The Groove Tube

THE GROOVE TUBE squeezed and dripped out of the “Who–or What–are We?” hangover from the Nixon Era and the 60s agony & ecstasy upheaval of norms. When this came out in midsummer of 1974, the “long national nightmare” of Watergate was about to end, with Tricky Dick’s resignation in August. His less-dickish replacement stooge, soporific Republican bagman Jerry Ford—that’s President Gerald R. Ford, if you’re still uptight—droned out the “nightmare” gargle as if the American Dream had risked curdle from Nixon’s clown cadre of burglars, rather than a decade of poisoning from assassinations, riots and the Vietnam War.

Among those who sensed things were on the stale end of Wonder Bread loaf was former child performer Ken Shapiro, who started mocking the inanity/insanity at colleges in the late 60s and on a New York City-based TV program called Channel One. Taking the format to feature length, co-writing the script with Lane Sarasohn, spunging up $200,000, Shapiro directed, and appeared in six different parts among the 18 sketches that make up the Groove.

He struck a nerve. The Young & the Stoned showed up in droves, laying down $27,900,000, a sum that saw this the 19th most-seen motion picture of 1974. Watching again, 46 years and dozens of battle scars later, it’s safe to say the best audience for this once-edgy affront to affluent anomie exists in the fragrant weed-clouds of memory.

Some still works: “The Dawn Of Man” parodies the ape-opener of 2001: A Space Odyssey; “Kramp TV Kitchen”, sending up cooking shows, hilariously depicts the making of a ‘Heritage Loaf’; “Butz Beer” is a goofy commercial poking at macho advertising. Yes, this is the movie with a talking penis “Safety Sam”, providing a message about V.D.  “Just You, Just Me”, with Shapiro’s impressively frenzied dance jag on the streets of New York will summon a smile.

As ‘Koko the Clown’ says “It seems a boy from Newton let his parents stay in the room during “make belief time”, or at least it was his mother, because she called the station, and it’s a good thing the management doesn’t watch the show, because they thought it was a prank call. Now, I am only mentioning this to tell you that, really, it’s very important that you make sure the big people leave the room during “make belief time”, because, if you don’t do that the management will catch on to what we’re doing, and we’ll have to go off the air and I won’t be able to take your requests and so on. So, really, please, it’s very important, make sure the big people leave the room during “make belief time”, okay?”

Dud bits include “The Hitch Hiker”, “Food For Thought”, “Wasted” and “International Sex Games”.

Making his feature bow is comedian Richard Belzer, who shows up, energetically, in four segments. Chevy Chase also makes his feature film debut. Mercifully, the dated foolishness only lasts for 75 minutes.

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