

Robert Stigwood

Owen Roizman

The Beatles (arranged stupidly)

Christopher Holmes


Peter Frampton (Billy Shears)
Barry Gibb
(Mark Henderson)
Robin Gibb
(Dave Henderson)
Maurice Gibb
(Bob Henderson)
Frankie Howerd
(Mr. Mustard)
Donald Pleasence
(B.D. Brockhurst)
Sandy Farina
(Strawberry Fields)
Dianne Steinberg
Steve Martin
(Dr. Maxwell Edison)
Steven Tyler
(Leader, Future Villain Band)
Tom Hamilton
(Member of FVB)
Joey Kramer
(Member of FVB)
Joe Perry
(Member of FVB)
Alice Cooper
(Marvin Sunk, the 'Sun King')
Billy Preston
(Sergeant Pepper)
George Burns
(Mr. Kite)
Carel Struycken
(The Brute)
Many guest stars
(Keith Carradine, Carol Channing, Barry Humphries, Robert Palmer, Bonnie Raitt, Helen Reddy, Johnny Rivers, Tina Turner, Wolfman Jack, Gary Wright, Leif Garrett, Donovan Leitch, Mark Lindsay, Peter Noone, Del Shannon, Al Stewart, Frankie Valli)

mpaa rating: PG
running time: 113m
video availability: VHS - DVD

q&a home

A staggeringly, pants-shittingly* inept "musical" that exemplifies everything evil about the '70s.

Is it true that an customer review actually called this "my favorite movie of all time"?

I'm afraid so. See for yourself, and despair.

Does it have anything to do with the Beatles masterwork of the same name?

It employs 29 Beatles songs (often in embarrassingly literal ways) to tell the story of Billy Shears and his band, who leave their idyllic hometown of Heartland and fall in with a corrupt record producer. There's no dialogue, just narration and endless cheesy numbers. There are characters called Strawberry Fields, Lucy (as in "in the sky with diamonds," ha ha), and Mean Mr. Mustard; in other words, the movie culls from other Beatles albums besides the eponymous one.

Anyone called Penny Lane here?

No, you're thinking of Almost Famous.

Peter Frampton is Billy Shears, and the Bee Gees are his band, right?

I'm afraid so. Frampton goes through the movie with an idiotic grin you want to slap off of his face. The Bee Gees are the Bee Gees.

Do any of the Beatles actually appear in the movie?


Do we at least hear their original versions of the songs?


How the hell was this allowed to happen?

Take it up with Beatles producer George Martin; he arranged the music for the film, and should have known better, to put it extremely mildly.

Difficult as it may be, can you pinpoint a lowlight?

George Burns (who narrates the movie) crooning "Fixing a Hole," or Donald Pleasence (as the abovementioned stinky record producer) attempting a bit of "I Want You." To bear witness to either of these moments is to die a little. You will cringe and say "Oh man, that's just not right."

Any good parts?

Steve Martin (in his film debut) brings some gonzo brio to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"; he needn't be ashamed of his participation herein. Alice Cooper does a commanding psychedelic-Big Brother version of "Because." Aerosmith delivers the best cover, "Come Together" (the only song from the soundtrack that still gets airplay) -- Steven Tyler has more screen presence than Frampton and the Bee Gees combined.

Is it worth seeing for those bits?

Not really. No reason is good enough to suffer through 101 minutes of terrible taste that doesn't even rise to the level of so-bad-it's-good. If you know someone who owns the tape, have him/her dupe the above three sequences for you.

Did you actually just hear a radio DJ refer to David Bowie's '70s persona as "Ziggy Starbuck"?

I'm afraid so. It has no relevance to the issue at hand, but I thought I'd mention it.

Is everyone under the sun who needed fast money in 1978 in this movie?

"Ziggy Starbuck" is about the only one who isn't in it, it seems. Leif Garrett, Del Shannon, Bonnie Raitt, Carol Channing, Sha Na Na, Frankie Valli, Donovan Leitch, Mark Lindsay, Helen Reddy, Tina Turner, Johnny Rivers, Wolfman Jack, Gary Wright, and Keith Carradine are among the celebrities shoehorned in at the end. Barry Humphries, aka "Dame Edna," is also in there somewhere. Billy Preston gets to be Sgt. Pepper himself.

Final thoughts?

I stared at the screen wondering how anyone thought this could possibly have found an audience, even in the degraded '70s. It may yet find one, among nostalgic Gen-Xers who get stoned and giggle at the costumes and the sheer relentless crappy kitsch of it all.

* "Pants-shittingly" is a word now.

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