Ever since they were sent into WWI battle in 1918, Sgt. Pepper and his Lonely Hearts Club Band of Heartland, USA have been spreading the message of joy and love to the world, which has made them and Heartland famous. Upon Sgt. Pepper's death in 1958, the band's instruments have been housed on display at Heartland City Hall as symbols of that love and joy. Before his death, Sgt. Pepper asked his adolescent grandson Billy Shears to take on the reigns of forming his own band to continue to spread the message of joy and love. With Billy's brother Dougie Shears as their manager, Billy, now an adult, and his three best friends - brothers Mark, Dave and Bob Henderson - embark on their lives as a new Lonely Hearts Club Band. They quickly come to the attention of Hollywood music producer B.D. Hoffler Of B.D. (Big Deal) Records. With the boys off to Hollywood to spread the words of joy and love to the world, enter into Heartland the evil and demented Mr. Mustard, an ex-real estate agent who ... Written by
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is truly delightful! A classic!
Last night, presented by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian in Hollywood, we saw Sgt. Pepper on the big screen for the first time in 25 years, and it not only "holds up" (as aging movie geeks like to mutter while their fantasies needlessly crumble), it is as fresh, funny, charming and touching as it was when we saw it in the summer of 1978. Blessings to director Michael Schultz, writer Henry Edwards (where are you, fellah?), obviously very busy producers Robert Stigwood, Dee Anthony and Bill Oakes, bright-eyed DP Owen Roizman and of course that music fellow George Martin and those English blokes who wrote such sensational songs. I hope they still have a little money left over, in addition to all the love and joy. (Don't go hungry, Paul; call if you need a few quid.)
Yes, there are thousands of brilliant films to adore, and of course it's common to find a scapegoat to flog, but the sweetness of this movie is undeniable.
It would be very easy to ramble for a couple of days about the wonders of this eternally surprising cast, but I'll save that for parties at B.D.'s pad or the Heartland gazebo. Simply, just try to watch Billy Preston (those boots!), Sandy Farina (!), George Burns, Steve Martin (!?!?!?!), Alice Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Paul Nicholas, Aerosmith, Donald Pleasance, Dianne Steinberg, The Earth, The Wind and The Fire, Stargard (????) and the rest without smiling or getting one of those weird "tingles."
Particularly, Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees -- Barry, Robin, Maurice (goodnight, Brother Gibb) -- commit themselves to a unique, today almost unknown sense of silly good humour. Admittedly, it's a bit uncomfortable when Barry croons to his brothers that he'd "love to turn them on," (egad!) but -- like the sometimes staid framing and cutting -- it's worth overlooking in appreciation of the bigger picture. If you love Rocky Horror, Shock Treatment, The Magic Christian, The Robe, Python's musical offerings, Visconti's The Leopard, Phantom of the Paradise, The Star Wars Holiday Special, Intolerance, The Muppet Movie, Xanadu, Summer of Sam, Happy Campers, The Conversation, The Wiz, On the Waterfront, Spice World, Infested, Yojimbo & Sanjuro, X-2, Bugsy Malone, Potemkin, Grease, Repo Man, Richard Lester's oeuvre, Pennies From Heaven, American Graffiti, Badlands, The Tigger Movie, Little Odessa, The Tattoo Connection or, heck, Singin' in the Rain, High Society or Disorderlies, there's plenty to enjoy here, and no reason to be a mindless bully or snob about it.
Everybody sings really splendidly, too, and Sandy Farina's presence in her one lead role (to date) is unforgettably lovely.
Nice one, Sandy.
While we're at it, why not commend Carel Struyken for being a really good "Brute," and Patti Jerome, Max Showalter and those disturbing robots for tugging our heartstings in "She's Leaving Home" (this version still moves me more than Tori Amos' nice take).
Who knows what bizarre energies converged behind the scenes to bring this thing together (not to mention landing Etta James, Leif Garrett, Barry Humphries, Tina Turner, Sha-Na-Na, Jose Feliciano and Wolfman Jack on the same risers at the finale), but whatever it was, thank you. (Use that great IMDB "more" clicker to scan the credits.)
Now please release a proper widescreen, ZONE-FREE, global DVD packed with extras ASAP. (I cheerfully volunteer as interviewer for the commentary, since no one else on the whole planet would have the guts.) This version from Brasil is pretty good for a full-screen with no chapter-stops (Steve's freaking through "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" right now), but -- like Shock Treatment, The Fabulous Stains and others, the public deserves a good look at this stuff.
Sorry if that sounds like a threat.
Let the pleasure be guilty no more!
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