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Porky’s

***
1981

‘…actually far better than virtue-signalling critics might have you believe…’

‘Take your moral turpitude and stick it up your old gazoo, Beulah!’ shrieks Kim Cattrall’s character in Bob Clark’s super-hit comedy from 1981, playing a role that feels like it could be the teenage Samantha from Sex in the City. It’s probably the best line from a film that was the US number one movie for an astonishing two months. But Porky’s hasn’t proved to be a permanent fixture in the movie firmament in the way the say Animal House or Stripes has, both huge hits blighted by a similar strain of populist misogyny. A 50p find in a bargain bin, I felt compelled to investigate whether Porky’s was worth a visit in 2020.

Clark’s film comes between amongst his cult hits, Black Christmas, Murder by Decree and A Christmas Story, and takes a lead from American Graffiti and Animal House by harking back to the excesses of teenage boys and their tiresome pranks in the 1950’s. The ‘where were you in ’62 vibe’ is nostalgic, but what Porky’s offered was a new explicitness, with a series of sex-gags which range from the primitive to the ingenious. There’s probably barely a minute of nudity in the entire film, mostly male rather than female, and it’s fairly tame by today’s standards, but the fresh approach made it a rites of passage for young men back in the day.

The famous voyeur/shower scene is part of a comic sub-plot here; the main narrative concerns a feud between the college boys and the owner of Porky’s, a seedy establishment in which some form of prostitution is involved. The teenagers are desperate for their first experience of sex, but when the older man frustrates their ambitions, they launch a series of pranks that eventually leads to Porky’s getting demolished and sinking into the swamp.

I cam to scoff at Porky’s, often mentioned as one of the worst blockbuster movies ever made, but it’s actually far better than virtue-signalling critics might have you believe. Clark is no idiot, nor does the film settle for the juvenile level of the protagonists; the boys desire for sex constantly backfires, and the girls seem to be enjoying the banter. While the gags are crude, some of them land; a scene in which their PE teacher attempts to convince authorities to launch a search for an assailant identified only by his genitals is cleverly conceived.

While not endorsing the antics depicted here, it’s odd that Porky’s is erased from cinematic history now when Animal House is not; it’s got a more genial nature, has better comic highlights, and depicts male stupidity as part of a wider social pattern of idiocy. It’s not one for the Smithsonian, but there’s a creative edge here that’s just about worth sitting through some objectionable attitudes and behaviour.

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  1. I’m pretty sure I caught the tail end of this where the building falls into the swamp. Was there a guy in a bus who got a condom that was too big?

    And that level of comedy and subject matter is why I’ll not watch this. Looking forward to a hate-watch 🙂

  2. Hm. Blood Harvest and now Porky’s. You’re on a Canadian content binge aren’t you? And you’re starting right at the top. You must be getting reviews of Goin’ Down the Road, Strange Brew, and Highway 61 ready.

    Speaking of national cinema, when is your next appearance on Radioo Scootland? Or are you going to start a podcast?

    • Same here, and yet for one of the most popular comedies ever made, it’s absolutely forgotten about these days.

      • Life has definitely changed a lot since then so it’s a rea snap shot of that era. I might give it a revisit now. Another classic I was thinking about the other day was “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” a real funny comedy but it would never get made today. Funny, as I think comedy is the one medium that can make us all laugh at ourselves.

        • I think Porky’s justified a second look, the sequel not so much. It’s been a very unpopular review to post, I guess because it’s far from what people want to see today. See No Evil is another good example of a smahs at the time that doesn’t tick today’s boxes. But I fully agree that it’s a shame that comedies seem to have a short shelf-life, and fashion makes them outmoded very quickly. A quick look at Twitter will give you all the offencive content you need in 2020…

  3. Can’t believe it even cost 50p when it has, as you point out, been erased even from the bargain bin of cinematic history, and unfairly too since the antics even then were fairly tame. It certainly had a few belly laughs.

    • I bought it for a hate-watch, in a double pack with Porky’s 2, which WAS terrible, but this one wasn’t and I had to grudingly admit that it has some merit…

  4. It was a surprise after all these years that the film has a central issue of racism, and it was nice to see that Clark bothered to invest that in the film. I did somehow miss the adorbs Kim though, not sure why I didn’t notice her.

    • You’ll need your eyes tested, I really like Kim Cattrall, and she makes a big impact here. I’ll be doing porky’s 2 soon, which has a similarly strong anti-racism stance, but the first film works best for me. This is a better film that I’d expected though, and more PC in it’s politics that it’s murky reputation suggests…

  5. There’s a four letter word that is invented for this one🤔🤔 It’s not the most obvious one, as that would be well..a bit reprehensible I guess…so I’m going with erm…N..O…P…E?🤔😊😊 Sorry😅😅

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