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Kentucky Fried Movie 1977 ****

Airplane is generally agreed to be the funniest movie of all time; an inside joke about disaster movies that spoofs clichés without mercy. It launched the ZAZ label (Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker) who would successfully refine their irreverent take on movies and tv through Top Secret!, Police Squad and the Naked Gun franchise. But the Kentucky Fried Theatre started out with this low-brow, often inspired sketch revue, featuring some of the key players who featured in Airplane (Stephen Stucker, Leslie Nielsen) and try-outs for some familiar gags. Lashings of bad taste, nudity and some decidedly non-woke non-PC humour abound; you can edit the more questionable bits out when the good bits hit the heights.

The most celebrated sketch here is A Fistful of Yen, a forty-minute parody of Enter the Dragon that demonstrated that parody could work long form. Loo (Evan C Kim) is a martial-arts expert hired by the US government to infiltrate the hide-out of the nefarious Dr Khlan (Hang-boon Soo), who shows no mercy on his enemies, who are either killed or in more extreme cases, taken to Detroit. He is building a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude, but not one that Loo is able to treat with any gratitude. The gags are thick and fast; ‘I suppose you are anxious to see my operation,’ says Khlan, exposing a small scar on his abdomen. ‘This man is tough and ruthless,’ we’re told of a henchman ‘But this man is rough and toothless!’ And we haven’t yet got to Khlan’s prisoners, some are men whom are ‘lost drunken men who don’t know where they are and no longer care’ while others are ‘…are lost drunken men who don’t know where they are, but do care!’

These are great gags, and not all the best lines are in Fistful of Yen. The parody trailers are also great, from Jewish/blaxplotation rip-off Cleopatra Schwartz (‘Theirs was a love FUELLED by those who said NO!’) to Catholic High School Girls in Trouble (‘and re-creating her famous roll…’) Best of all is disaster movie spoof That’s Armageddon, featuring a looping exchange of dialogue between The Architect and The Nurse, oblivious to the carnage around them.

The Architect: What are you saying?

The Nurse: Leave her… come back to Montana with me.

The Architect: I could no sooner run away from her than myself.

The Nurse: I’m not asking you to run, I’m asking you to face reality!

The Architect: Whose reality, yours or mine?

The Nurse: My reality AND yours, that’s whose!

The Architect: What are you saying?

The Nurse: Leave her! Come back to Montana with me!

The Architect: I could no sooner run away from her than myself!

The Nurse: I’m not asking you to run, I’m asking you to face reality!

The Architect: Whose reality, yours or mine?

The Nurse: My reality AND yours, that’s whose!

The Architect: What are you saying?

Throw in Donald Sutherland as the clumsy waiter, Raymond Burr as a stern courtroom judge, Big Jim Slade and also a interesting sketch about a family board game based on the JFK assassination, one that contains a few tit-bits about Time/Life misusing the Zapruter film that sound worth investigation; libel laws seem to have been no biggie for John Landis’s film. Treatment of racial and sexual matters is not sophisticated here, but humour allows us a certain leeway; Kentucky Fried Movie is still funny in 2020, not least because today’s comedy has become so rough and toothless when it should be tough and ruthless.

The link below is for Amazon’s DVD, but the film was discovered lurking free on Popcornflix when I watched it last week.

 

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  1. It’s surprising to me how well this brand of humour has held up. I still get a laugh out of it.

    Amazon Women on the Moon was Landis’s follow-up to this (without ZAZ) and I still remember lines from it.

  2. I watched the 3 Naked gun movies, but I don’t think I made it through Airplane. from the sounds of it, I suspect this would be too crass for my taste.

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