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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) – DVD Review

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band DVD cover art


Written by: Henry Edwards, based on the music of The Beatles
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Songs by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney, with George Harrison
Starring: Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, Sandy Farina, George Burns, Frankie Howerd, Paul Nicholas, Donald Pleasence, Dianne Steinberg


  • Trailer

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Oh God, it BURNS. IT BURNS.

[ad#longpost]Welcome to Heartland, home to Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band, who single-handedly ended World War I. No, I’m serious. Their music rocks so much ass that it’s because of their influence Heartland has become just a goshdarn great place to live. In gratitude for the long career of Sgt. Pepper, the mayor, Mr. Kite (Burns), has established a museum in Pepper’s honor. And a new generation of Lonely Hearts Club Band is supposed to be rising up, led by Billy Shears (Frampton) and comprised of his life-long buddies (Gees). However, a diabolical plot is underway by evil record magnate B.D. Hoffler (Pleasence) to take the Band to the big time, make Billy cheat on his girlfriend, Strawberry Fields (Farina), and let evil real estate magnate Mr. Mustard (Howerd) turn Heartland into sleaze central. Will true love, decency and 70s covers of time-honored classics survive?

Sweet mother of God, what an unparalleled disaster. The work of The Beatles is one of the first things I remember when I was still knee-high to a fetus, so hearing some of these covers are like daggers in mine ears. Part of the fun (I guess you could call it that) is deciding which is more egregious, George Burns trying to sing “Fixing a Hole,” Donald Pleasence not even bothering to try singing “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” or Frankie Howerd out-Rex Harrisoning Rex Harrison with “When I’m Sixty-Four.” But the pain doesn’t stop there–no, no–you’ve got electronic voices doing the majority of work on “She’s Leaving Home,” Steve Martin positively crucifying “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and Alice Cooper burning “Because” to the ground and sowing the lyrics with salt.

Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Oddly enough, there are a couple of pearls amongst the nearly two hours of swine. Earth, Wind & Fire’s cover of “Got to Get You Into My Life” is a sweet, cool relief and Aerosmith gunning through “Come Together” is the closest thing to rock you’re going to find in this film. Oddly enough, The Bee Gees were a good pick for their parts–their harmonies work well with the songs–and since they don’t have any lines, it’s not like they were tapped as far as acting goes. Frampton’s vocals are weak, with the exception of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and he’s not a very convincing lead–even without lines. Sandy Farina’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” isn’t bad, either. But these are just a few, and “Long and Winding Road” being pushed into a pit of maudlin more than destroys any goodness that might provide. I managed to give it single cup for the few good pieces, but it really is all debilitating.

Steve Martin from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The DVD itself gives you nothing but the trailer, which is probably a good thing. I must admit a sense of morbid curiosity at the thought of a commentary track by Edwards and Schultz; give them an opportunity to defend themselves, explain themselves, something. Or…and perhaps even better, a track from a Beatles expert, or a panel of them, giving their own opinions on the film. But, it’s not to be. I’m amazed the thing is widescreen–when this first showed up in my life, I originally (and only thereafter) saw it on television and thus full frame. I only found out when this DVD hit that it had had a theatrical run. I’d say that now I’ve seen everything–but I know better. And you should know better too–run away from this as fast as you can.

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