Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a 1978 American musical comedy film directed by Michael Schultz & written by Henry Edwards based on The Beatles' albums "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Abbey Road."
The film starred musicians such as Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, Aerosmith, Billy Preston, Earth, Wind & Fire and Alice Cooper.
When the film was released, it became a commercial & critical failure.
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the entire movie.
Mr. Kite (George Burns), the elderly mayor of the wholesome small town of Heartland, recounts the history of Heartland's celebrated marching band, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, who brought happiness through their music, even causing troops in WWI to stop fighting.
After the bandleader died in 1958, he left the band's magical musical instruments to the town & as long as they remain in Heartland, people will live happily ever after. The City Hall contains the instruments which is topped with a Magical Weather Vane in the shape of a marching band trumpeter that foresees good and ominous developments.
The bandleader left his musical legacy to his grandson, Billy Shears (Peter Frampton), who forms a successor Sgt. Pepper's band with his best friends, the Hendersons (The Bee Gees). Billy's jealous and money-hungry stepbrother, Dougie (Paul Nicholas), serves as the band's manager.
Heartland loves the new band, and soon record company executive B.D. (Donald Pleasence) invites them to Hollywood with the promise of a record deal. Billy bids farewell to his hometown girlfriend, Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina).
Once in Hollywood, B.D. gets the band to sign an exploitative contract by plying them with drugs & alcohol and getting them sexy singers Lucy (Dianne Steinberg) and the Diamonds (Stargard) to seduce them. Lucy starts an affair with Billy, who momentarily forgets about Strawberry.
The band quickly succeeds with hit records and sold-out shows. Meanwhile, the villain Mr. Mustard (Frankie Howerd) and his henchman, the Brute drive to Heartland in their computer-and robot-equipped van. Mustard gets his orders via computer from a mysterious entity called F.V.B., who directs him to steal the magical instruments from City Hall, keep the drum, and bring the other instruments to them and others. Mustard does as directed.
Without the instruments, Heartland, now under Mustard's control, quickly degenerates into a hotbed of vice and urban decay. Strawberry travels to Hollywood, manages to find Billy and the band at a recording session, and tells them of Heartland's plight.
The band and Strawberry steal Mustard's van and use its computer to locate the stolen instruments. They manage to recover the cornet from the deranged, money-driven anti-aging specialist Dr. Maxwell Hammer (Steve Martin), the tuba from mind-controlling cult leader Father Sun (Alice Cooper), and the drum, which Mustard kept in his van. However, the computer malfunctions before they can locate the final missing instrument.
As Heartland continues to deteriorate, the band plans a benefit concert to save the town. B.D., Lucy and Dougie go along with the plan, exploiting the situation for financial gain. Dougie and Lucy, who have bonded over their shared love of money, plot to steal the show proceeds and run off, and to that end hide the bags of money in Mustard's van while Billy, Strawberry and the Hendersons are watching Earth, Wind & Fire perform at the benefit.
Mustard and the Brute suddenly arrive and take back the van, which also contains the recovered instruments. They kidnap Strawberry (with whom Mustard has fallen in love with) drag her into the van & drive off with Dougie, Lucy and the money hidden on board.
Billy and the Hendersons see the van leave to find it in the town's hot air balloon. Mustard drives to F.V.B.'s headquarters where F.V.B. plans to suppress the magical instruments and take over the world. It is revealed that F.V.B. stands for "Future Villain Band", an Orwellian hard-rock band (Aerosmith) in contrast to the wholesomeness of Sgt. Pepper's band.
The band is described as "the evil force that would poison young minds, pollute the environment, and subvert the democratic process"; they perform in militaristic uniforms on a high platform stage made to look like stacks of money, accompanied by uniformed youth twirling flags.
To turn Strawberry into a "helpless groupie", F.V.B. chains her up onstage while the band plays "Come Together" and the lead singer (Steven Tyler) is fondling her. Dougie and Lucy are also tied up and forced to watch.
Billy and the Hendersons arrive and engage in hand-to-hand combat with F.V.B. and when the lead singer chokes Billy, Strawberry is able to push him off of Billy and off the raised stage to his death, but Strawberry ends up falling from the stage herself and is also killed.
The town of Heartland (who is now cleaned up) holds an elaborate funeral for Strawberry, after which a depressed Billy attempts suicide by jumping from a rooftop, but before he can hit the ground, the Magical Weather Vane on top of City Hall comes to life (as Billy Preston) and catches him with a magical lightning bolt.
The Magical Weather Vane then dances through the town square, tossing magical lightning bolts that transform Mr. Mustard and the Brute into a bishop and a monk, Mustard's van into a VW Beetle, Dougie and Lucy into an altar boy & a nun and are able to restore Strawberry to life.
As Billy and Strawberry happily embrace each other, one final lightning bolt transforms his and the Hendersons' mourning suits into shiny new Sgt. Pepper uniforms. In the movie's finale, the cast appear with numerous celebrities (of the time the film was made) in a tribute to the original Beatles album cover.
- George Burns as Mr. Kite
- Peter Frampton as Billy Shears
- The Bee Gees as The Hendersons
- Paul Nicholas as Dougie
- Donald Pleasence as B.D.
- Sandy Farina as Strawberry Fields
- Dianne Steinberg as Lucy
- Stargard as The Diamonds
- Frankie Howerd as Mean Mr. Mustard
- Aerosmith as Future Villain Band (FVB)
- Alice Cooper as Father Sun
- Earth, Wind & Fire, who appear as themselves
- Billy Preston as the magical Sgt. Pepper golden weather vane come to life
The movie was produced by Robert Stigwood (the founder of RSO Records, who had earlier produced the film Saturday Night Fever). RSO Records also released the soundtrack to the movie Grease in 1978, which Barry Gibb produced and Peter Frampton played the lead guitar on the title track.
In 1976, the Bee Gees recorded three Beatles cover songs: "Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight", "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window" and "Sun King" for the musical documentary "All This and World War II."
The movie first began as a 1974 live Broadway show called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road" which was produced by The Robert Stigwood Organization.
Stigwood had purchased the rights to use 29 Beatles songs for the play and was determined to do something with them, so he brought the songs to Henry Edwards to write a script. Edwards had never written a script for a film, but had impressed Stigwood with musical analysis he'd written for The New York Times.
According to Edwards: "I spread the songs out on my apartment floor and went to work. Mr Stigwood wanted a concept. I told him I'd like to do a big MGM-like musical. We'd synthesize forms and end up with an MGM musical but with the music of today."
With a script in place, the cast was assembled and in the spring of 1977, Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees & Martin met to begin work on the soundtrack.
The movie began filming in October of 1977 on the backlot of MGM Studios in Culver City, where the set of Heartland, USA was built. The interiors were filmed at Universal City Studios.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" grossed $20,378,470 at the box office.
The movie received scathingly negative reviews, with critics taking issue with its thin plot and incomprehensibility, but despite that, it has been praised for its musical renditions of classic Beatles songs & has since gained a cult following.
As of September 1, 2014, review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes reports that 15% of 20 critics gave the movie a positive review, with an average score of 2.9 out of 10.
According to movie historian Leonard Maltin, the picture "...ranges from tolerable to embarrassing and just doesn't work. As for the Bee Gees' acting talents, if you can't say something nice..."
Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film's "musical numbers are strung together so mindlessly that the movie has the feel of an interminable variety show"; while it may have been "conceived in a spirit of merriment, ... watching it feels like playing shuffleboard at the absolute insistence of a bossy shipboard social director. When whimsy gets to be this overbearing, it simply isn't whimsy any more."
She complimented Steve Martin on his "completely unhinged rendition of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," but pointed out that his scene is a "reminder that the film is otherwise humorless."
Newsweek's David Ansen called the movie "a film with a dangerous resemblance to wallpaper."
Rolling Stone writer Paul Nelson shredded virtually every aspect of the movie's production from the film's stars Frampton ("Absolutely no future in Hollywood") to director Schultz ("Would seem to need direction merely to find the set, let alone the camera") to the soundtrack album ("The album proves conclusively that you can't go home again in 1978. Or, if you do, you'd better be aware of who's taken over the neighborhood.").
Perry Seibert of Allmovie called the film "quite possibly the silliest movie ever conceived," with a "handful of high camp moments" featuring Martin, Burns; Earth, Wind & Fire; Aerosmith, and Billy Preston who "somehow transcend the jaw-dropping inanity that poisons the rest of the cast."
The Intelligencer's Lou Gaul called the film "A sort of modern Fantasia for today's teens."
The Valley Independent's Ron Paglia called it "Good, campy fun," citing Steve Martin's performance as "a high point," and the celebrity filled finale as "something special" before concluding "there's much to enjoy."
It was also noted that Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr (who both attended the movie's premiere) subsequently shunned the film while John Lennon & George Harrison refused to see the film altogether.