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SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEART’S BAND (director: Michael Schultz; screenwriter: Henry Edwards; cinematographer: Owen Roizman; editor: Christopher Holmes; music: John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison; cast: Peter Frampton (Billy Shears), The Bee Gees-Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb (Mark, Dave and Bob Henderson), Paul Nicholas (Dougie Shears), Billy Preston (Sgt. Pepper), Sandy Farina (Strawberry Fields), Dianne Steinberg (Lucy), Alice Cooper (Father Sun), Steve Martin (Dr. Maxwell Edison), Aerosmith (Future Villain), George Burns (Mr. Kite), Donald Pleasence (B.D. Brockhurst), Earth, Wind & Fire (Benefit Performers), Frankie Howerd (Mr. Mustard); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert Stigwood; Universal Pictures; 1978)
“Inert musical set to the bubblegum music of the popular 1967 Beatles album.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Inert musical set to the bubblegum music of the popular 1967 Beatles album but without the Beatles, as pop stars Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees serve as adequate musical replacements but are stiffs in the acting department. It has a few bright moments, though most of it is crass and filled with unfunny juvenile humor that is painful to watch. Some critics believe it led to the downhill turn of musicals, as that once popular genre lost their luster in Hollywood following this B.O. bomb. There’s a pitched oddball flavor to go along with its cotton-candy garish visuals, which might be more depressing than a bad acid trip. It squeezes in 29 songs to go along with its simple-minded allegory of big business versus the purity of small-town USA, known as “Heartland.” That’s the hometown of the Lonely Hearts Club Band, and their appreciation for the simple pleasures of life such as music and love that is cheered by all the good people (those who buy the Beatle albums!). Unfortunately its tirade against capitalism never rang true. George Burns kicks off the tale by acting as narrator. He tells how the legendary Band flourished during the First World War, praised for its war effort to bring music on the battlefield to the troops, but when the Lonely Hearts Club Band leader Sgt. Pepper died of a heart attack in 1958 the Band was taken over by his grandson Frampton and his friends the Bee Gees in 1978. The band leader keeps the band together and must fight off the evil efforts of music tycoon Donald Pleasence to steal their magical musical instruments.

I think even fans of the Fab Four will be disappointed by this weak effort, basically stringing together the songs without any idea of how to make it into a compelling narrative. Director Michael Schultz shoots for all the bells and whistles and glitzy visual touches but never comes to terms with pulling this mess together. Sgt. Pepper wasn’t the only one lonely, I felt that way watching this mindless ‘ode to pop culture.’


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”