Monday, January 21, 2019


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band  movie - 1980
The saying goes that no one starts out intending to make a bad movie. This sounds fine in theory, but the reality is more in line with--no one starts out intending to make a flop. Hollywood makes bad movies all the time. Sometimes willfully (looking at you, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, & Rob Schneider). They just care when their bad movies don't make money. Who's going to call the blatantly lousy (to me) Fast & Furious movies bad when they rake in so much at the boxoffice? 
When boxoffice success becomes the defining standard by which a film is deemed good or bad, creative decisions are ultimately ruled by their marketability and moneymaking potential. And just as there is a subtle, yet significant, difference between someone wanting to be a great actor vs. someone wanting to be a big star; a movie that starts out intending to be a good film is not (necessarily) coming from the same creative mindset as one that sets out to be the next blockbuster boxoffice success. 
Which brings us to Robert Stigwood's $18-million boondoggle, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Peter Frampton as Billy Shears
Peter Frampton as Billy Shears
Sir Barry Gibb as Mark Henderson
Sir Barry Gibb as Mark Henderson
Robin Gibb as Dave Henderson
Robin Gibb as Dave Henderson
Maurice Gibb as Bob Henderson
Maurice Gibb as Bob Henderson
Dianne Steinberg as Lucy
Dianne Steinberg as Lucy
Sandy Farina as Strawberry Fields
Sandy Farina as Strawberry Fields
In early 1978, Robert "Midas Touch" Stigwood was the man who could do no wrong. Producer of the hits Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease, Stigwood (via his lucrative RSO enterprise) had his hand in theater, film, recording, and personal management. His track record of success was such that when he decided to reconfigure his flop 1974 Off-Broadway Beatles-themed musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road (starring Ted Neeley of JC Superstar and Alaina Reed of TV's 227) into a feature film rock-opera along the lines of Ken Russell's Tommy, no one was going to tell him it might not be such a good idea.
Donald Pleasence as B. D. "Big Deal" Hoffler
...or Brockhurst, if you go by the film's credits and bubble gum cards 
While it certainly could be argued that with Sgt Pepper, Stigwood was ahead of his time in presenting what amounts to being the first jukebox musical (Abba's Mamma Mia! was a good two decades to come), in this instance, the uniqueness of the film's structure proved considerably less problematic than its execution.
George Burns as Mr. Kite
George Burns as Mr. Kite
To illustrate: take the Las Vegas-y kitsch and celebrity clusterfuck lineups of '70s variety shows like Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie, and The Captain & Tennille (they were all the same, weren't they?); top with a pop music trio projecting all the charm-free blandness of The Hudson Brothers forced into an oil-and-water collaboration with a soloist radiating a screen presence not matched in dynamism since Helen Reddy appeared as a nun in Airport 1975.
Drench in a garish, cocaine-color-palette reminiscent of a Sid & Marty Krofft kiddie show; blend in diluted, American Bandstand-friendly arrangements of a catalog of 29 Beatles songs culled from their most innovative albums: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, Revolver, Abbey Road. Ultimately mold into an inchoate fantasy adventure told entirely in song; tack on superfluous narration so soporific it makes Don Kirshner sound caffeinated by comparison, and voilĂ -- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Movie.
Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees
"A Splendid Time is Guaranteed for All!"
This lyric from "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" was used as the film's
promotional tagline and later came to bite the movie on the ass

Set in the fictional town of Heartland, USA, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (hereafter referred to as SPLHCB) is a musical fable about a wholesome boy band and their magical musical instruments (regrettably, Freddy the Flute fails to make an appearance). Conflict, such as it is, is introduced in the form of an oily music producer named B. D. Hoffler (Donald Pleasence), who interrupts the band's bucolic braying long enough to whisk them off to Los Angeles, where they are to be corrupted by the temptations of sex, drugs, and wealth.
The group's departure allows an organization called F.V.B. (Future Villain Band, played by Aerosmith) to steal the magical musical instruments, which in turn hastens the decline of Heartland, now taken over by an overacting real estate agent named Mr. Mustard (gay British comic Frankie Howerd, who makes Tommy Steele and Zero Mostel look laid-back). The rest of the film is devoted to the Heartland boyband's efforts to retrieve the instruments and save their hometown.
Paul Nicholas as Dougie Shears
Paul Nicholas as Dougie Shears
By way of a love interest and virginal heroine, we have newcomer Sanday Farina (a kind of bargain-basement Ronee Blakley with a lovely voice) as Strawberry Fields. For femme fatale contrast, there's newcomer and just-as-quickly newgoner Dianne Steinberg as Lucy, a sexy pop singer backed up by The Diamonds, portrayed that '70s R&B trio you forgot to forget, Stargard (their 1976 hit "Wear it Out" is really pretty good).
British actor/singer Paul Nicholas adds to his growing screen resume of unscrupulous creeps playing one of Pepperland's few rotten apples. Iconic "fifth Beatle" Billy Preston, cast as a magical weather vane, is saddled with what can safely be described as the apotheosis of the Magical Negro trope. And last but not least, we have a pair of curvaceous  female robots called The Computerettes (yep, you read that right) aiding and abetting Mr. Mustard and sundry "guest villains."
Even by '70s standards, this was some weird-ass shit.
Frankie Howerd as Mean Mr. Mustard
Frankie Howerd as Mean Mr. Mustard
But, as Ken Russell spectacularly proved in bringing The Who's equally bonkers Tommy (1975) to the screen, a hallucinatory rock-opera with no spoken dialogue and a preposterous plot can be made to work. Provided it's done with some talent and ingenuity. Alas, with SPLHCB, little of either is in evidence.
 OK, that's not really fair. I suppose it does take a special kind of talent to make a film as cheap-looking as this with a budget more than three times that of Ken Russell's visually dazzling film. Likewise, I'm sure it took considerable ingenuity for the producers to drum up much enthusiasm for the film's final cast when what was originally on the table was Olivia Newton-John as Strawberry Fields, Donna Summer as Lucy, Mick Jagger as Future Villain, Bob Hope as Mr. Kite, and Doris Day and Rock Hudson as Mr. and Mrs. Fields.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 1978
The emblem of fictional record magnate B.D. Hoffler (r.) spoofs the logo of the Robert 
Stigwood Organization (which is a good luck Japanese toy cow called an akabeko)

I have a hunch that Stigwood had the same kind of micromanaging hand in this film's production as Allan Carr had on the similarly calamitous Can't Stop the Music two years later (you don't hand over a $20m-million production to Rhoda's mother because she's experienced, you do it so you can control her). I say this because SPLHCB is so undistinguished in execution and so indifferently shot, I'm at a severe loss as to know what talented director Michael Schultz (Cooley High, Car Wash) brought to the mix. The film looks like a Kaptain Kool & the Kongs TV special.
Steve Martin as Dr. Maxwell Edison
Steve Martin as Dr. Maxwell Edison
In virtually every aspect surrounding the development of SPLHCB...both in front of and behind the camera... you'll find an incestuous network of mutually-advantageous business deals and cross-promotions. Stigwood managed the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton's manager was given an executive producer credit, record label distribution deals affected the choice of which recording artists would participate, etc. Contract deals that have everything to do with assembling the most marketable commercial elements available, but precious little to do with entertainment, acquiring the best talent for the job, or (perish the thought) simply making a decent movie.
Lucy and the Diamonds in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1978)
The backup members of Lucy and the Diamonds are the all-but-forgotten R&B group Stargard, who sang the theme song to Michael Schultz's previous film Which Way Is Up? and, most importantly, were artists signed to the Universal Studios-connected MCA records. 

In fashioning a musical with no spoken dialogue but extensive, expository voice-over narration, SPLHCB is an unhappy-alliance hybrid. A combination of sung-through musicals like Evita, Hamilton, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Jesus Christ Superstar, and jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! (ABBA), The Boy From Oz (Peter Allen), and—ironically enough—the 1998 stage production of Saturday Night Fever, which combined songs from the Bee Gees music catalog with songs from the film's soundtrack.
Earth, Wind & Fire had a #1 Soul Charts hit with their version of "Got to Get You Into My Life" 
The stringing together of unconnected Beatles songs to form a narrative is a dicey endeavor at best (something accomplished with considerable charm in the 1968 animated feature film Yellow Submarine). But to attempt to do so without expressive actors able to convey complex emotions (Ann-Margret and Oliver Reed in Tommy) or forceful musical personalities who grow more vividly "present" and alive in performance mode (Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger come to mind) is a fool's errand. Indeed, one that music journalist turned first-time screenwriter Henry Edwards could not overcome in fashioning the screenplay/story for SPLHCB.

Strawberry Filed's funeral in "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1978)
Understandable given the era, but in the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, the Beatles' songs were presented in ways that emphasized their metaphorical and allegorical properties. Too often, the more literal-minded approach employed by Sgt. Pepper leads to moments of unintentional humor. Like when a coffin is hoisted unsteadily on the narrow shoulders of our heroes to the accompaniment of "Boy, you're gonna carry that weight a long time." 

The classic, Candide-like structure of The Who's Tommy was ideally suited to Roger Daltrey's blank-slate countenance, presenting him as a relatable everyman beset by harrowing encounters with bizarre characters on his journey to spiritual enlightenment. Unfortunately, SPLHCB takes a plot straight out of an episode of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (replace the stolen Sgt. Pepper instruments with a Mooseberry bush) but gives us heroes too bland to identify with, a low-stakes adventure that's hard to care about, and villains who shoot for outrageous and funny, only to land at embarrassing and hammy.
Alice Cooper as Father Sun, nee Marvin Sunk
This leaves all the film's heavy-lifting to the Beatles tunes themselves, which are a pretty fantastic lot, and generally well-performed...if not memorably. George Martin, producer of all but one of the Beatles' original records, was the film's musical director, but this didn't prevent the release of the double LP soundtrack album (arguably the only reason the film was made at all) from being a colossal flop. Copies of the soundtrack were found in remainder bins almost before the summer was over.
Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) comforts Billy Shears (Peter Frampton) in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1978)
The night I saw it, laughter greeted this scene where Strawberry Fields sings to Billy about taking him down 'cause she's going to...well, herself. Then proceeds to elaborate, not making one whit of sense.

Anyone who's ever seen the Gibb brothers together on a TV talk show knows how self-deprecating and engagingly funny they can be. On one such program, when asked to come up with Spice Girl-type names for themselves, they answered: Beardy Bee Gee, Teethy Bee Gee, and Baldy Bee Gee. They came across as relaxed, quick to laugh, and highly likable. Alas, none of these qualities are in evidence in SPLHCB. Uncomfortable and self-conscious, the constriction of their too-tight costuming seems to transfer to their performances. Granted, none of them are really given characters to play, but Schultz never finds a way to bring out the brothers' natural charm and relaxed rapport. Even their vocal performances sound hemmed-in.
Barry Gibb wardrobe malfunction in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 1978
Positively Ripping
Gibb is bustin' out all over in this shot reminding us that wearing those form-fitting
disco shirts of the '70s (fine for dancing The Hustle) came at a risk
Frampton mostly looks uncomfortable and seems like he wishes Andy Gibb would step in at any moment and take his place. (He never really recovers from how he's introduced in the film: wearing a pink shirt under stark-white, tapered overalls embroidered with a big red flower and the name "Billy"…he looks like the world's tallest, lankiest toddler.) But, of course, I do love the scene where he's supposed to be distraught, and tears stream down his face from his temples and forehead.
Paul Nicholas as Dougie Shears and Dianne Steinberg as Lucy plot their getaway with Heartland's cash
Dianne Steinberg and Paul Nicholas make a fun pair of double-crossers.
Too bad 
the over-busy script never allows their villainy to take root.

As much as it pains me to admit it, there was a time I really loved this movie (I still do, but I'm speaking of a time when I actually enjoyed it unironically). In my defense, SPLHCB was released a mere four weeks after I'd moved to LA, and I was still heady with the degree of hoopla Tinseltown could unleash when promoting a movie. The publicity push for SPLHCB was enormous, and it was hard not to get swept up in the circus-like atmosphere. In the summer of 1978, disco was king, the Bee Gees were riding high on the phenomenon of Saturday Night Fever (it had opened a mere six months earlier), Frampton was all over the radio, and Steve Martin was THE up-and-coming comic sensation.
A Sunset Strip billboard for Sgt. Pepper overlooks Tower Records
(also visible is an ad for a Steve Martin comedy album and for the band KISS,
an early casting consideration for the Future Villain Band in SPLHCB
I saw the film the day it opened at the Pacific Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. Thinking back, it's remarkable to think I had to stand in line to get in. The hyped-up audience was really in the spirit and they laughed loudly and readily. Applause even broke out when Billy Preston made his appearance.   
Billy Preston as Sergeant Pepper
Billy Preston as Sergeant Pepper (the weather vane, anyway)
Having grown up in a household with a dyed-in-the-wool Beatle maniac (my older sister), I always loved the music but didn't revere it to the degree that I had a problem with other artists having a crack at it. To this day, Sandy Farina's rendition of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" is my favorite cover of the song. And I thought Aerosmith's version of "Come Together" was a major improvement on the original.
Steven Tyler and Aerosmith as FVB - Future Villain Band
Steven Tyler and Aerosmith as Future Villain Band
The theater was packed that first day, but by the time I saw the film for the 3rd time that summer, the house was nearly empty. As the years have gone by, the new-kid-in-town veil has lifted from my eyes, leaving me aghast that I had once found this largely clumsy enterprise in shameless commerce so entertaining. Happily, its plentiful cons have since morphed into pros, rendering SPLHCB so-bad-it's-good status in perpetuity.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 1978
Careers and reputations were decimated by the film's flop reception, but by all accounts
the cocaine flowed freely, so at least I hope everyone involved enjoyed a splendid time.

Filmmaker Michael Schultz was Robert Stigwood's first choice to direct the film Grease. When hired for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Schultz became the first African-American to helm a big-budget musical. Unfortunately, his feature film career took a hit when SPLHCB flopped so tremendously, taking several other careers with it). But Schulz continues to work steadily in television and, in 1991, was inducted into The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 1978
One of two prop trumpets created for the film by Dominic Calicchio is housed at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD. An eBay auction purchase donated by Allan R Jones. (Image:

Dianne Steinberg and Sandy Farina Album Covers
The solo albums by Dianne Steinberg (1977) and Sandy Farina (1980) 
failed to cause much of a ripple in the music industry 

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - 1978
Standing 6'3" and made of plaster over a fiberglass frame,
 the Sgt. Pepper weather vane was sold at auction for $1,265 in 2012.  
Your patience for making it to the end of the film is rewarded by a WTF? cluster of "stars" from all walks of the '70s entertainment industry spectrum gathered to recreate the cover of the Sgt. Pepper Album. 

Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 -  2019


  1. Oh my gosh... I have been dying to (threatening to) profile this movie for years and never got around to it. There's no reason to now! Your spot-on assessment and HILARIOUS references render any further attempts moot. You even captured one of my favorite moments of lunacy (when the boys are taking Farina's coffin down the steps as the soundtrack blares, "you're gonna carry that weight..."!!) I couldn't help cackling at the Sid and Marty Krofft and variety show comparisons.

    I was eleven when this came out and didn't see it. In fact, I was in my mid-30s before ever seeing it!! My jaw, needless to say, hit the floor. I picked up the DVD later and a friend of mine and I BROKE my DVD player from repeatedly watching the finale in super-slow motion, trying to pick out and name each star as they went through the ridiculous posturing and "choreography." I still scream with laughter over the enthusiasm that Helen Reddy was demonstrating (and there is, of course, our recently deceased Carol Channing in there swinging, too!) As an example of how lackadaisical the whole thing was, I was told by Margaret Whiting's daughter Debbi that her mother was in L.A. shopping with a friend when someone casually asked her if she'd like to be in the finale of SPLHCB and she was basically like, "Okay, what the hell..." but then after standing there for take after take lip-synching to the prerecorded number she grew bored and wandered off! LOLOL

    I was too young to know or appreciate The Beatles in their years together as a band, though I can appreciate their legendary place in music history, so The Bee Gees' take on their songs never bothered me the way it did many others. I think their harmony is so wonderful it actually takes some of the music to a new level. I was never too hot on the other "vocalists" in the movie like George Burns, Steve Martin, those hideous robots and even Alice Cooper, but I do agree that Earth, Wind & Fire, Aerosmith and even Ms. Farina acquitted themselves well.

    Thanks for the hooty take on this crazed film.

    1. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a long time, too. Once it came out in Blu-ray (who’d a thunk it?) I couldn’t resist.
      However, my piece on it just scrapes the cocaine-dusted surface of all the nuttiness this film contains. And we share a fondness for that misguided musical cue accompanying Strawberry’s burial party! When I watched the film with my sister she cracked up when the pall bearers began walking down the steep stairs of the bandstand. Poor Strawberry is practically on her head at this point and my sister imagined her corpse sliding grotesquely forward in the glass coffin.

      Much like with Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music, Sgt. Pepper seems to play pretty well with little kids today. These films are a vision of a crazier, unfamiliar world.

      I laugh at the idea of your breaking your DVD player replaying that Heartland finale! What an atrociously edited bit that is! They gather all those wildly divergent “stars” and then the camera swoops around like it’s been strapped to a frisbee. The camera lingers far too long on some folks (Connie Stevens, Tina Turner, Carol Channing, and the way too into it Helen Reddy) and those on the end get little to no coverage. Then someone puts the 7-foot-tall actor who played Mr. Mustard’s henchman in front of some poor lost folks in the last row. Your Margaret Whiting story confirms everyone’s suspicions: they simply asked anyone who was free that day.
      Also, isn’t that the worst rendition of Sgt. Pepper to have some of these rock greats sing to? They sound like those nondescript singers who used to accompany those nightmarish Ice Vanities sequences on The Donny & Marie Show.

      By the way, thanks for reminding me that, independent of their not having much onscreen pizazz, The Bee Gees did have lovely harmony.
      Thanks, Poseidon! And by the way, the tribute to Carol Channing on your site was really wonderful.

  2. When I was a teenager and starting to get an obsession with watching really bad movies, I tried a couple times to watch this all the way, failing both times. The furthest I got was Sandy Farina's embarrassingly literal performance of "Strawberry Fields Forever."

    It has always amused me that Olivia Newton-John turned down both this film and later, CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC to eventually star in XANADU. Talk about a real lose-lose situation! All roads lead to shit. (However, I do share your affection for XANADU, so yeah.)

    Great write-up, as always.

    P.S. What did you think of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE? I remember really enjoying that one when I saw it on DVD at the time it came out, but I haven't watched it since.

    P.P.S. This podcast I used to listen to talked about this film in one of their episodes (in the same episode, they also talked about CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC and SKATETOWN, U.S.A., so you can imagine what kind of movie podcast it was, sort of) and they made a small critical error in their talk-up, but it has me convinced: if I ever get my hands on the RICK AND MORTY portal gun, I want to go to an alternate timeline where a version of this movie exists featuring 82-year-old George Burns singing "When I'm Sixty-Four."

  3. Hi Joel
    Seems there comes a point in the life of every bad film aficionado where they have to decide what makes a film so awful you can’t stop watching it vs. what makes a film so awful you can’t get through it (I’m facing that now with the 1977 disaster movie “Tentacles” …I stopped watching it hallway and don’t yet know if I care to resume).

    After the success of Grease, it IS a shame that Olivia Newton John was in demand, but was offered only a Grinch-like assortment of three films to choose from (stink, stank, stunk). I’m sure it made sense that she accepted the film which provided her with the least-subordinate role, but that also meant she had to carry the film (and face the critical brickbats) on her own. I’ve never seen the film ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, maybe it’s worth a look?
    And re: the podcast, you mean the speakers made the mistake and said it was George Burns who sang “When I’m Sixty-Four”? HA! I’m with you…it actually would have been a riotously funny (and too witty for this film) to hand the famously ancient actor the song. A cleverer director could have done something very wry with it.
    (By the way, I had to Google "Rick & Morty"... how did I not ever hear of this show?)
    Joel, I’m happy you liked the piece and I’m grateful for your taking the time to read and comment. From one Xanadu fan to another.

  4. Ken!! You have perfectly captured the strange appeal of this movie which has always been a guilty pleasure. So splashy and messy and all over the place visually, have to give props to a lot of the musical numbers...there really were some great Beatles covers in there by Frampton, Billy Preston, Earth Wind and Fire, Aerosmith and of course the harmonic perfection of The Bee Gees. Barry was so fine!!!

    You are right, this mess of a movie doesn’t hold a candle to a filmic and musical masterpiece like Ken Russell’s Tommy, but it is engaging in a goofy way. I even liked farina and Steinberg, though no one ever heard from them again.

    I didn’t seek it out, but the minute I saw this dvd in the bargain bin years ago, I snapped it up lickety split and have forced multiple people to watch it with me. I have seen this one even more times than Xanadu...and that is saying something.

    Your eclectic taste in film and the wonderful way you write about it gives us LIFE, Ken Anderson! Happy new year!!

    - Chris

    1. Hi Chris
      I guess we all should embrace the bad movies we love, but SGT. PEPPER really does qualify as a guilty pleasure. It’s a movie whose appeal for me is positively baffling. I thought I had tucked it away as one of those movies I liked in my younger days, never needing to be revisited. Then the Blu-ray came out and I fell for its kitschy charm all over again.
      Like you, I thought hairy Bee Gee was attractive (my sister’s name for Barry Gibb), but I might have been swayed by that blow-dry hair sculpture on his head. I also see eye to eye with your fondness for Steinberg and Farina, they have good voices and really aren’t bad in my book, even though some society saw fit to nominate Steinberg for a worst supporting actress award at the time.
      I’m impressed you’ve seen this film more times than XANADU! If you tell me you’ve seen ROLLER BOOGIE more times than XANADU, I may have to stage an intervention.

      Thank you for reading this and commenting, Chris. That our tastes so often intersect perhaps helps to convince other readers I’m not really as “out there” as my eclectic choices of movies may suggest. Happy New Year to you, too!

  5. "(Billy Preston as the apotheosis of the Magical Negro trope)" made me spit-take. That's how I'm always going to think of him in this role now.

    It's so great to read your take on this. SPLHCB came out when I was 12 and hopelessly infatuated with Baldy Bee Gee (Maurice). Thus I can't really separate my perceptions today from those I had as a kid, apart from now being able to both recognize AND appreciate what utter dreck it was on so many levels. Apart from a few obvious clunkers, I still like the music a lot, in some cases just as much as the Beatles originals (though this film introduced me to a lot of their catalog because my brother only had the two blue and red compilation albums). In some cases, like "Oh! Darling," I like the remake better than the original! Ditto re: Earth, Wind and Fire (who I already was fangirling over there in the late 70's). I remember wishing they had done more than one song.

    I only know Paul Nicholas a little bit--remember "Heaven on the Seventh Floor"?--but this last time I rewatched SPLHCB a few years ago, I was struck by how good he was in this. A fine performer who made the best of the lousy material he was handed. However, I can only plead no perspective when it comes to the Brothers Gibb: they made me giggle and sigh over Maurice, then and now.

    You may be amused to learn that I was scared of Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper in this film. Hey, I was just a kid...

    Thanks as always for your trademark witty and insightful commentary. I do apologize that it's taken me seven months to finally respond!

    1. Hi Liliana
      So fun reading about your fondness for SPLHCB as a young'n'. I would imagine a movie like this would be quite perfect for a 12-year-old, and I can understand the the crushes, the fear of Alice Cooper (scary at any age) and Steven Tyler (a baddie, but also threateningly sexy...for a pre-teen, anyway), and the way the music has endured for you. A former client of mine saw this when she was a little girl and it became her #1 favorite film--inspiring her to start a SPLHCB movie tribute website.
      But I find your enduring infatuation with Bee Gee Maurice is very sweet.
      I agree with you that some of the songs hold up, and in some instances, are better than the original.
      I do remember Paul Nicholas' "Heaven on the 7th Floor" ( even had that album) and knew him as the pop singer before I ever saw him in Ken Russell's TOMMY and LISZTOMANIA. He IS pretty good here.
      Though it's hard to find a copy, if it ever shows up on TV, I'd recommend you watch him in the 1972 suspense thriller "What Became of Jack and Jill?"
      The nicest takeaway from your comment is that the appeal the Brothers Gibb has for you hasn't really waned over the years, and that the film has staying power as far as lifelong crushed go.
      Pleased you enjoyed the post, and I'm grateful to receive a comment post from you anytime! Thank you!

  6. got me to pull out my dvd of this one for a revisit. I didn't see it for the first time until the early 2000s, and I have very fond memories of a close friend of mine getting me really stoned to watch. The film itself is a bit of a slog due to it's two hour runtime, but that ending reprise with all of the random celebrities is worth the price of admission. During that first viewing I was laughing so hard I couldn't keep my eyes open...and every time they did reopen, I'd see another ridiculous face and my laughing fit got worse! Dame Edna put me over the edge of no return.

    The film strikes me as one I would have rewatched a lot if it had caught it on cable in the early 80s as a pre-teen. As an adult I can see why I haven't watched it more. On this last viewing I was taken with how much pot smoking there is going on for a "family-friendly" film aimed primarily at teenagers. Oh, the 70's. And speaking of that decade and it's fondness for tight fitting clothes (as you pointed out), I was amused at the final freeze frame when the four leads all raise their arms, which also raises their marching band style coats, revealing the bulges in their shiny mylar-esque pants....which are all noticeable even from the large distance with the sun reflecting off of each of them. If it was a closer shot your pal Poseidon would probably include it in one of his bulge-centric posts.

    When the PG rating came on the screen before it started, stating "some material may not be suitable for children", all I could think was "some material may ONLY be suitable for children."

  7. It sounds as though you got more enjoyment out of SGT PEPPER than a lot of audiences in 1978. (I can't believe I've never seen a movie high before. I grew up in the era that invented it!)
    Like XANADU, SGT PEPPER is one of those movies that plays better if you see it as a child or pre-teen. As an adult, you're assaulted by much of what you refer to (the pot smoking, the uncomfortably tight clothes, the camp elements) and its solid-state '70s-ness becomes all the film is about.
    I'm with you in finding that final Pepperland sing-along among the most fun parts of the film. Very frustratingly edited (so many folks on the peripheries and top tiers fail to get any camera time, others get far too much) I wish they had included a featurette on the filming of that scene. From what little I've read, being high played a significant role in pulling the whole event off.
    But your final paragraph is perfection in summing up the teeter-totter charms of this disco-era meets the Fab Four curio.
    Thank you very much for your delightful contribution to this comments section.

  8. Ha ha! It took ME three viewing to realize what a piece of crap it was. I even had the soundtrack album. But when I got the original 'Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums, I never listened to it again. I threw it out.

    One of the worst movies ever, indeed, but it's the best movie to ever feature Alice Cooper dunking his face in a pie - TWICE! :-D And those ballerina mimes in the circus parade are SO hot! ;-)

    Funny you should a picture of the Sunset Strip Tower Records store with pictures of the Kiss solo albums in the window - that was the OTHER big rock disaster of 1978.

    If you go to my blog at and search "Sgt. Pepper movie" (sorted by relevance), you'll find plenty of posts on this topic. I've written about the film as a way of exorcising the demons that came from having seen it.

    1. You at least saw it at the appropriate age! And I'd forgotten about the 1978 KISS-Hanna Barbera collaboration. Yikes.
      I still find SPLHCB to be a film I can watch every now and then, but it really requires friends to watch with and poke fun at, and it calls out for the MST3K treatment. I look forward to checking out your blog, not many places have devoted much space to SGT PEPPER! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. Your observation that the film has a real Sid and Marty Krofft vibe might explain a few things. I was a bit shy of 8 when this film came out and liked it in that wholehearted way kids will like weird things... and let's face it, things like the Krofft Supershow and The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Hour were undoubtedly part of my childhood media diet (though I'll be damned if I can actually remember anything about them!)

    1. Those Krofft variety shows! Catching glimpses of them on YouTube is like a look into the mind of Timothy Leary crossed with Salvador Dali.
      Over the years I've met several people who first saw this when they were children and wholly unfamiliar with the music of The Beatles. My sense is that the film plays perfectly to that demographic. As you say, it has the right amount of "weird."