Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Directed by John Landis.
1977. Rated R, 83 minutes.
Bill Bixby
Donald Sutherland
George Lazenby
Evan C. Kim
Bong Soo Hun
Marilyn Joi
Uschi Digard
Marcy Goldman
Saul Kahan
Tara Strohmeier
Richard Gates
Jeff Maxwell
Jack Baker
Manny Perry

If the nineteen-sixties had thrown off the nation’s cloak of innocence, the seventies found the country disrobing completely. Grindhouse cinema was at its absolute peak. Even porn found mainstream acceptance as people openly flocked to theaters showing Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door. Raunchy comedy became our preferred style of humor. “Blue” comedians like Richard Pryor and George Carlin became superstars. Ushered in by the success of Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” the “not ready for primetime players” of the first season of Saturday Night Live becoming household names was only the next logical step. Despite our seemingly collective attitudes towards the depiction of sex and potty-mouthed comics, a few issues weighed heavy on our minds. The ever escalating Cold War made the threat of nuclear destruction feel imminent. Many of us felt like the leaders of both the Soviet Union and our own USA spent much of the day with their fingers on the proverbial button waiting for the other to give them an excuse to launch their growing arsenals. We were also dealing with a national oil crises which saw gas prices practically multiply. Perhaps things weren’t so different, after all. This is the climate which created The Kentucky Fried Movie.

As you can probably tell by the title, this is not your typical movie. There is no plot, no conflict, no love story, heroes nor villains. TKFM is a collection of skits and faux-movie trailers. Some of it makes what was then very pointed social commentary, a surprising amount of which remains relevant. Some is raunchy and/or silly simply for the sake of being so. Finally, the trailers pay homage to the exploitation flicks that inspired them. Almost all of it will be funny to the right viewer. I fear that those under thirty-five just may not get it unless they have both knowledge of and appreciation for the era. No, being a fan of That 70s Show doesn’t count. So many things seem to be a product of that time they’ve become in-jokes for those of us old enough to remember and young enough not to have forgotten.

Due to the recent spike of the interest in exploitation flicks, the faux movie trailers hold up best. They are so much something either Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez could’ve dreamed up. You’ll likely howl, and possibly be titillated by the “ads” for “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble” and “Cleopatra Schwartz.” Ironically, it’s the movie within the movie that falls most flat. Instead of a trailer, we get a full-blown spoof of Bruce Lee’s most well-known movie, Enter the Dragon. It certainly has its moments. However, clocking in at over twenty minutes, it drags considerably in comparison with the rest of the film’s rapid-fire assault.

The passage of time has made TKFM feel like a love it or hate it affair. Oldheads like me are likely to lap up every minute of it and giggle throughout most of its runtime. Younger folks will likely think parts here and there are hilarious but find it lacking as a whole. They’ll wonder what the big deal is while we admonish them for not knowing.

MY SCORE: 8/10

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