The Kentucky Fried Movie Jul 12, 2019 15:03:51 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 12, 2019 15:03:51 GMT -5
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
Directed by: John Landis
Directed by: John Landis
Evan C. Kim plays a Bruce Lee lookalike during the tentpole sketch in The Kentucky Fried Movie.
Prior to the eminently popular Naked Gun and Scary Movie franchises, both staples of feature-length parody movies for their respective generations, and even predating the comedy classic Airplane!, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (ZAZ) collaborated to write their first film, The Kentucky Fried Movie. It was hardly an easy feat. The trio's first attempt to turn their second-tier stage-show "Kentucky Fried Theater" into a film was met with hard no's from studios. They reached out to a real estate investor, who expressed interest in financing the picture if they would write a script. Having second thoughts upon the script's completion, he agreed to finance a ten-minute excerpt of the film as a sort of "mock-up." After being shown the snippet, he backed out.
Such a bait-and-switch would've compelled most, and probably myself, if I'm being honest, to abandon the project and motivate those involved not to quit my day-job. However, the three men used the same, excited energy they used to make the short to embark on self-financing the full film. They managed to convince up-and-coming director John Landis, "hot" off the "success" of his first film Schlock, to take on duties behind the camera, and thanks to the help of a generous exhibitor and his many wealthy friends, Abrahams and the Zucker brothers got the $650,000 they needed to complete the film you can now view today. It went on to be a marginal success in theaters and a major hit on home video.
With ZAZ's future successes being much larger and more notable, The Kentucky Fried Movie has been relegated to a dated and curious piece of history; an unassuming oddity that served as a launchpad for a motivated trio confident in audience's desire to laugh at the cliches and banalities in media. Its modest 83-minute runtime was a blessing both back then and in the present because the concept of "channel surfing" through the drudgery of cable television isn't one that warrants a length much longer. While the film predated the similar, "Weird Al" Yankovic star-vehicle UHF by more than a decade, it didn't beat the even more forgotten spoof The Groove Tube, and both Saturday Night Live and Monty Python had began their meteoric and still ongoing runs.
The Kentucky Fried Movie is a sketch-comedy effort that pokes fun at the news reels, commercials, coming attractions, and full-length PSAs by distilling their good-natured innocence in search of a raunchier center. For example, there's a trailer for the fictional film "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble" lampooning sexploitation pictures in a way that would give the prolific Jim Wynorski ideas for future projects. Beyond that, there's a news anchor who appears several times throughout the film teasing breaking news stories, such as "the popcorn you're eating has been pissed in" before closing each interstitial with the famous idiom "Film at 11," a classroom-style clip informing you of all the uses of zinc oxide that you take for granted, an Evel Knievel-esque stuntman known as "Danger Seeker" who is seeking danger in an entirely different way, and a two-part courtroom drama unfolding live.
The tentpole sketch that takes up 30 minutes of the film's already brief runtime is "A Fistful of Yen," a parody of Bruce Lee flicks, involving a martial arts master with an Elmer Fudd-voice (Evan C. Kim) taking on the menacing Dr. Klahn (Han Bong-soo) with the aid of the UK government. Where most of the sketches are pleasant in their brevity and swiftness, not to mention sprinkled with appreciable humor, "A Fistful of Yen" painfully drags, and rather than sturdily hold the entire project up with its concept, it flimsily lets it sway and inadvertently makes you question whether or not this picture was necessarily an idea worth investing in.
Thankfully, by the time the "feature" sketch rolls around, The Kentucky Fried Movie has merited enough laughs and smiles to be called a mostly effective comedy. Landis would go on to direct National Lampoon's Animal House, and ZAZ would continue to challenge themselves to make feature-length parodies of popular movie cliches with overarching plots and purposefully caricatured protagonists. The Kentucky Fried Movie flounders in quality and substance when compared to counterparts of the era, let alone what would follow, but as a stepping stone for a talented trio, who helped teach us to laugh at the conveniences we so happily accept in our filmed entertainment, it reflects the dawn of this brand of humor in a charmingly innocuous manner.
Directed by: John Landis.