July 24, 1978: Sgt. Pepper’s Movie Opens

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The album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is unanimously recognized as an artistic triumph. The movie of the same name, which opened on July 24, 1978? Not so much.

The Brothers Gibb and Peter Frampton

The Brothers Gibb and Peter Frampton

Conceived and produced by music mogul Robert Stigwood, manager of the Bee Gees, with Peter Frampton‘s manager Dee Anthony serving as executive producer, the film was intended to cash in on the success of both acts. The former group had enjoyed huge sales with their soundtracks to Saturday Night Fever and Grease. The latter artist had recently shot to superstardom with his Frampton Comes Alive album. Bestselling hard rockers Aerosmith were cast as the film’s villains.

Related: Bee Gees and Cream manager Robert Stigwood died in 2016

Also in the cast: Steve MartinAlice CooperBilly Preston and Earth, Wind & Fire.

A shoe-in box-office success by the power of their popularity and the appeal of Beatles songs from the Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road albums, right?

No. The three brothers Gibb and Frampton were cast as Sgt. Pepper’s Band, yet none of the four had even a smidgeon of acting talent. But that was the least of the movie’s problems. Its plot (as it were) was incomprehensible even with George Burns providing narration. To say that the direction was slipshod is putting it mildly.

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As New York Times critic Janet Maslin pondered in her review: “Is it a film? Is it a record album? Is it a poster, or a T-shirt, or a specially embossed frisbee? Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the ultimate multimedia mishmash, so diversified that it doesn’t fully exist in any one medium at all. This isn’t a movie, it’s a business deal set to music.”

The movie has a 15% positive rating at RottenTomatoes.com.

And a bad deal at that. It cost $18 million to make, grossed only $12+ million in the U.S. (The cost of the cocaine reportedly consumed during its making may rival the film’s budget.) Perhaps coincidentally, the careers of all three acts that starred in the movie soon tanked.

In retrospect, it can’t even be appreciated as a guilty pleasure or high camp. Our Classic Video…

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Best Classic Bands Staff

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The BCB team brings you the latest Breaking News, Contests, On This Day rock history stories, Classic Videos, retro-Charts and more.
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