The Set of 400: #218 – My Favorite Feel-Around Theater

Today! Because I’m not wearing any pants – film at 11 –

The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Directed by John Landis (x2)

Starring Donald Sutherland (x5), Henry Gibson (x2), Bill Bixby, George Lazenby, Victoria Carroll, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Barry Dennen, Marilyn Joi, Tony Dow, Manny Perry, Stephen Stucker, Michael McManus (x2)

The earliest of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker films – albeit one they didn’t direct, The Kentucky Fried Movie, just by the nature of the film, is hugely hit and miss. Instead of wrapping sight gags and shocking jokes around a plot – like Airplane!, Top Secret!, or Police Squad! – they got their start with an 83-minute bundle of movie and commercial parodies, surrounding the main feature concept “A Fistful of Yen,” which is the one bit that goes on far too long and delivers the lowest payoff.

But The Kentucky Fried Movie is more funny than not across its run time, and has always tickled me. I’ll admit – I’ve still never seen The Groove Tube, often credited with creating this feature length concept of a collection of sketches, so for me, KFM has always been the gold standard. From the wacky newscaster teasing the nightly broadcast – “Rams plagued by fumbles as earthquakes rock Los Angeles. Film at eleven.” – to the thrilling features of Samuel L. Bronkowitz – “If you were thrilled by The Towering Inferno, if you were terrified by Earthquake, Then you will be SCARED SHITLESS at the Samuel L. Bronkowitz production of That’s Armageddon!” – I’ve always really liked most of this movie, which I know is a weird endorsement.

The mark of quality!

The crass vulgarity works for me – it’s done in a somewhat amateur, but still solidly timed comedic way – but this movie isn’t aging terrible well. Lots of gay jokes, black jokes, and again, the crazy overlong kung fu parody thing – this doesn’t help. Sure, it’s of the era and all that, but it’s hard to defend these manner of mean-spirited racist/homophobic jokes, no matter what the era’s intent might’ve been. Lots of comedies from the time feature these sorts of gags – which doesn’t allow them any significant lasting power, and probably rightfully so. Other ZAZ flicks have aged better – probably because they worked around a central theme and didn’t need to reach for laughs from all directions – but they wouldn’t have gotten to Airplane! without The Kentucky Fried Movie, warts and all.

No awards! None! And you’d have a hard time selecting an MVP here, given the limited screen time for all participants, so I’m going to go with Best Fitting Credits Theme – a comic version of the 1930’s song “Carioca,” which itself was nominated for Best Song in 1934 from the movie Flying Down to Rio. It may be the most memorable part of the film for me, for whatever reason.

Landis becomes the 31st Two-Timer director, following his segment of #331 Twilight Zone: The Movie, while Henry Gibson and Michael McManus join the acting wing after their respective roles in #325 Gremlins 2 and #338 Poltergeist.But the spotlight today goes to Donald Sutherland, only the seventh inductee to the Five-Timers so far! #396 MASH, #289 The Hunger Games, #357 JFK, #283 Beerfest, and now this! That’s a disparate group of movies right there!

Classic Alex in Wonderland Sutherland!

Coming tomorrow! What am I doing? I’m quietly judging you –

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