Director: John Landis
Stars: Evan C. Kim, Bill Bixby, Henry Gibson
Before this film was released, the creators considered two alternative titles, Free Popcorn, and Closed For Remodeling. I’ve chosen to start this review with this fun fact, just so you have a clear understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. This film is pure, unadulterated silliness. Needless to say, exhibitors panicked at the thought of having either one of these misleading titles splashed across their theatre marquees and Jim Abrahams, and David and Jerry Zucker had to settle for The Kentucky Fried Movie.
This is the first film from genius, comedic collaborators Abrahams and the Zucker brothers, who later went on to write such classics as Airplane!, Top Secret, and The Naked Gun. Of course it’s a bit ambiguous to classify The Kentucky Fried Movie as a movie in the traditional sense. There’s no real plot and no central characters to build upon; just a series of random skits born from the trio’s time spent performing as the improvisational troupe known as Kentucky Fried Theatre.
Watching this film is like trying to watch a schizophrenic explain how the chip in his head, implanted by the government to track the number of times he uses the word “socks”, makes the color blue taste like bacon. Both experiences are pretty out there, but hilarious none the less.
Okay, so that was a little politically incorrect toward schizophrenics. But before I start getting a bunch of angry emails from schizophrenics (or any of the little people that reside in their heads), my point was to illustrate that there is nothing politically correct about this movie. The Kentucky Fried Movie’s 1977 R rating would today garner nothing short of an NC-17 for its nudity, sexual situations, racism, sexism, and any other category that may be considered offensive, but secretly [admit it] makes us laugh when amongst our closest friends.
This movie showcases a parade of parodies, from AM News shows and commercials, to coming attractions and classroom educational films. But the highlight of the film is the brilliant homage to kung fu movies in a spoof entitled, A Fistful of Yen. Evan C. Kim delivers a dead-on impersonation of Bruce Lee whose character Loo is recruited by the UK government to infiltrate the mountain fortress of the evil overlord, Dr. Klahn (Bong Soo Han). To fill the roles of the hundreds of followers at Klahn’s compound, director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London) hired students from competing martial arts schools. In the short’s climactic fight scene, some of the students got so caught up in the moment, they actually started a real fight.
At the time Variety magazine described The Kentucky Fried Movie as “juvenile and tasteless”. And they’re right, but in that Family Guy way that dares to say the things that today’s uptight, PC culture frowns upon. Sure, a few of the jokes fall flat and some are even a bit outdated, but there’s enough silly goodness to warrant a fun movie night with friends. So check out this frivolous flick that has no idea how to take itself seriously; and find out why, to break the tension in stressful situations, to this day I still yell, “Toy Robot!”