Blu-ray Review: KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and his brother Jerry Zucker were once the holy trinity of parody films. Together, they were responsible for Airplane!, Top Secret, and The Naked Gun. Long before those successes, ZAZ (as they were affectionately nicknamed) were three struggling kids from Wisconsin who formed a theater group called Kentucky Fried Theater. While trying to get a break in Hollywood, ZAZ hooked up with neophyte director John Landis for a proposed feature film based on several of the sketches they performed in their troupe.

The Kentucky Fried Movie consists of the movie parodies, joke trailers, and faux-commercials one would expect from the early days of Saturday Night Live. As with many anthology films, Kentucky Fried Movie is scattershot, but has more hits than misses. The most significant segment is “A Fistful of Yen,” an amusing jab at Enter the Dragon starring a Bruce Lee-lookalike (Evan C. Kim) that speaks with an accent closer to Elmer Fudd than stereotypical Asian. While “Yen” ran over half an hour long, most of the other segments are only a few minutes or seconds long.

There’s a blaxploitation spoof entitled “Cleopatra Schwartz” featuring a tough, karate chopping woman married to a Hasidic Jew. Amusingly enough, its starlet, Marilyn Joi, insisted ZAZ sign an agreement that should a feature version of “Cleopatra Schwartz” be mad, she would star. In something of a rough draft for Airplane!, ZAZ pokes fun at the disaster genre with “That’s Armageddon” with appearances by George Lazenby and Donald Sutherland as the clumsy waiter. Then, there’s “The Wonderful World of Sex” in which a couple’s intimate night is saved by Big Jim Slade (Manny Perry), former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, Abrahams and the Zuckers aren’t afraid of being crass or blatantly exploitive as evidenced in “Catholic High School Girls in Trouble,” which is little more than an excuse to show voluptuous young ladies in all their glory.

Some of the other highlights are PSAs starring Bill Bixby and Henry Gibson, an educational film about zinc oxide (you’d be surprised what we need it for), and an ad for a JFK assassination board game.

Video/Audio: 8
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Much like the content, the picture quality is hit and miss. Some of the news segments were filmed on video and look a lot rougher and grainier. On the other hand, portions such as “Fistful of Yen” are quite pristine given the age of the movie.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. This is a pumped up version of the original mono mix. The sound is flat, but perfectly adequate and free of distortion or pops.

Extras: 4
Ported over from the previous DVD by Anchor Bay (released in 2000) is an audio commentary track with John Landis, the Zuckers, Jim Abrahams, and producer Robert K. Weiss. This is a raucous track with the participants laughing through most of the movie. It’s clear they enjoyed making it and being in each others’ company. They share several anecdotes such as how George Lazenby showed up drunk and how David Letterman auditioned for the anchorman in the interstitials.

What doesn’t return are the home videos, still gallery, and text bios.

New to the Blu-ray is A Conversation with David and Jerry Zucker (1:02:05) in which the brothers reminisce about their early days. They mention how they met Landis and not even knowing how to write a screenplay.

Film Value: 7
Kentucky Fried Movie has plenty of droll moments and laugh-out-loud one-liners. However, it could definitely use some polishing and feels like a prototype for the movies that ZAZ would eventually produce.

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