Director: Alan G. Parker
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Cast: Andre Barreau, Julia Baird, Pete Best, Jenny Boyd, Tony Bramwell, Hunter Davies and Ray Connolly
Written and directed by Alan G Parker, It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond is an unauthorised anniversary documentary depicting the twelve months surrounding the release of the Fab Four’s famous album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band in 1967.
“If you’re studying The Beatles, you’re studying the sixties.”
Such as shame – and pointless task? – to be making a documentary film focusing on one of the greatest albums in the history and not have access to the band’s music and archives! We end up with two hours of talking heads drizzled with few original band interviews and finished with background music by Andre Barreau from The Bootleg Beatles, a tribute band in which he was George.
Sadly the film doesn’t present any fresh interviews with Paul, Ringo or Yoko Ono, instead offering the insights from The Beatles’ fans, Brian Epstein’s secretary and George Harrison’s wife’s sister… there is an in-depth discussion about the album cover and the cover is never showed!
With the highlight being the band’s original drummer Pete Best’s cameo, It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! lacks the excitement and originality an anniversary documentary such as this should have aplenty. The film jumps from the horrors and abuse Fab Four had to sometimes endeavour to their legacy to Brian Epstein’s dying messages left on an answer machine.
However confused it seems, this documentary offers a rich overview of the band’s undeniable influence on the culture of the sixties as well as challenges some stereotypes not the die-hard Beatles fans might believe in; for example, the fact that Paul was more into the arts than John.
At times the documentary does become a little tiresome as it explores minor disagreements within the band in excessive detail; such as Lennon’s disappointment that it was McCartney who was the first to talk about his LSD experiences with press, when he was the first to experiment with it! Or how John drew a get-well card for George Harrison’s wife’s sister………..
Too much information and not enough insight into the actual making of the music.
Picking up where Ron Howard’s The Beatles: Eight Days a Week left off, Alan G Parker’s documentary is shedding an interesting light onto the Fab Four’s influence on popular culture and their personal lives as it puts to a test some common beliefs.
However this two-hour long affair, deprived of the Beatles’ original music or any other artefacts, lands flat quite quickly as we realise there won’t be any revelations making our ears perk up anytime soon. It simply doesn’t do the legacy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band justice.