Sketch comedy movies became a bit of a rage in the time after the ratings were instituted and before HBO came to cable boxes. Why would people go see a movie that was a series of sketches that weren’t connected? Because the comedy could be R-rated. They could be raunchy, cuss and show nudity without fear of censor. These movies could show all the good stuff that wouldn’t make the cut on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Groove Tube was made for barely $200,000 and grossed $20 million back in 1974. That’s nearly $100 million in today’s movie ticket price. There was an audience for the outlandish. Naturally this bang for the buck film resulted in numerous attempts to cash in. Many of them were extremely weak with burlesque era humor peppered with nudity to fill the gaps that lacked laughs. The Kentucky Fried Movie stood out since it had true comic talent as the creative brain trust of John Landis, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. It proved to be a deep fried delight amongst a lot of burnt cinematic offerings.
The movie spoofs movies and TV shows. “A.M. Today” is a fine send up of morning news shows that become trainwrecks thanks to clueless reporters. This newscast has a bad remote sound and out of control segment based around a visit from the zoo keeper. “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble” delivers all the scandalous action associated with such a title. Russ Meyer supervixen Uschi Digard gets the best role of the fake trailer with her shower stall aerobics. “See You Next Wednesday in Feel-a-Round” takes movie audiences to the experience what comes after 3-D. A theater goer gets to become a part of the action thanks to a hands-on usher. “The Wonderful World of Sex” is the perfect spoof of a romance record. A couple does their best to keep up with the narrator’s tips on how to create the perfect naughty evening. There’s even a back up plan if a partner can’t perform. What’s extremely important to note about this segment is John-Anthony Bailey as the guy eager for love. While not a household name, he integrated Happy Days as Sticks, the drummer. He would also star in Sid and Marty Krofft’s Wonderbug. When his career hit a dry patch, he entered the world of adult cinema. He kept his pants on and acted in a majority of his X-rated movies. Perhaps this sketch eased him into working for Gregory Dark?
“A Fistful of Yen” is the centerpiece sketch of the production. The spoof of Enter the Dragon appears halfway through the film and takes up 31 minutes of the 83 minute running time. A Bruce Lee wannabe (Evan C. Kim) gets hired by the government to investigate the island controlled by Dr. Klahn (Bong Soo Han). What is the evil plan about to be unleashed on the world? John Landis brings out the mayhem in the numerous comical fights. While “A Fistful of Yen” is a perfect spoof when played by itself, it throws off the tempo of The Kentucky Fried Movie. It’s too long when placed between the the quick sketches. “That’s Armageddon” brings back the fast pace with a spoof of disaster trailers. They even throw in George Lazenby (James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) for dramatic purposes. He doesn’t get naked. The overkill action kicks up even more for “Cleopatra Schwartz,” a spoof of Tamara Dobson and Pam Grier movies. “Danger Seekers” sends up the Chuck Connors’ “Thrill Seekers” show with a simple yet death defying stunt.
The Kentucky Fried Movie remains funny even if you don’t have a clue about the movies and TV shows they’re spoofing. You don’t have to have seen Enter the Dragon a dozen times to laugh at the uniformed tour guide inside the evil madman’s lair. The film’s success can be judged by how tue creative team dominated movie comedies for the next few years. Landis brought us National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London. Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker became a triple threat directing team with Airplane!, Top Secret!, Ruthless People and Naked Gun. This was more than a mere cash in for the box office glory of The Groove Tube. The foursome established their careers with the numerous spoofs. The Kentucky Fried Movie remains finger linking good.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer is mostly good. It appears a few sketches might have been shot on 16mm instead of 35mm. They also appear to have captured the spoofs of the news from a video source so there’s a bit of blur to the image. Uschi’s showering scene is a revelation. The audio is mono. The mix is fine to hear all the jokes. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary features John Landis, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and producer Robert K. Weiss. This was taken from the old Anchor Bay DVD. The gang have a fine time recounting how they made the movie on a shoestring.
A Conversation with David and Jerry Zucker is an hour long talk with the brothers while they’re in England. The film lets them recount how they became the Kentucky Fried Theater back in the ’70s.
Original Trailer has mega-producer Samuel L. Bronkowitz letting you know this is the greatest film of his career.
The Kentucky Fried Movie keeps up the laughs after nearly four decades. The shorter sketches still pack a punch. A joke about alternate ways to claim oil remains current humor. While there might be references that have been obscured through time, a majority of the humor remains fresh. The Colonel would be real proud of how his movie has held up.
Shout! Factory presents The Kentucky Fried Movie. Directed by John Landis. Screenplay by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker. Starring: George Lazenby, Donald Sutherland and Bill Bixby. Running Time: 83 minutes. Rated: R. Released: July 2, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Airplane, Animal House, Happy Days, James Bond, John Landis