"The Kentucky Fried Movie," now at area theaters, is a diverting hit-and-miss satirical anthology in the same spirit as "The Groove Tube" and "Tunnelvision." While it's doutful if any of these movies should be patronized by people in a demanding mood or indisposed toward sophomoric humor, this latest example of the form runs satisfactorily true to form.
Financed by one of the larger theater chains in the country, United Artists Theater Cricuit, which is about to enter the suburban market here, "Kentucky Fried Movie" grew out of a comedy revue that ran for several years in Los Angeles. The founders, David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Adrahams, began working as a comedy team in Madison, Wis., in the early '70s.They appear in several in several sketches in the film, but none emerges as a distinctive performer, so it's reassuring to learn that they consider themselves primarily a comedy-writing team.
About two dozen take-offs on television programs and coomercials and movies and movie trailers are distributed along a running time of about 90 minutes satire of a kung-fu melodrama called "A Fistful of Yen." Happily, it has its moments, and in Evan Kim it also has a lead who can do an impersonation of the late Bruce Lee that is nearly as wining as the original act.
Although director John Landis, who has moved on to supervise the first National Lampoon comedy feature, "Animal House," soon to begin shooting at the University of Oregan, stages some elaborate and adroit parodies of kung-fu action sequences, my favorite moment was the most static: a shot of a telephone equipped with an answering device that belongs to the archvillain, a Dr. No-type called Dr. Klahn. Perhaps I was in a silly frame of mind, but the thought of calling up an archvillain and getting his recorded voice seemed delightful.
It may enhance the fun to know that Bong Soo Han, who plays Dr. Klahn, is a hapkido expert who instructed Tom Laughlin in his stunts as Billy Jack. While kung-fu pictures are frequently funny enough on their own terms. "A Fistful of Yen" might have qualified as a miniature classic if Abrahams and the Zuckers had come up with a suitable finish. Tacking on an ethnic parody of the ending of "The Witzard of Oz" is certainly unexpected, but it won't quite do.
I was also amused by the trailer for a softcore sexploitation movie called "Catholic High School Girls in Trouble," particulary the inpired deadpan scene in which three nude girls are discovered on a settee and the girl in the middle blandy introduces the other two to each other, and by a parody of the "Grab All the Gusto You Can Get" beer commercial in which beer-loving buddies are Hare Krishna solicitors. On the other hand, there are the usual sketches that fizzle out after promising starts and the ones that die almost instantly. One assumes that the audience for such miscellany like the audience for The National Lampoon or "Saturday Night Live," has learned to take the duds along with the winters.