Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Your Film Fucking Sucks #1: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/22/10 w/ Additional Edits.


The 1970s was a glorious period in music and everything peaked in 1977. Especially for one group in the Bee Gees. Stars from the late 1960s/early 70s with orchestral pop songs like Massachusetts, Lonely Days, and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart. The Bee Gees made a huge comeback with a new sound of R&B and dance that became disco in the mid-70s as 1977 was a big year for the band with the release of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. 1978 was also a big year for the Bee Gees and their mentor Robert Stigwood as Barry Gibb wrote the hit theme song for the film Grease sung by Frankie Valli with guitars by Peter Frampton. Just as the Bee Gees seem to be as big as the Beatles, Robert Stigwood came up with an idea that was at first a sure-fire hit. Instead, it would become one of the biggest debacles ever made in film that not only signaled the near-death of the musical but would mark the end of the Bee Gees' partnership with Stigwood in the film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The idea for the film came from an off-Broadway musical which is turned into a rock opera based on the Beatles' classic 1967 album of the same name. The story involves a rock band called the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band led by Billy Shears with the Henderson brothers who become big stars as their catchy pop sounds sweep all over the country. Yet, at their hometown of Heartland, evil forces steal the instruments of the old Sgt. Pepper's band and turn the town into a place of hedonistic excess as it up to Billy, the Henderson brothers, and Billy's girlfriend Strawberry Fields to save the day. Wow, great idea.

(Not really. Sounds like a stupid idea for a film. What does it have to do with the Beatles? Just because you name a film after an album and characters based on bloody Beatles song doesn't mean it sounds like a good idea. What were they on, on dope?)

(I suppose it was cocaine. Remember, it was the 70s man. Everyone was doing coke. Except me. I'm all about God's good herb man.)

(Can I have some?)

(Sure man.)

Helming the film is Michael Schultz, the man who had scored with hit films like Cooley High and Car Wash along with helming the 1980s cult films Krush Groove and the brilliant The Last Dragon. With a screenplay by Henry Edwards, the film is a zany trip into the music of the Beatles with help the band's legendary producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick in handling many of the covers in this film. With an all-star cast of people who were big in the 70s. The film includes such heavy-hitters as the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Donald Pleasence, Billy Preston, Paul Nicholas and as the narrator George Burns as Mr. Kite. Also in the film are new stars from the Stigwood camp in Dianne Steinberg, the Stargards, and Sandy Farina as Strawberry Fields. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a film that tries to pay tribute to the Beatles but instead, commits a sacrilegious picture that reminds audience of what was bad about the 70s.

(Boy, that sounded like an awful film. Who are some of these people? Why were they even in this film. How much did George Martin and Geoff Emerick get paid to help butcher these classics?)

(I don't know, Stigwood must've given them a shit load of money. I have no idea who these chicks are man. I don't find them to be quite attractive. And I think that Strawberry Fields chick was a virgin man.)

(You know, she could be. Well, let's watch this bloody garbage.)

It's World War I as all hell is breaking loose between the Allies and Axis until some young guy named Sgt. Pepper played some music with his Lonely Hearts Club Band to bring peace to everyone. Sgt. Pepper was hailed as a hero in his hometown of Heartland as he provided the soundtrack for great times like the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression, the economic recovery from the Depression, and World War II. Then just as he was honored yet again as a weather vane, Sgt. Pepper croaks during what was supposed to be his final performance. After his death, the medal Sgt. Pepper receives was given to his grandson Billy Shears along with a promise to form a new Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with help from the Henderson brothers.

Now 20 years later with Billy's stepbrother Dougie (Paul Nicholas) as their manager, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is refashioned as a rock band featuring the Hendersons (the Bee Gees) and led by Billy Shears (Peter Frampton) as they become the heart of the town.

(Yeah, by butchering Beatles classics. They sucked man)

(You're bloody well right)

The Sgt. Pepper's band got the attention of BD Records led by B.D. (Donald Pleasence) who wants a demo of their recording as Dougie records the band to send a demo to B.D. where he hears what he likes and gives them a deal. The band is set to leave for the City of Angels where it would be the first time Billy and his girlfriend Strawberry Fields would be separated.

(And for that awful version of Here Comes The Sun, all they did was sleep and that's it. I wondered if she gave up her virginity to him. If not, what a tease.)

(I know man, what the fuck? She could've given him something. A blow job or a bloody good fuck. He might've been a virgin too and they're saving up to be married. What a bunch of wankers.)

So they leave on a hot-air balloon that is then hit by an airplane where they're suddenly on that airplane and arrive to the City of Angels where they meet B.D. and one of his stars named Lucy (Dianne Steinberg) who has her eye on Billy. They go to the city and see all sorts of stuff including Lucy in various roles where they arrive to B.D.'s mansion where at the pool is Lucy's singing group the Diamonds (Stargard) as Billy and the Hendersons get part in a photo shoot, eat like crazy, snort some coke, sign their name into a contract where they magically wear label t-shirts, and be part of an orgy. They wake up, hungover, the next day where they record a bunch of songs and immediately become superstars with live shows and a variety TV performance. Things go well but Strawberry misses Billy as Heartland is suddenly under attack by Mean Mr. Mustard (Frankie Howerd) working for a villainous group as he and his henchman steal Sgt. Pepper's famed instruments and tying up Heartland's mayor Mr. Kite.

(Boy, you would think they could've gotten some security guards or something to stop all of that. Then again, that's what you get for acting all peaceful and crap. Decency and total peace is pretty boring.)

(I'll say, sometimes you need a bit of chaos. Otherwise, it gives people something to rally against. It worked when we got rid of disco. Although in retrospect, it wasn't really that bad. It just got overplayed.)

(Hey, I'll take disco over the bullshit that's being played on the movie man.)

After Mr. Mustard with his tall henchman (Carel Struycken) and vocoder-talking robots wreak havoc on Heartland, the instruments are taken to various places with Mr. Mustard keeping the bass drum for himself. Heartland, a once peaceful town full of decency has now become a decadent town where everything is filled with video arcades and at every street corner, a pimp and a ho.

(Wait a tick! That doesn't sound bad. Even if you were a 15-16 year old kid. You would take arcades and hos any day of the week and it was probably cheap back then.)

(I'll say. They're making it sound bad and look at that cheeseburger in the middle of the town square. I'm hungry man.)

Strawberry Fields leave Heartland to go to the City of Angels to find Billy and the Hendersons where she sees a billboard of Lucy and the Diamonds seducing the Sgt. Pepper's band though it was really her imagination. Mr. Mustard finds out that Strawberry left town as he tries to go after her as Strawberry reaches the band and tells them what had just happened. The band leaves the recording studio and steal Mr. Mustard's bus where they go to retrieve the instruments as they find Sgt. Pepper's trumpet at the lab of Dr. Maxwell (Steve Martin) who turns bad ugly people into bad, young people as part of the F.V.B. army. The band succeeds in stopping Dr. Maxwell and retrieve the trumpet.

(Yeah where the Bee Gees get into a silly dance-fight choreography with nurses where they got their asses kicked while Peter Frampton and Steve Martin battle it out with long hammers that act as lightsabers or something. Then you have Steve Martin with electrical shock powers as he briefly shocks Frampton. Man, those guys can't fight.)

(I'll say, you think that since the Bee Gees were like from Manchester or something and that Peter Frampton was from South London. You'd think they would have fighting skills. What a load of bollocks.)

After finding the bass drum in Mr. Mustard's bus, the band go to the world of Father Sun (Alice Cooper) who is brainwashing an army of people while he watches sports as he has the old tuba. They stop Father Sun though Billy gets electrocuted in trying to pull the plug where the army is being brainwashed. He is near death until Strawberry Fields revives him with the power of true love.

(Or rather a butchering of Strawberry Fields Forever as a bloody love song. It wasn't a fucking love song and it was awful. Plus, they tried to make her look sexy and god, that was awful.)

(I'll say man, you would think that if you're going to pull the power off of something. Don't you think you should find an off button first and then pull the plug? And what the hell was that? Barry Gibb, a Bee Gee knocking out Alice Cooper of all people? That's friggin' impossible man. And here's the weird part, Alice Cooper is a fan of the Bee Gees.)

(Bloody hell! I never knew that. The man who sings about dead babies and being a teenager liking the bloody Bee Gees. Well, they were cool then. It's a shame they're in this fucking picture.)

Unable to find the location of the last instrument in the saxophone and Heartland in total chaos while B.D. is losing his hair. Dougie comes up with an idea to hold a benefit concert for Heartland with the Sgt. Pepper's band playing the benefit as they return to Heartland much to the happiness of the town and Mr. Kite.

(Oh yeah, with a lame show full of mimes, trampolines, guys in tights, and all of that stuff. Oh, that is great.)

(Is it me or am I feeling like a complete, what's that word? You can't really say it since it's kind of wrong.)

(Retarded?)

(That's it.)

During the concert where Earth, Wind, & Fire play Got To Get You Into My Life, Strawberry Fields is kidnapped by Mr. Mustard and his tall goon while Lucy and Dougie hide out in the bus after stealing the money that was supposed to be for the benefit. So it's up to Billy and the Hendersons to save the day as they go after Mr. Mustard.

(Yeah, in stupid shining clothing they change for a second once they're inside the dumb hot air balloon.)

(And you see the faces of Earth, Wind, & Fire smiling like "Yeah, go get her as they're really saying ‘what the fuck was that?  Fuck that bitch'".)

They chase the bus as they finally reach the headquarters of F.V.B. with all of the instruments and hostages as the identity of F.V.B. is revealed to the Future Villain Band (Aerosmith) where they hope to end decency and make way for capitalism while wanting to turn Strawberry Fields into a mindless groupie.

(Hey, wait a minute! This is Aerosmith we're talking about. If I was a chick. I would totally be a mindless groupie for the band no matter how fucked up they were. Plus, I don't wanna sound gay or anything but I think Joe Perry is dreamy.)

(Oh, he definitely is. And there's nothing wrong with man crushes. It's quite acceptable these days. I would totally be a groupie for Joe Perry. Steven Tyler though, was probably too messed up at the time to even have sex with.)

So it's up to the Sgt. Pepper's band to fight the Future Villain Band.

(Oh, like anyone could believe that the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton could take on Aerosmith. No matter how messed Aerosmith was at the time.)

Yet, tragedy ensues as the instruments returned to Heartland but at such a great cost where Billy tries to kill himself.

(I would've said "jump, jump, jump!")

Yet, a deux-ex machina in the form of Sgt. Pepper reincarnated as Billy Preston would make everything OK.

(Hey, you're spoiling the film man.)

(Oh come on, it doesn't really matter anyway. It needs spoilers so people can avoid such garbage.)

The film overall has a ridiculous premise which is really a commentary on capitalism which is ironic considering that this film was made to cash in on the music of the Beatles and the popularity of the Bee Gees. The problem is that it has nothing together to hold itself as it moves in from one bad sequence with music to another bad musical sequence as if it was a series of music videos strung together while the plot of the film ends up being part of an entirely different film with bad musical background of the Beatles.

The screenplay by Henry Edwards is quite awful as with the narration of George Burns to tell the story only makes the whole thing an awkward experience. If the story had a ridiculous premise with a series of bad musical vignettes. It's Michael Schultz's direction is a mess as he clearly treats the film as if it was a variety show with disco-inspired scenes and silly gags that ends up making the film look like as if everyone was on cocaine when they made it. Even when he has the actors mugging the camera at times as if they're all having a great time (which they weren't and there's moments in the film where they all look uncomfortable). It's directing at its laziest while creating scenes and sequences that end up looking very dumb.

There's nothing in technical field in the film worth noting there's nothing interesting about it. The visual effects for some of the film's special effects sequences are absolute crap. The only part in the film's technical department that is worth discussing is the film's music. Since a lot of it was produced by George Martin with engineering work from Geoff Emerick. It seemed like an inspiring pairing between the two men who had worked on several classics by the Beatles and the current artists that appear in the film would be good.

Not exactly since a lot of it is uninspiring. While the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton's rendition of several songs are faithful, there's not much to really be wowed about. It's just mediocre while some renditions go way too far with I Want You (She's So Heavy) with an overabundance of disco rhythms and long guitar drones along with Donald Pleasence's raspy growling vocals as he's talking in the song. Nowhere Man is presented as a somber ballad with nothing to be amazed about since the original was this rich, jangly track that was full of ideas. Other songs like The Long & Winding Road becomes more sappy than the finalized version that Phil Spector put into the song as Peter Frampton makes it more sentimental than ever.

Other tracks like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds by Dianne Steinberg and the Stargards are given a soulful rendition but with awful textures as Martin's production ends up becoming bloated. The music for the most part is terrible with a lot of robotic, vocoder-vocals on tracks like Mean Mr. Mustard, When I'm Sixty-Four, and an absolutely, blasphemous version of She's Leaving Home that gives an indication of what was bad about the 70s. Others like George Burns' Fixing A Hole and Alice Cooper's Because just show how bad things can be whether it's ridiculous in the former or just a complete miscast of an idea in the latter. Then there's Billy Preston in a gold suit as Sgt. Pepper singing Get Back that really crosses the line from silly to just something that is a W.T.F. moment.

While there's a lot of bad ideas in the music, there are a few highlights like Steve Martin's zany version of Maxwell's Silver Hammer as it works because Martin makes it campy in a precursor to his maniacal dentist character in Little Shop of Horrors. Robin Gibb's rendition of Oh, Darling is actually a highlight since he sings it quite straightforward with a keyboard throughout the song. Yet, there's two covers of the Beatles that really stand out as their own as Earth, Wind, & Fire's Got To Get You Into My Life is brilliant in a horn-blazing, soulful rendition mixed with funk. The other is Aerosmith's own raunchy take on Come Together where those two songs became hits of their own.

The casting for the most part is terrible. Frankie Howerd, who is a famous British actor, is pretty bad in this as he has to sing awful covers and look dumb while Carel Struycken isn't given much to do anyways but look tall. George Burns is the only performance of the film that works but that isn't saying much since he's just there to narrate and talk throughout the film. Everyone else is pretty bad where Peter Frampton often sports a stupid, boyish grin throughout the entire film. The Bee Gees also look stupid as they along with Frampton often wear shirts with open buttons so audiences can see their chest hair. Everyone else in the film is just bad where Donald Pleasence looks stupid throughout while the supposed break-out stars like Dianne Steinberg ends up looking like a total slut throughout the film and Sandy Farina (poised to be the next Olivia-Newton John) plays innocent and isn't given much to do while her renditions of Here Comes The Sun and Strawberry Fields Forever are just terrible.

If the casting was bad enough, that was nothing compared to the final sing-a-long that features Carol Channing, Tina Turner, Robert Palmer, Wolfman Jack, Dame Edna, Johnny Winters, Peter Noone, Graham Nash, Keith Carradine, members of the band Heart, Leif Garrett, Robert Stigwood, and the entire cast that was in the film. Yet, there was a rumor that Paul McCartney with wife Linda and George Harrison were at the set for the sing-a-long but decided not to take part in it at the last minute. I wonder why?

(Easy, I think they saw what was happening and were like "fuck this!" and probably told John and Ringo not to be involved.)

(That last part was totally dumb man. It was as if everyone was doing disco pointing and all that stuff.)

When it was released in July of 1978, the film had high expectations but instead, it became a disaster. The film was a colossal flop as it marked the beginning of the end for the Bee Gees' long-standing relationship with Robert Stigwood which would officially end in 1980. Yet, the Bee Gees later revealed their discontent towards the film as they wanted to be let go from the production when it was being filmed as they knew it was bad as did everyone else. Peter Frampton meanwhile, whose career was destroyed because of this film, didn't want to do in the first place despite his manager's insistence. Yet, when Stigwood convinced him to do it claiming that Paul McCartney was going to be in it. Frampton signed on only to later realized that McCartney wasn't going to be in it. When the film was released, Frampton was in a hospital recovering from a car accident as he later described the film as a bad episode of The Monkees.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club is really one of the worst films ever made. Yet, despite how bad it is. It's a film that is worth watching because it's so bad, it's good. For all of its bad comedy and bad acting, it's a film that reminds everyone why people cannot mess with the music of the Beatles or turn into something that is silly. It's a film that is also an indication of what was bad about the 1970s and why people should never, ever do cocaine.

(Except for God's good green herb but there's a time and place for that. It's called college.)

(Right, college is the only time and place to smoke grass. Just make it sure it won't lead you to do other sorts of drugs.)

In the end, unless you want to see something so bad that it's good. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a debacle of a film that points out that you can't mix the Beatles and disco into one silly musical. It will just lead to disaster.

(You got that right. And let's hope there won't be some bloody remake of it either.)

(Oh, it would probably would happen. Hollywood is dumb enough to make money out of anything. They'll probably remake this with the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber as the Sgt. Pepper band and some other lame people.)

(Fucking Hollywood.)

(C) thevoid99 2011

2 comments:

Steve said...

But still . . .. You gotta love Alice Cooper's death match with the cream pie, right, those ballerina mimes from the "Mr. Kite" segment, in their whiteface and tutus, were so sexy! :-D

thevoid99 said...

No, I didn't. It wasn't very good. It must makes me glad I don't do drugs. I'm already fucked up enough to not even do drugs.