THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE turned up in 1977 as the first flick done by the team who’d go on to give us Airplane! and The Naked Gun, brothers David & Jerry Zucker and their childhood pal Jim Abrahams. Direction was entrusted to 26-year-old John Landis, who’d been hustling away in the industry, in various capacities, for 11 years. His one previous director credit was a spoof called Schlock; done on a budget of $60,000 it achieved minor cult status. His next after ‘Kentucky‘ was National Lampoon’s Animal House; the writing trios was Airplane! Careers bloomed.
Like 1974s hit The Groove Tube, this is an anthology gagfest, composed of 21 sketches of varying length and quality. Running 83 minutes, it’s more upscale than the earlier picture, at $650,000 costing three times as much, with the most elaborate segment, a parody of Enter The Dragon titled “A Fistful Of Yen” running a little over a half hour. Not nearly as successful as ‘Groove‘, its nonsense still managed to tickle enough funnybones to gross $7,000,0000, ranking 73rd on the years slate. *
Accent is on sex, of one sort or another, and most of the stuff is pretty puerile. With tags like “Catholic High School Girls In Trouble”, “Household Odors”, “United Appeal For The Dead” and “Cleopatra Schwartz”, promise lurked, but it’s mostly squandered. Ever dump coke on a white rug? The best is “A Fistful Of Yen”, with Evan Kim doing a riff on Bruce Lee, but at 31 minutes, the joke runs into the ground. Funnier back in the bong daze, the movie deserves some credit for laying groundwork for future “mockumentary” classics like This Is Spinal Tap and august company.
Showing up as good sports for the bad taste: George Lazenby, Donald Sutherland, Tony Dow, Bill Bixby, Henry Gibson.
* Yet another example of studio heads being oblivious to the obvious. The Zuckers & Abrahams shopped the idea again and again only to be told that “audiences didn’t like movies composed of sketches”. Whoops. Apart from the success of The Groove Tube, the all-knowing suits somehow ignored the $13,700,000 gross from the spoof Tunnel Vision, done just the year before. Hadn’t any of them seen Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Sex ? True, Woody Allen’s 1972 hit, that year’s 13th most popular offering, was way up-register compared to the likes of The Kentucky Fried Movie—and it was consistently funny—but you’d think even dim bulbs would’ve clicked on and seen the green, given the success of the other items.