Movie Talk

‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ lonely and unwatchable movie

Movie Talk

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'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (Photo: Everett Collection/Universal Pictures)

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees recently passed away at the age of 62 after a long fight with cancer.

Back in the late '70s, the Bee Gees could do no wrong. "Saturday Night Fever" (the movie and the soundtrack) was beyond huge. But then, faster than you can say leisure suit, disco became the antithesis of cool. The brothers Gibb went from hip to joke.

Hastening their decline was the incredibly bizarre 1978 train wreck of a movie "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The film starred Robin, Barry, and Maurice Gibb as well as rocker Peter Frampton in a rock opera (or something) loosely based on the iconic Beatles album (judged to be the most important rock album ever by Rolling Stone).

The flick featured the Bee Gees and Frampton performing Beatles tunes and battling it out with Aerosmith and Alice Cooper. George Burns provided narration, and a singing Steve Martin made his feature-film debut.

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And what a debut it was. "Sgt. Pepper" made no sense. When a film relies on George Burns to explain the action to befuddled viewers, you know you're in trouble. Instead of trying to force the Gibbs and Frampton to speak in American accents for their characters, all of their dialogue was simply eliminated and replaced with Burns' narration.

Critics ravaged it. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader called it "indescribably awful." Famed critic Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, "The musical numbers are strung together so mindlessly that the movie has the feel of an interminable variety show." And the hits kept coming.

The plot: The brothers Gibb and Frampton are talented musicians who hit it big. But as their success grows and the money rolls in, the evil music industry tries to steal the band's (magical) instruments and destroy their quaint hometown. "Hamlet" it wasn't. If you're feeling especially nostalgic -- or masochistic -- you can watch the entire movie on Netflix streaming.

But while the movie was a catastrophe, the late Robin Gibb had a hit from the soundtrack with his version of the Beatles' "Oh, Darling." You can see the Brothers Gibb and Frampton perform "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" in the clip below.

[Related: Robin Gibb: He 'Started a Joke' and left us in tears]

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