Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band entertained the masses for decades until they passed away, and now there is a new group (Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees) to take their place in the small town of Heartland. As long as the musical instruments of the original band are safe in the town, all will be well, but when the new band are lured away by a big recording contract Mean Mr Mustard (Frankie Howerd) takes the opportunity to steal the instruments and commercialise the town. Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) goes in search of the new Lonely Hearts Club Band to set things right...
If you get tired of people harping on about how brilliant the Beatles are, then this is the film that will make you think they weren't as good as everyone says they were. Essentially a long sequence of cover versions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs (and one George Harrison song), this was devised by producer Robert Stigwood as another moneymaker after Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Unfortunately for everyone involved (and everyone who saw it) the film was a disaster, and the accompanying album swiftly ended up in the bargain bins.
What reallly irks you isn't that the renditions here are awful - most of them are pretty bland - but the way that it's patently wanton avarice dressed up as a fawning tribute. The recurring theme is some kind of sub-Communist bullshit about the simple folks of Heartland being corrupted by big business, as all the while the film producers presumably looked forward to massive profits without even having to compose any new material. The script, written by Henry Edwards, shows our heroes being exploited by exactly the same people who made the movie - the hypocrisy is sickening.
On the screen there are numerous moments of crassness. The original band seem to have been stuffed and preserved in the town hall, where they brandish the instruments. Alice Cooper is Father Sun who leads a cult who look like the Moonies crossed with the Hitler Youth. Steve Martin (in his film debut) turns up to perform "Bang Bang Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and get into a Star Wars style light saber duel with Frampton. Frankie Howerd sings "When I'm 64", accompanied by two creepy robots, to a tied up Farina. Every song is forced in with a crowbar in lieu of any appropriate opportunities.
The look on the huge photograph of Alice Cooper says it all: "Oh dear, I've made a mistake". The film ends morosely with the death of a major character, an excuse to play some sad songs and have Frampton walk down a long and winding road singing "The Long and Winding Road", then contemplate suicide (as you may be doing if you reach that far). The finale sees many music stars singing the title song for the hundredth time, but it all makes William Shatner's version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sound positively reasonable. The only things that are passable are Earth Wind and Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life" and Aerosmith's "Come Together" - the rest, produced by George Martin for kudos, is forgettable at best. But this film must never be forgotten... so that it never happens again. History has given us a warning.