‘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.