“Holy Shit! A fart contest!” — J.J. “Gross-Out” Gumbroski, “King Frat”
Does that quote tell you literally all you need to know about “King Frat” (also released under the titles “Campus King” and “Delta House,” among others)? Probably. But just in case you want some more information—
In 1979, hot on the heels of “Animal House,” some Canadian investors, lead by producers Jack McGowan and Reuben Trane, figured they could make a quick buck by knocking off AH’s success and shooting a cheap rush-job imitation with no established(or, for that matter, future) stars, an low-cost production crew, and, at the time, no script. To that end, they hired screenwriter (and I use that term loosely) Ron Kurz (credited under the pseudonym of Mark Jackson) and director Ken Wiederhorn (who would go on to helm “Meatballs 2″) , who went on to, respectively, cobble together a “script” and get a cast and crew together to go down to Florida and make a fraternity movie of their own. The rest, as they say, is history.
At Yellowstream college (Get it? If you don’t, rest easy, the movie will explain it to you in great detail), Pi Kappa Delta (or the “Pi-Kaps,” as they’re better known) is the rowdiest, hardest-partying Greek house on campus. They live to drink and—well, drink some more. And some more. And some more. And some more. I’m sorry, am I repeating myself? Well, so does “King Frat.” A lot. This is a movie that doesn’t rest until each and every “joke” is literally pounded into your head with a goddamn sledgehammer. The Pi Kaps’ head-honcho hellraiser/low-rent John Belushi clone is a guy named J.J. Gumbroski, better known around campus as “Gross-Out” (played by John DiSanti, who was—get this—42 years old at the time). Our guy Gross-Out basically has a routine of farting, drinking, eating, drinking some more, farting some more, drinking some more, farting some more, and—okay, you get the idea. Oh,and when he’s not drinking, farting, and occasionally eating, he fucks blow-up dolls. So you basically know everything about Gross-Out that you need to. Suffice to say, when the college announces that they’re having a campus-wide farting contest (with farts measured on the precise scientific instrument known as a “fartometer”—automatic disqualifications issued for “drawing mud”—and yes, you guessed what that means correctly), Gross-Out is the guy to beat.
And that’s the plot. Really. Okay, there are a few little sidebar items thrown in so the whole thing isn’t over in ten minutes—the Pi-Kaps cruise around campus in their house care (a hearse), Gross-Out moons the dean while driving by, farts on him, and kills him; they have a party; they crash the deans funeral and make off wish his casket and corpse for no other reason than—hell, they can; Gross-Out meets up with an old girlfriend with even more wretched hygienic habits than him; a Pi-Kap named Chief Latrine fills us in on the history of the school’s name (as mentioned earlier) and reveals the secret that the school is built on his tribe’s land; they throw beer cans on the lawn of the preppie jock-asshole house and get in a big fistfight with them towards the end; the new Dean is out to shut down the Pi-Kaps by any means necessary (think “double-secret probation”); the Pi-Kaps go on trial — okay, that’s about it.
I mention these various subplots offhandedly because none of them amount to squat, for the most part, and the movie is really more a strung-together series of scenes than an actual, coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end. Shit just happens. In fact, one could state in all fairness that “King Frat” doesn’t so much as have an ending (it’s implausible as all get-go and completely arrives out of nowhere) as it just stops.
All of this probably leads the reader of average or better intelligence to conclude that I think “King Frat” is stupid. I do. In fact, that’s not an opinion, it’s just a fact. “King Frat” is stupid. It’s stupid beyond the mere capacity of language to describe. Said reader of average or better intelligence would then most likely assume that your host hates this movie. That. dear reader of average-or-better-intelligence, is where you’d be wrong.
Fact is, I love “King Frat.” There, I’ve said it. Not in spite of its unparalleled idiocy, but because of it. “King Frat” is truly the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the barrel, and it pretends to be nothing else. It’s not seeking to make you laugh. It’s not seeking to make you like it. Hell, it’s not even seeking to do anything. It just is. If you were going to crank out a quick “Animal House” knock-off and wanted to spend no money doing so, this is exactly the film you would make. Your only hope to get noticed (and “King Frat” did have a modestly profitable run, particularly on the drive-in circuit) is to be grosser, louder, and dumber. You don’t need a plot. You don’t need characterization beyond a few crude stereotypes. You don’t need “motivations” for what takes place. You don’t need anything but the grossest set in movie history, the grossest character possible, the grossest excuse for “humor” the human mind can conceive of, and some people to run the cameras and lights and play the parts. Apparently “King Frat” was made for less than $100,000, and honestly, I don’t know where most of the money went. Probably on developing costs at the lab. And as a viewer, all you need to do is watch the thing. There’s nothing to “understand.” Nothing to think about. The film not only has no plot, it has no point. This in itself is a marvel to behold.
Your host first encountered “King Frat” in its purest form—we had an old beat-up copy of it on VHS at my fraternity house in college. And while “Animal House” and “Revenge of the Nerds” are rightly considered the Holy Grails, if you will, of all fraternity movies by frat boys, “King Frat” is so mind-bogglingly meritless, tasteless, and clueless that I actually prefer watching it to either of those two (admittedly far better, but what’s that got to do with anything?) films.
In the years since its release, in addition to becoming a staple viewing item in Greek houses everywhere, “King Frat” has also enjoyed a healthy (in terms of size, if not mental capacity) fan following in the UK, where there is apparently quite an interest in American fraternity and sorority “culture” since they don’t really have a direct equivalent to it in the British university system. Several British dudes on a forum I frequent (http://www.gallifreybase.com —best Doctor Who forum on the web) have mentioned that this movie was on TV all the time over there for years (although presumably not on the BBC) and that people loved it. There are also “King Frat” t-shirts, as shown above, and there’s even a dedicated fan group for it among the Netflix movie “communities.” One thing there never was, though, at least in the US, was a “King Frat” DVD release—
—until now, that is (come on, you just knew that was coming). While it’s been a popular cult cinema item on Region 2 DVD in the UK for years, it’s never been released here until this year, when we have been “blessed” with not one, but two “King Frat” releases in less than 6 months’ time.
The first, as pictured at the top of this review, came out in May from an outfit I’ve never heard of before (and presumably never will again) called New Star video. It’s a bare-bones release with no extras, and looks like a direct-from-VHS transfer. Which is absolutely appropriate, when you think about it (or even when you don’t). Crap should look and sound like crap. Next up, though, as pictured below—-
—is a release headed our way next month from the (I thought defunct since the days of VHS) Saturn label, who are back on the scene with a new series of low-budget in-no-way-gems under the “Saturn Drive-In” tagline. These will be double feature releases and “King Frat” is paired with a movie I know nothing about (but it’s safe to assume it’s another college “comedy”) called “Cheering Section.” I have no idea what this will look like or sound like, but I’m betting that a widescreen anamorphic transfer and a 5.1 surround mix aren’t in the works.
I’ll leave you with an anecdote direct from the IMDB. A guy posting on there was apparently a member of the band that played in the party scene in the film. He and his bandmates went to see the film when it came out in their area, and the audience reaction was about what you’d expect. Thrown popcorn, soda, even a few tomatoes. An usher (remember them?) walking down the aisles shortly before the movie was over recognized the guys from the movie and, fearing for their safety, offered to get them bags to put over their heads so they could leave the theater without being recognized.
And that, like the line from Gross-Out quoted at the beginning, probably tells you everything you need to know about “King Frat.” So we’re back where we started, a perfect circle. I didn’t even come up with a coherent reason along the way for why I like this movie, let alone why you should see it. I just scribbled down a run-down that has no beginning, no middle, no end, and quite likely no point. More by accident than design, it seems I’ve just written the perfect “King Frat” review.