Directed by John Landis and written by the ZAZ team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker (who would go on to Airplane! and The Naked Gun), this movie is a complete mess and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve probably watched this film more than any other thanks to a taped off HBO copy I had throughout my teenage years.
Containing a number of exploitation films produced by Samuel L. Bronkowitz (a combination of everyone from Samuel Bronston and Joseph L. Mankiewicz to legendary American International Pictures producer Samuel Z. Arkoff), this movie just never stops or lets up. If a scene isn’t funny for a little bit, stick around. Something really comedic — or strange — is right around the corner.
How can you not adore a film that begins with a news anchorman warning you, “The popcorn you’ve just been eating has been pissed in?”
Starting with a commercial for Argon Oil, the first real segment of the film is an extended watch of A.M. Today, as a gorilla (special effects master Rick Baker) goes wild on set. That’s followed by a trailer for Catholic High School Girls in Trouble, which is pretty much every softcore sexploitation movie the late 1960’s and early 1970’s foisted on drive-in and grindhouse screens. The sound effects alone make this segment worthwhile.
A segment called See You Next Wednesday shows a theater that offers Feel-A-Round technology. It’s really just an excuse for Landis to get this catchphrase into one of his films, which he repeats throughout his career. It’s the last line that Frank Poole’s father says to him in a letter from home in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And Landis has used it in movies from Schlock and The Blues Brothers to the video for Thriller, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Trading Places and Spies Like Us (among many of his other films). It also shows up in Amazon Women on the Moon, which is pretty much a spiritual sequel to this. It’s called The Cheeseburger Movie while the original is called The Hamburger Movie in France, plus they both end with the song “Carioca.”
There are so many moments here that it’s hard for me to list them all. I’ll try. Big Jim Slade, making the album The Wonderful World of Sex much better for the ladies. Building “a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude” in the film’s longest movie-within-a-movie, the Bruce Lee ripoff A Fistful of Yen. That’s Armageddon, an Irwin Allen-style movie that stars George Lazenby and Donald Sutherland as “the clumsy waiter,” a part that never fails to make me laugh. A Leave It to Beaver in court sketch that predates the way modern comedy would reinvent old shows, even bringing original Wally Tony Dow along for the ride. The blacksploitation (and jewsploitation) film Cleopatra Schwartz. Danger Seekers, which could never — and probably should never — be made today. And literally so much more.
The humor was going to extend to the title of the film, which was going to be either Free Popcorn or Closed for Remodeling, either which would have let to total chaos.
Look — to paraphrase Mitch Hedberg, you’re either going to love this, hate it or not care either way. But you can watch it for free on Tubi or Amazon Prime. Or just order the blu ray from Shout! Factory. We also featured The Kentucky Fried Movie — with a second look — as part of our weekly “Drive-In Friday” featurettes with a tribute to the old USA Network’s “Night Flight” programming block from the ’80s.