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It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper and Beyond


Stars: The Beatles Also: Pete Best, Freda Kelly, Simon Napier-Bell, Andy Peebles, Tony Bramwell, Hunter Davies

Director: Alan G Parker

If, unlike me, you can’t get enough of the memorably marketed Fab Four, then Ron Howard’s admirable 2016 documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years must surely have provided a real cinematic high.

The title of this shameless hagiography neatly sums up Parker’s efficiently enough edited assemblage of news footage featuring the Beatles charting the 12 months – from August 1966 to August 1977 – that gave rise to the legendary (their verdict, not mine) Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band which Rolling Stone called “The most important Rock n Roll Record Ever made”

(And surely only a cynic would consider its release to be for commercial reasons so as to cash in on to Paul McCartney’s pointless piratical cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge which also escaped into cinemas this week}.

Slickly aided and abetted by editor Ian Farr, Parker (director of the documentary Monty Python: Almost The Truth), the film uses interesting reality footage covering his subjects doing everything from trying to defuse Lennon’s media-angering claim that The Beatles beat mere religious icons, to travelling around the world accompanied by screaming fans and taking time to ensure that the reputation of their manager-inventor-Svengali Brian Epstein (who committed suicide) is suitably stained, so as to ensure the quartet’s saintly status.

Which is not to say that there isn’t a certain fascination in watching this shameless movie marketing of the Fab Four with newsreel footage intercut with to-camera comments from, among others, Beatles biographers Philip Norman and Ray Connolly, one-time former Apple head Tony Bramwell and former ex-fan cub secretary Freda Kelly and forgotten musician Pete Best.

The line ““At the beginning things were really simple…Let’s just do the thing - make a load of money“ is neatly used to sum up the group’s initial ambition. It could also serve as the reason for a film whose raison d’etre would appear to incite interest and, presumably, contemporary interest in and sales of Beatles’ memorabilia and recordings.

On the way we are treated to comments from such show business icons as Eddie Izzard and Pete Best, along with fascinating footage, as the Beatles blessed the world by touring around it, their close encounters with self-promoting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, along with adventures in Swinging London, the deserved decline and fall of the self-serving Apple Store in London’s West End and close encounters with LSD and the everything-goes time of the Summer of Love.

For Beatles completists, the film will presumably be a must-see.

Those of you who, like me, never had much interest in them even during their cleverly orchestrated prime, can safely miss a movie whose ultimate destiny should surely be as a frequently-repeated late-night time-filler on a minor digital television channel.

Alan Frank

UK 2017. UK Distributor: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment. Colour.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 28 May 2017