The Film: 4/5
At turns raunchy, brilliant, and just plain wrong, The Kentucky Fried Movie is a classic assortment of oddball sketches spoofing everything from local news programs to exploitation movies to television commercials to sexual education primers. The film's creative and commercial success served to launch the careers of director John Landis, at the time known primarily for making the clever monster movie parody Schlock, and writers David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams. The future creators of comedy classics like Airplane! and The Naked Gun had written the screenplay based on a series of skits they had honed for years in their Kentucky Fried Theater improv troupe but could get no studio interest in financing a feature film. They scraped together $35,000 to shoot a ten-minute short film based on the script to garner investor interest but it wasn't until they screened the short for exhibitor Kim Jorgenson that the long-gestating project finally got rolling. Jorgenson helped raise a budget of $650,000 and earned a producer credit for his troubles, while Landis was hired to helm a 90-minute orgy of the sort of deftly-orchestrated comic mayhem that is hard to pull off and even harder (and often nigh impossible) to imitate.
Comedy is hard to pull off, but sketch comedy is climbing Everest blindfolded. Especially if you make an entire movie out of it. Since the hit ratio of these kinds of features are usually lower than that of the miss count it helps to maintain a fast pace and move on to next sketch if a particular one isn't working. The beauty of Kentucky Fried Movie is that Landis, the Zuckers, and Abrahams aren't afraid of a skit that may not work, because if that's the case then they'll just have an angry gorilla (played by make-up effects legend Rick Baker in a very realistic suit) crash through the walls and tear some shit up. The jokes fly at us with unhinged abandon and some of the concepts are genius-level brilliant.
Before Tarantino and Rodriguez made Grindhouse the creators of Kentucky Fried Movie made their own fake movie trailers and a parody feature to go with them - Catholic High School Girls in Trouble, That's Armageddon!, Cleopatra Schwartz, and finally the completely bonkers Enter the Dragon rip A Fistful of Yen. High School Girls is possibly the best counterfeit trailer ever devised for a motion picture next to Don't, but then again Don't didn't subject us to the shocking visual of a bare female behind getting smacked with a cream pie (a horse's ass gets the same treatment a few seconds later) and the beautiful breasts of sexploitation starlet Uschi Digard making the sound of a wet balloon when rubbed. That's Armageddon is a note perfect takedown of celebrity-studded disaster epics even though The Towering Inferno was lacking in clumsy waiters played by Donald Sutherland.
Then there's A Fistful of Yen, which for my money is the greatest Bruce Lee movie that Lee died before actually making. It's meant to be a comedic riff on the Americanized Asian martial arts action flicks, with Evan Kim of Megaforce and The Dead Pool as a perfect Bruce-lite, but Landis clearly demonstrates a better flair for staging chaotic action beats that would serve him when staging set pieces like the parade sequence at the end of National Lampoon's Animal House, the city-destroying climatic car chase in The Blues Brothers, and the bloody werewolf rampage in Piccadilly Circus from An American Werewolf in London. A former stunt performer who has taken falls and hits in several classic Italian spaghetti westerns, Landis even allows himself to be tossed around a stage by Baker's mad monkey. That's a director who is ready to suffer for his art. Much like the rest of Kentucky Fried Movie, Fistful is funny as hell with enough quotable dialogue to derail an otherwise sensible and mature Internet forum.
There are so many sight gags and verbal non-sequiturs in the foreground and back of this movie that you have to rewind certain scenes to make sure if you really saw what you just saw. We also get clever cameos from Bill Bixby (as himself playing the pitchman for a headache clinic), George Lazenby (as the handsome architect star of That's Armageddon!), Henry Gibson (the spokesman for the United Appeal for the Dead), Felix Silla from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a whip-happy clown in the Catholic High School Girls in Trouble trailer, the late Famous Monsters of Filmland founder Forrest J. Ackerman as a jurist in the uproarious "Courtroom" sketch that also brought in Tony Dow to reprise his Leave It to Beaver role (with Jerry Zucker filling in for a voluntarily absent Jerry Mathers as the Beaver), white bread musician Stephen Bishop (as the "show me your nuts" guy from Catholic High School Girls in Trouble), and the unmistakable voice of future Hollywood Squares/Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson announcer Shadoe Stevens as the announcer on a "Sex Record" who comes prepared for any situation that may occur during the intimate act of lovemaking.
Kentucky Fried Movie doesn't look like total crap in this 1080p high-definition transfer, nor is it up to the standards of Shout! Factory's better Blu-ray releases. I think this can be attributed to the combination of film and video elements in the movie. The film portions were shot on 35mm and they obviously look the best. Presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 that is slightly compressed from the movie's original 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition aspect ratio. There is a moderate amount of grain still present in the filmed segments but detectable print damage is minimal, except in the few instances where stock footage that hasn't been restored is used. Details are clean and sharpened depending on the segment, while in other scenes the colors are softened without becoming drab or hurtful to the eyes. The few segments that were shot on video look fuzzy and suffer from minor image ghosting at times, but seeing as how those scenes were supposed to resemble television news programs the degradation of the image quality actually improves their authenticity. Shout! has provided the movie with a single non-commentary audio option: the film's original 2.0 mono soundtrack remixed in DTS-HD Master Audio. The track is fantastic as it should be. Music, dialogue, and effects mixes sound very clear with almost no noticeable audio distortion. Two sets of English subtitles - one for the entire movie and one just for the Fistful of Yen segment - are also included.
Shout! Factory didn't bother producing any new supplements for Kentucky Fried Movie as they already plenty of pre-existing features from past releases to choose from. Director Landis, the Zuckers, Abrahams, and producer Robert K. Weiss get together for very relaxed and humorous audio commentary that first appeared on Anchor Bay Entertainment's Region 1 DVD and was ported over to Arrow Video's Region 2 release. The group interaction is priceless as they delve into the background of the movie in great depth and crack jokes endlessly. It's like sitting on a gang of old friends watching their cheesy home movies in amused disbelief, and needless to say it's extremely entertaining and compliments the film nicely.
The Zuckers also appear in a 62-minute video interview first produced for the Arrow Video disc. The set-up for the interview is rather static as the brothers provide answers to questions presented on title cards. Though it reminded me of how studios produce those generic EPK's for their big movies, at least David and Jerry are willing to talk about anything and everything pertaining to the movie, from its beginnings to sharing stories about the production and discussing favorite gags, scenes, and celebrity cameos.
What wasn't held over from previous releases are a reel of home movies shot during the production by the Zuckers and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. We do get the original theatrical trailer though.
Shout! Factory's Blu-ray of The Kentucky Fried Movie is outfitted with various whips, chains, and a sexual appetite that will knock your socks off! This disc will satisfy women throughout the world, and the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln! In all seriousness, the movie remains one of the funniest comedies of the 70's and makes me wish the Zuckers and Landis were able to return to their former greatness. With a few informative extras - and some unfortunate absences - this disc is very easy to recommend. Film at eleven.