Anchor Bay Entertainment has released what will likely be the final word on John Landis’ 1977 cult comedy hit “Kentucky Fried Movie,” with a special features-packed DVD. Fans of the “Airplane,” “Hot Shots” and “The Naked Gun” films may find the movie interesting from a historical standpoint as it contains several of the first recorded examples of the now-famous movie parodies and sight gags written by the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team.
“Kentucky Fried Movie” is presented Monty Python style, as a string of unconnected outrageous comedy sketches, most of which are in shockingly bad taste. DVD is an ideal medium for viewing this film because each sketch is bookmarked with a chapter stop enabling viewers to instantly skip over the duds and get right to the good stuff. Let this serve as either a warning or an invitation to viewers, the film contains a number of raunchy sketches and, as Landis says, “this would get an NC-17 today.”
Overall picture quality is clean and exceptional for such a low budget production. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital mono, considering the film cost only $500,000 to produce and is over 20 years old, it is unrealistic to expect a disc to look and sound like “The Matrix.”
As a whole, “Kentucky Fried Movie” doesn’t hold a candle to “Airplane” or “The Naked Gun” and too many gags either fall flat, drag-on forever or both. The highlight of the film is a 31-minute “Enter The Dragon” spoof called “A Fistful of Yen.” Fans of the Bruce Lee’s might be pleasantly surprised how much attention is paid in recreating the martial arts classic. Actor Evan Kim does a hilarious Bruce Lee imitation complete with speech impediment. Unfortunately “A Fistful of Yen” was inserted at the 25-minute point of the film and once it ends the rest of “Kentucky Fried Movie” loses steam. Among the other nuggets to be found is a mock trailer for a blaxploitation film called “Cleopatra Schwartz” about a pistol packin’ mamma and her partner in crime, a streetwise, Torah-totin’ hasidic jew.
The main selling point to DVD enthusiasts is a blowout audio commentary track featuring Director John Landis, Producer Robert K. Weiss and Writers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker. While they often interrupt other and get sidetracked once or twice, this special feature is a delight mainly because the filmmakers freely criticize their own work and point out the sketches that are D.O.A. Whereas most filmmakers look back on their films with an unabashed reverence, the makers of “Kentucky Fried Movie” dive into their commentary session with a no-holds-barred attitude.
A wealth of interesting information is revealed on the commentary track. Landis discusses how his script supervisor on “Kentucky Fried Movie” helped him get his next job on “Animal House” (her boyfriend was an executive at Universal). Landis candidly admits a casting mistake when he ended up turning down an unknown stand-up comic named David Letterman for the role of a news anchor who opens the film. There is also the surprising revelation that former James Bond actor George Lazenby showed up drunk for his day of filming and slurred his way through his scenes.
To round out the package, Anchor Bay has included 18 minutes of (sound) home movie footage shot on the set of “Kentucky Fried Movie” by Jerry and David Zucker. The brothers had documented the production in 1977 to present as proof to their parents in Wisconsin that they were actually working on a Hollywood film. The quality of this material is poor but fans of the film will undoubtedly treasure this footage. The DVD also contains talent bios, the theatrical trailer and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery containing a truckload of production stills. The film can either be viewed in its widescreen presentation of 1.85:1 (which has been enhanced for 16×9 televisions) or in full-frame.
Anchor Bay has released the “Kentucky Fried Movie” DVD at an affordable retail price of $24.99. For those who care to comparison shop between the major Internet retailers, the disc can be found for around $17.00 online. For anyone who isn’t already a rabid fan of this film, I would recommend this renting this DVD before purchasing it. The commentary track is a blast, but the film doesn’t quite stand on its own.