The Film: 3/5
The year is 1954. A group of male high school students in Angel Beach, Florida spend their free time outside the halls of academia desperately trying to satisfy their sexual urges. Hapless virgin Pee Wee (Dan Monahan) is often the butt of their jokes due to his boundless enthusiasm and embarrassing inability to close the deal with any attractive and interested lady. Unofficially led by Billy (Mark Herrier) and also including Tommy (Wyatt Knight), Mickey (Roger Wilson), and Meat (Tony Ganios), the boys decide to try their luck at Porky's, a rowdy roadhouse and brothel named for its corpulent owner (Chuck Mitchell) who essentially runs the county through his corrupt local sheriff brother (Alex Karras). After losing all of their money and being humiliated the guys skulk back to Angel Beach in defeat, until Tommy heads back to demand reparations. When that ends in his getting nearly beaten to death the others team up with harassed Jewish student Schwartz (Scott Colomby) and their sympathetic coach Brackett (Boyd Gaines) to bring Porky's crashing down into the Florida swamp and best the fat bastard at his own devious and underhanded game.
One of the surprise box office hits of 1982 (a year long treasured as holy by the geekiest of film geeks) and a longtime staple of home video, cable, and many a young Caucasian's burgeoning adolescence, Bob Clark's smutty high school comedy smash Porky's is a movie whose inexplicable popularity has eluded me for years. Years before I attempted my first viewing I had been well aware of its notorious reputation as the kind of flick I would have to watch without adults present lest my parents tan my hide. When I was finally able to give it a watch comfortable in the knowledge that none of my immediate elders would be bursting through the door like the opening scene in Terry Gilliam's Brazil to catch me something about Porky's struck me as odd and confusing. Namely, what were all of these middle-aged men doing walking around a high school pretending to be horny students. Though I was quite mindful of the moral and legal hurdles involved with hiring actors of the right age to play these characters, my ability to suspend of disbelief knew some bounds. I checked out of Porky's, amazing nudity be damned.
After all these years I received another chance to watch Porky's from first frame to last and judge it accordingly, except I was no longer at the low maturity level required to find it the knee-slapping classic of hilarity many others have long deemed it to be. Make no mistake, as a comedy Porky's isn't very successful. It's a product of its time, an era when you could make a movie set in the 1950's and only take the most basic period details into consideration at the expense of others while casting actors far too old to play teenagers in the hope that the audience will be too hornswaggled by the omnipresent breasts, butts, and bush to give two shits. Possibly the most successful attempt to replicate the bountiful box office fortunes of National Lampoon's Animal House, Porky's is a freewheeling, episodic burlesque equally mired in nostalgia for a more innocent age and the demands of the modern moviegoing demographics for mainstream studios to deliver the shameless exploitation of grindhouse sex comedies without insisting that potential ticket buyers actually risk life and limb by journeying outside of their suburban comfort zone.
Porky's was the brain child of the late filmmaking yeoman Bob Clark and prior to throwing his hat into the high school sex farce ring Clark had been responsible for making some of the most terrifying film of the 1970's - namely the inspired Monkey's Paw riff Deathdream (a.k.a. Dead of Night) and the Canadian psycho thriller and slasher prototype Black Christmas. He had also served in an unacknowledged capacity on his frequent collaborator Alan Ormsby's chilling terror tale Deranged, loosely based on the infamous Wisconsin murderer and necrophile Ed Gein, and worked with heavy-hitter actors like Christopher Plummer and James Mason on the Sherlock Holmes feature Murder by Decree and Jack Lemmon on the somber Tribute. With a pedigree like that you wouldn't expect Clark to take a huge step backwards in his career ambitions by making a shallow comic trifle about a bunch of single-minded horndogs looking for their next lay in between classes. But Porky's was more of a personal project for the filmmaker than a chance to add another theatrical hit to his resume.
To the average viewer Porky's is nothing more than a collection of salacious comic set-pieces of divisive quality and skill, but for Bob Clark it was a window into his own past as an impressionable teenager dying to lose his virginity while navigating the pitfalls of youth. As the late filmmaker notes in his commentary and interview present on this Blu-ray the story was conceived out of his own post-puberty experiences, which would put it on the same slightly raised level of taste as another interesting relic of the 1980's sex comedy boom Boaz Davidson's The Last American Virgin (an anglicized remake of his own Israeli hit Lemon Popsicle). Porky's is best known for its copious female nudity and gross-out hilarity, but Clark never seem fully invested in those scenes, making them all the more like last minute tack-ons for the benefit of selling more tickets. When the movie works is during the moments between the tasteless schlock when the middle-aged high school students are permitted to develop somewhat as characters and their interactions have the semi-improvised feel of the best Robert Altman films.
If Porky's had more of those scenes and less pitiful attempts at humor (such as the infamous "pecker in the shower" scene) Clark's labors would have resulted in a truly memorable film. There are characters and moments that suggest the more personal narrative the director originally had in mind, beats that stick out like venereal disease-riddled gonads amidst the juvenilia. The most interesting relationship is between Schwartz and the bullying greaser Tim (Cyril O'Reilly), the latter of whom we learn late in the film was made into a bigoted bastard by his own hateful and abusive ex-con of a father (veteran television actor Wayne Maunder). Rather than travel down the same dark road as his miserable pop Tim shows his true character by standing up to the old man in one of the best scenes in Porky's. It's pretty inspiring to watch his sex-crazed pals rally to his defense, giving us yet another glimpse at the better film that could have been, and it's a hoot early on to watch Tim try to insult Schwartz by calling him a "kite", in turn prompting one of the few quotable lines of dialogue in Clark's screenplay as a cutting comeback.
Maybe I would find Porky's a funnier and more original film had I not already seen Ralph Bakshi's Heavy Traffic and Hey Good Lookin', both of which traveled on the same terrain as Bob Clark but with visionary bravado and poignancy. Tonally the film is all over the map. Without the sex scenes (which are always played for comedy and thus are never amusing or erotic) Porky's veers drunkenly between drive-in exploitation and blunt honest high school flick. The third act takes its cue from backwoods redneck revenge movies with car chases and a building being triumphantly brought down into the humid Florida swamp. Most of the humorous moments fall flat outside of the scene following the aforementioned shower moment when rigid gym teacher Ballbricker (Nancy Parsons) makes a suggestion to catch the owner of the mysterious Johnson to the school principal that actually had me laughing. The performances from the ensemble of mostly no-names is across the board serviceable. Clark's frequent cinematographer Reginald H. Morris strikes a balance between the hazy daytime exteriors and the lurid neon and smokey interiors of the titular roadhouse in the visual scheme.
Though I am ultimately able to divorce myself from the film's version of reality without feeling smugly superior one part of the story keeps gnawing away at my conscious mind: these guys need fake I.D.'s to get into Porky's? How does that work? I'm 35 years of age and these clowns all look older than I.
The high-definition transfer for Porky's created by 20th Century Fox was most likely the one they used for their 2013 Region A Blu-ray since it's framed in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Since this was a low-budget feature unexceptional on the visual side of things this is possibly the best it's ever going to look on home video (unless some tasteless schmuck springs for a fresh 4K transfer several years from now). The interior shots of the titular roadhouse and the various vintage fast food joints benefit the most from the improvement in picture detail and the color scheme. Porky's was mixed in mono sound and the English 1.0 track does an excellent job of replicating the experience. The occasionally overlapping lamebrain dialogue comes through with fine clarity, as does the rowdy music score and classic soundtrack cuts and the ambient effects. Best of all there is hardly a trace of audio degradation or distortion. English subtitles have also been provided.
Director Clark contributed both a new interview (15 minutes) and commentary for Fox's 2007 "One Size Fits All" DVD that were carried over to the company's Blu-ray and have been included here. Though there tends to be some repetition in the information shared between these extras Clark is a near-endless fountain of hilarious and honest production insight and anecdotes. The Fox DVD and Blu also featured a short interview with a pair of no name comics talking about the film and a brief video extra about the Porky's video game created for Atari around the time of the theatrical release but they have both been dumped in favor of "Skin Classic!" (11 minutes), a new interview with nudie webmaster Mr. Skin that concentrates on his love for Clark's labor of love and its sheer wealth of exploitative female nudity. Trailers for Porky's and its two sequels close out the disc-based extras. Arrow has also included a reversible cover sleeve with original and newly-commissioned art by Jim Rugg and a collector's booklet featuring a new essay by Canuxploitation's Paul Corupe and an interview with the late Clark conducted by Calum Waddell.
Porky's isn't a particularly good film as a whole but thanks to the late writer-director Bob Clark it has greater narrative and technical ambitions than the majority of its 80's sex comedy peers. Plus it still has its fans and as an artifact of the decade it remains harmless and occasionally amusing. The Arrow Blu-ray doesn't have much to offer that can't already be found on Fox's domestic release in terms of presentation and supplements, but for its lack of useless bonus features I would recommend this disc over the Region A edition any day to those in need of their T&A hilarity fix.