THE LONG, LONG, LONG AND WINDING ROAD
It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper and Beyond
Review by Paul Preston
Imagine a two-hour documentary about The Beatles that features NONE of their music. It…gets pretty long after a while. I remember watching Across The Universe and about two-thirds of the way through I was longing for actual Beatles to sing something, but at least the music was Beatles covers. Having none of the original Fab Four tunes employed in this story of the year and half surrounding their legendary Sgt. Pepper’s album is a real drag.
There is something admirable in the film being engaging here and there considering we never get to soak up the classic songs from that 1967 album, but some of the stories and news clips just aren’t enough to recommend this effort examining an era that’s been over-explored in countless docs. The most engaging moment is an interview with former Beatle Pete Best, who is genuinely touched at how he is represented in the classic Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. Another good get is John Lennon’s sister, Julia. Honestly, I don’t remember anything enlightening that she said, but having her involved seems pretty inner circle for a doc that can’t get the music involved. Then again, a real inner circle get would be getting McCartney or Ringo to say something. Their lack of involvement unfortunately strengthens the “fan film” aura of this doc.
The press footage in this film is Lennon-centric and the film is better for it. Long stretches of him pontificating are entertaining, but in my movie-a-day viewing cycle, I recently saw A Hard Day’s Night and got to know more about the mop tops than I did here. I also recently saw Nowhere Boy and got a little used to being soaked in Beatles. Again, without the music or the surviving band members themselves, It Was Fifty Years Ago Today… is a let down.
Eight Days a Week would be the much-more-lauded prequel of sorts (unaffiliated) that deals with the touring years that preceded the studio years where The Beatles cranked out Sgt. Pepper’s and more. I’ll have to make that next on my list.
Directed by: Alan G. Parker
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Run Time: 114 Minutes
Distributor: The Orchard