When The Kentucky Fried Movie was released in 1977, would anyone have guessed that it would usher in a new era of movie comedy? It looked like a harmless, no-budget drive-in flick. But its writers — Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker — took the comedy world by storm three years later with their spoof Airplane! And director John Landis virtually launched the gross-out comedy genre with National Lampoon’s Animal House a year later.
Seen today, the movie plays like a nice bridge between the teen-flick genre and Monty Python. Sketches range from short blackouts (many of them featuring the ZAZ writing team) to longer, elaborate parodies (including the gem of the lot, the Bruce Lee take-off “A Fistful of Yen”). As could be guessed just from the movie’s ads, most of this is scattershot. There are an abnormal number of cheap laughs about death, and an infinite number of excuses to undress women. (One of them is well-endowed Russ Meyer veteran Uschi Digard, who looks quite enthusiastic about it.)
But the heights are many. A black-and-white courtroom spoof is livened up by a running “Leave It to Beaver” joke (featuring the actual Wally, Tony Dow). An educational-film parody, complete with scratchy film, builds to a surprising number of laughs. And the centerpiece is the Bruce Lee wanna-be, worth the price of a movie rental in itself.
If it hadn’t been for its creators’ future success, The Kentucky Fried Movie might not be getting a second look these days. But as such, it’s a nice warm-up for their later work, and its ideas about gross-out humor (R-rated though they are) are almost quaint in this day and age.
Here’s a sketch from the movie: