I’ve never seen the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which came out in 1978. The movie was directed by Michael Schultz, whose best-known movies are probably Cooley High and Car Wash, both of which are pretty good. Considering the inescapable Britishness of the Beatles and especially Sgt. Pepper, the cast of Sgt. Pepper’s LHCB is simply an extended head-scratcher, with few Britons (Peter Frampton, comedian Frankie Howerd, Donald Pleasence and Paul Nicholas) to be found among a group that includes, most prominently, the Bee Gees, George Burns, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Steve Martin and of course, Frampton. (How could Billy SHears not be English?) The real problem with this movie seems to be its essential California-ness, as it was clearly conceived poolside at a Hollywood bungalow by some coked-up asshole who had never once pondered the lonely existence of Eleanor Rigby.
Late-era Beatles songs didn’t exactly lack for colorful characters, and the people behind the movie crammed a bunch of them in there, including Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Mr. Kite, Billy Shears, and the eponymous sergeant (all from the album), as well as Maxwell (of “Silver Hammer” fame), Mean Mr. Mustard, and, erm, “Strawberry Fields,” none of whom have anything to do with the album. How they neglected to find someone to embody Lovely Rita, who is just begging to be turned into a mesmerizingly gorgeous movie character, I’ll never know. Rather than recruit Bungalow Bill, Polythene Pam, Desmond and Molly, Sexy Sadie, my dear Martha, or Rocky Raccoon, the movie features several wholly invented characters like B.D. Brockhurst, played by Donald Pleasence, and Billy Shears’ brother, whose name is Dougie Shears. (This is the guy that really gets me. THERE ARE NO “DOUGIES” IN THE BEATLES CANON!!!)
Over the weekend, I spotted a trading card with Steve Martin from early in his career, and the caption read “Dr. Maxwell Edison” and I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out who the fuck that was supposed to be—my best guesses were the protagonist of The Man with Two Brains (actual name: Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr) and the sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors (actual name: Dr. Orin Scrivello). That led me to the usual bout of Internet research, through which process I learned that Donruss released a set of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band trading cards in 1978, the same year the movie came out.
From the vatange point of nearly 40 years after the movie came out, every card really reads as a devastating critique of the movie; in essence the entire set is an extended series of exhibits as to why the movie sucks. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
A Beatles fan is hunting down all the original photos from the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ cover
Puddin’ Pops: Bill Cosby covers ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’
‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles