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The Kentucky Fried Movie(1977)
From the director of Animal House and the creators of Airplane and The Naked Gun, comes the original madcap, most out-of-control spoof of all time. The one that started it all! The Kentucky Fried Movie!
For more about The Kentucky Fried Movie and the The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray release, see the The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Bixby, Evan C. Kim, George Lazenby, David Zucker, Marcy Goldman, Barry Dennen
Director: John Landis (I)
» See full cast & crew
The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray Review
Not quite ready for prime time.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 15, 2013
Do you have any idea of how hard it is to intentionally sing off key? Some tone deaf people are born with that "talent", but for the vast bulk of folks, even those without any particular musical training, if they were told to sing just slightly (say, a few centimes) sharp or flat, wouldn't know how or where to begin. And so we come to the rather magnificent faux duo of Jonathan and Darlene Edwards, whose commanding (or something like that) rendition of the Latin favorite "The New Carioca" starts out the 1977 cult comedy The Kentucky Fried Movie. Things seem to start out like any ersatz Latin piece crafted by some reasonably talented lounge performers, with some nice piano work, and a somewhat strident but okay sounding female vocalist. But then odd things start happening. The vocalist bends a "blue" note up instead of down, landing quite a bit north of the intended target, and then she does it again. At another place, she actually stops and starts again, obviously uncertain of where to enter, momentarily leaving her accompanist flustered and with the rhythm section desperately trying to hang on to the last shards of their charts. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of Jonathan and Darlene, a comedy act that was in reality the supremely talented easy listening maestro Paul Weston and his impeccably gifted vocalist wife Jo Stafford. Weston and Stafford first developed Jonathan and Darlene as a novelty act with which they delighted their friends at parties, but the two soon made a couple of well received recordings, one of which actually won a Grammy Award in 1961. Jonathan and Darlene reappeared at the height of the disco craze with a fantastically skewed version of The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", but for those "in the know", The Kentucky Fried Movie's use of their music was a nice nod to the musically absurd. The Jonathan and Darlene oeuvre is unbelievably funny and anyone who loves cheesy music performed incredibly badly should seek out their recordings. Their tunes with a Mitch Miller-esque Sing Along Gang attempting (and largely failing) to keep up with Darlene's rather inconsistent sense of tempo are hilarious. And the pair's deliberately off kilter (not to mention off key) performance is a more or less perfect opening to a film where things seem to be relatively normal, at least until they're not. (True anecdote: In the Dark Ages before the wide dissemination of the internet, I had searched for years without success for a two CD set of Jonathan and Darlene that compiled all of their recorded material but was never widely distributed. When my wife had a business meeting in the tiny town of Port Townsend, Washington, I accompanied her with our oldest son, who was then still a baby. While my wife was in a meeting one day, I took our son in his stroller for a little walk through "downtown" Port Townsend, which consisted of just a few buildings. One of those was a record store—remember those? To my shock and amazement, in the cutout bin on the counter were both Jonathan and Darlene Edwards CDs. I asked the owner how he had come to have two such odd items, and he told me that someone had ordered them thinking they were by the Jonathan Edwards of "Sunshine" fame. While I was secretly kind of giggling at the thought of this poor consumer listening to this Jonathan, not to mention Darlene, and wondering what the hell was going on, I was, in a word, gobsmacked at having finally found these, especially in such an out of the way place, and of course instantly purchased them.)
Three years before they really hit the big time with Airplane!, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker were simply three erstwhile Wisconsin Jews tooling around Hollywood trying to get someone interested in financing an idea they had for a sketch comedy film. (My wife is a former Wisconsin Jew who went to school and later worked with some of the Zucker family at places like WTMJ in Milwaukee. As we were watching Kentucky Fried Movie, and in a sign that old rivalries die hard, she informed me that one of David and Jerry's cousins with whom she attended Sunday School as a child "always cheated at Hangman". The nerve!) It's easy to gaze back with considerable hindsight now and recognize how boneheaded potential investors were by shrugging off the so-called ZAZ team, and those shunnings seem even more dunderheaded with the added fact that a young director named John Landis was attached to the project after a while.
The Kentucky Fried Movie offers a lot of what would later make the ZAZ guys so remarkably successful, and yet this film just isn't quite there yet some of the time. The film cartwheels from skit to skit, with some lasting just a few seconds and with a couple of movie parodies going much longer—in fact, perhaps a bit too long. There are some hilarious bits scattered throughout the film, but there isn't the consistent comedic tone that typified later fare from this manic trio. Some of the punch lines are deliberately "in jokes" (will anyone other than Jews get the reference of the name of the headache remedy that Bill Bixby pitches?), while other little moments are just downright silly (a running gag of people born under the astrological sign of Gemini getting shot with arrows since their horoscope tells them to "expect the unexpected"). Much like the semi-lovely Jonathan and Darlene, The Kentucky Fried Movie itself repeatedly starts out with relatively normal situations—a newscast, a commercial, even a feature film—and then just goes bat guano crazy.
One thing that will be immediately apparent to fans of ZAZ's later oeuvre is these guys were obviously younger and brasher, and far more politically incorrect than they later became. The Kentucky Fried Movie therefore has something guaranteed to offend just about everyone, from a hilarious but generally heretical trailer for a film called Catholic High School Girls in Trouble to the use of a derided racial epithet which is shocking but also delivers one of the film's biggest laughs. Nothing was sacred to these guys, and the film has pointed jabs at a variety of societal peccadilloes. At other times, the film is remarkably gentle in tone, with weird little moments like in the longish parody A Fistful of Yen, where "action star" Evan Kim speaks in an Elmer Fudd dialect.
The film is an unabashedly juvenile exercise and while not every bit lands, there's a general sense of anarchic merriment here that helps to carry The Kentucky Fried Movie through some of its lamer moments. It's an obviously early effort by all of these future luminaries, and while there's a whiff of "let's throw everything we can think of at the screen, and see what sticks", one of those elements that did attach itself quite remarkably was the handwriting on the wall that some major comedic talents had arrived.
The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Kentucky Fried Movie is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Anyone who's ever seen this film either theatrically or on previous home video versions can tell you it is not exactly a work of art from a cinematography perspective, and so certain reasonable expectations need to be set when approaching this new Blu-ray. As the guys mention in their commentary, the first sequence (as well as returning interstitials) were actually shot on video, and the look of these segments is pretty shoddy, including what even looks like some brief tracking issues at the bottom of the frame (compare the difference between screenshot 7 of the female news anchor and the rest of the screenshots to see the more than obvious quality variance). But even the filmed elements can vary in quality. Most of the film elements are at least acceptably sharp, with probably the biggest uptick in quality coming from increased saturation. Detail is still pretty iffy at times, especially in midrange and wide shots. While there is some grain apparent here, I have a sneaking suspicion that some judicious noise reduction was applied to this release. Those who don't expect this to have the pristine look of a recent feature will probably be pleasantly surprised at how good most, if not all, of the film looks.
The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Kentucky Fried Movie features a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track delivered via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. While pretty shallow sounding at times, the track has no real damage to speak of, and dialogue, narration and voice over all come through clearly, as do the various source cues and underscore. Jonathan and Darlene sound—well, they sound, let's just leave it at that.
The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Not quite all the supplements from the UK DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray release:
The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Kentucky Fried Movie has a lot of rabid fans who think it's the funniest movie ever made. Personally, I find some of ZAZ's later work to be more consistently hilarious, though there's no denying that this film has some absolutely hysterical bits. Those with the DVD may want to peruse the screenshots to see if this offers enough of an upgrade to warrant a double dip, especially since there are some missing supplementary features. Those who haven't yet jumped into this insane outing will most likely be very pleased with this package. Highly recommended.
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The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 2-9 - June 29, 2013
For the week of July 2nd, Shout Factory is streeting the long-awaited Blu-ray of Mel Brooks' The Producers, alongside John Landis' anthology romp The Kentucky Fried Movie. Other releases include a standalone Blu-ray edition of Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with ...
• The Kentucky Fried Movie Blu-ray (Updated) - April 4, 2013
Shout Factory will bring to Blu-ray director John Landis' The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), starring Evan C. Kim, Bong Soo Han, and Bill Bixby. Exact technical specs and supplemental features to be included on this upcoming release are unknown at the moment, but ...
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