|Henry Gibson gives Good Advice For The Dead...|
1) I know a lot of this film might seem weird to many new viewers, but this is the beginning of two traditions--the sketch comedy movie, which became something of a fad for a couple of years following this one's release, and the first Zucker, Abrams, Zucker film. Everything that comes after it--Airplane, Police Squad, Top Secret!, even the later Scary Movie entries, spring from here.
2) It's kind of...quaint seeing a film that was released theatrically look so primitive. The cheapness of the film stock, the slightly off sound quality all contribute to the 'Let's Put On A Show' feeling the movie has.
|sometimes, you're the man...and sometimes Big Jim |
Slade is the man. Deal with it.
3) A film like this, being a string of gags, rests on the writing. And to be fair, there are spots where the writing fails. Some sketches just presents the premise, some just drag on too long (especially some of the scenes in the central sketch, 'A Fistful of Yen'), and some are so quick that we don't get a chance to register the joke fully.
4) ...but when it hits, it hits hard. Some of the moments in the disaster movie spoof 'That's Armageddon' still work today, especially the recursive loop of dialogue George Lazenby and Victoria Carroll get stuck into as everything--but everything--falls down around them still cracks me up.
5) 'A Fistful of Yen,' the spoof of Enter The Dragon that serves as the tentpole of the film, doesn't quite work; you can tell that the three writers are still working out the timing and staging that will be their strong point. But every once in a while they hit a note--the look on Evan C. Kim's face when he's told that he'll be able to kill upwards of sixty men on the mission, the bespectacled, red-suited guard who serves as the alarm, main villain Klahn using an electric toothbrush attachment--which are just hilarious.
6) I have to wonder if the film as a whole would have hung together better if it decided to be structured solely as a television network or as a mock film presentation--the fact that it wavers between both can be disorienting.
7) Notice how there are a number of references to what were then current commercials like Crisco and Miller Beer and Renuzit...and yet because the gags aren't based on the recognition of those brands, they still work. I particularly like the Crisco gag, which ends in a real funny shot of a little girl trying to keep the lid on a pot of boiling oil...with a cat in it.
|I've said it before...some things cannot be unseen...|
8) Sometimes Zucker, Abrams and Zucker force the tastelessness issue...like in the strange 'Courtroom' sketch where a lawyer waves around a dildo for no reason, for example. The tastelessness works best when it's in sketches where the tastelessness is the focus, like in the 'Catholic School Girls In Trouble' mock-trailer or one of my favorite sketches, 'Danger Seekers.'
9) ...and sometimes the best sketches are the ones with the simplest premises, like 'High Adventure,' which takes the simple goof of a boom mike being in the shot and running with it, playing with all the different ways it can screw up the show--even taking a drink of water at one point.
10) I can understand how the writers got people like Bill Bixby, George Lazenby, and Henry Gibson (whose deadpan delivery during the 'United Appeal For The Dead' sketch makes what could have been a cringe-worthy gag comedy gold)...but how the hell did they get Donald Sutherland to take a pratfall into a cake? I mean, he was a major star at this time!
Overall...hit and miss as most sketch comedy films are, this serves as a cultural artifact. It gives us a glimpse at a group of writers who excelled at the parody film in their nascent form, while also delivering some effective laughs that are still hilarious today.