Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

King Frat DVD

King Frat DVD

“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.

Who wouldn't respect an insitution of higher learning with a name like this?

Who wouldn't respect an institution of higher learning with a name like this?

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.

The Pi-Kaps' house car

The Pi-Kaps' house car

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.

Gross-Out and his "date"

Gross-Out and his "date"

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.

"King Frat" t-shirt

"King Frat" t-shirt

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—-

Saturn Drive-In "Cheering Section / King Frat" Double Feature DVD

Saturn Drive-In "Cheering Section / King Frat" Double Feature DVD

—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.

"Hey! Listen! Did you hear me? Shut up and listen! I've got something to say about this new 'Bruno' movie and you're gonna hear me out!"

"Hey! Listen! Did you hear me? Shut up and listen! I've got something to say about this new 'Bruno' movie and you're gonna hear me out!"

Transcript from this evening’s Bill O’Reilly television program — note that  our transcriptionists have fixed Governor’s Palin’s “folksy colloquialisms” in an attempt to actually make this discussion look something like standard-variety English.

O’Reilly : Hey folks, Bill O’Reilly here with a very special guest to discuss a big problem facing our country today. That problem is “Bruno.” This is filth. This is degeneracy. This is a rotten, fagg—err, maggott-infested apple spoiling everything else it touches. With me is another recent TFG guest, the great governor of the state of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Welcome, governor. Nice to see you again.

Palin: Thanks so much, Bill, it’s such a pleasure to be here, talking with you, as opposed to dealin’ with the mainstream media that really—well, they just have a way of slantin’ things, you know?

O’Reilly : Boy, do I ever. You’re preaching to the choir here, Governor! (laughs)

Palin : It’s just like, ever since I started my fight, you know? My fight for traditional American—

O’Reilly : Traditional American values.

Palin : Exactly, Bill. Exactly. It’s like I can’t get a word in edgewise without—

O’Reilly : The far-left loons jumping in and either cutting you off or hopelessly distorting your message.

Palin : Right, Bill. That’s it exactly. All I’m trying to do is —

O’Reilly : Get your message out there on your own terms without interruption or obfuscation.

Palin : And it’s so wonderful that there are some of you out there, Bill, who still understand that and still —

O’Reilly : At least believe in letting you finish your sentences and say what you have to say in your own words. Which brings me to this evening’s talking point : “Bruno.” Now this guy, this Baron Cohen guy, first off he’s not American. Yet here he is, on our screens, exposing the youth of this country to his FILTH, his DEGENERACY, his ASSAULT ON OUR VALUES that we hold so dear.

Palin : And I just have to say, Bill, that you know —

O’Reilly : Oh, I know. I know exactly where you’re going because I absolutely agree with it. This is pure, unfiltered SLEAZE. This is what’s wrong—everything that’s wrong— with our media, our society, this whole secularized, Godless, tasteless—

Palin : Well, all of it, really, Bill. This portrayal of trying to make this degenerate que—homosexual look somehow funny and cute and sympathetic and clever at the expense of ordinary, decent, God-fearing Americans. It’s just so—

O’Reilly : Wrong. Go ahead and say it. I sure will. It’s WRONG, Mr. Baron Cohen, do you hear me? What you’re doing here is SICK and IMMORAL and WRONG. Here’s the—have we got the image?

"Bruno" Movie Poster

"Bruno" Movie Poster

O’Reilly : There it is. There it is. Tells you everything you need to know, doesn’t it?

Palin : Right, Bill. It’s all right there, just kind of like—flaunting its degeneracy, you know? Darin’ you to be offended.

O’Reilly : And I guess he’s supposed to be this Austrian, this gay Austrian, this flamboyantly—not that there’s anything wrong with that in and of itself, mind you—

Palin : Gosh, no. Just because I tried to ban a book at our local library to help gay teens with their self-esteem and prevent things like gay tenn suicide, that doesn’t mean that I have anything against—

O’Reilly : Of course not. But the far-left loons will take that as some kind of proof that you’ve got this problem with fagg—-with homosexuals, you know? And they’ll seize on that, and distort it, and take it all out of context.

Palin : Exactly. While I may not support same-sex marriage—

O’Reilly : No real American does—

Palin : Or civil unions or domestic partnerships or equal employment or housing opportunities for these que—for the gays and the lesbians—

O’Reilly : That doesn’t mean you have anything against them.

Palin : Oh, gosh, good heavens, no. I mean, I may not approve of that lifestyle choice, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think these people shouldn’t be allowed to, like, continue living. Somewhere else. Far way from us normal people. Because, you know, the AIDS—

O’Reilly : Exactly. And where is that in “Bruno”? Where is any mention of AIDS?  That his degenerate behavior runs a high risk of—-

Palin : Exactly. It’s about us, protecting Americans, keeping our children safe.

O’Reilly : And here “Bruno” is, making it all look like fun and games and no mention of what this is doing to our families or to the health of his own kind of people.

Palin : And that’s it exactly, Bill.

O’Reilly : By opposing this, by speaking out, by saying enough is enough, we’re actually doing more for these flaming fagg—these homosexuals than their own kind are doing for them. Because this stuff, this “Bruno” stuff—it’s a death sentence. This reckless flamboyance — it’s a death sentence, sure as I’m sitting here. If you’re out there watching this, and you’re que—you’re gay, or you’re lesbian, following the example of this “Bruno” nutcase, this Baron Cohen lunatic—this will get you killed.

Palin : And if the mainstream media would only—

O’Reilly : Let you get your message out, without interrupting you or twisting your words to suit their ends—

Palin : That’s right, Bill. That’s so right. And the way he makes ordinary Americans, hard-working, God-fearing, hete—normal people—the way he makes them llok like these sort of crazed redneck zombies is—

O’Reilly : Really, it’s not fair. It’s a stacked deck. It’s not honest. This movie is not an honest documentary. It’s almost like it’s a comedy or something, like he thinks it’s funny. This is why he’s first in line if I’m in charge to go to the ove—to go someplace where he can be separated from normal folks and think quietly for a good long time about what he’s done.

Palin : So right, Bill, so true, so—

O’Reilly : American. Because this what this is all about, this culture war, this war for the soul of this country, it’s about America. And securing our future. And keeping this safe for white, stra—for, good, honest, ordinary, hard-working folks. To hell with the dancing queen here and whatever he wants, this is still my country. Still our country. And I’ll be damned if I’ll see it go down to a bunch of qu—degenerates. Deviates. Sexual predators who would do harm to our children.

Palin : And that’s what this fight is, and I’m trying my best, doing what I can, to stand up to this, to say “no,” to get this filth off our screens and out of our theaters. And it’s not about censorship, it’s not about saying that he can’t make this kind of movie—

O’Reilly : Just that it shouldn’t be distributed or screened or put out there in any way. If he wants to make it — FINE. If he wants to try to destroy this country —FINE. But there needs to be boycott of anyone, of any theater, that would show this FILTH. This GARBAGE.

Palin : And if only the mainstream media would —

O’Reilly : Just shut up and let you talk, they’d see that what you’re saying is what I’m saying and that this has nothing to do with censorship or banning anything or any of that stuff the far-left loons want to accuse us of. It’s about PROTECTING our CHILDREN and our SOCIETY from GARBAGE. Governor, I’ll let you have the last word.

Palin : Well, I’m just wondering I didn’t see this movie and I never will and we’re trying to get it kicked out of the theater in Wasilla even as we speak. So I’m just wondering if you actually, you know—

O’Reilly : If I saw it? No. God no. Of course not. I don’t need to see it to know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to have any understanding at all of what I’m talking about to be an expert on it—on this or any other subject.

Palin : I’ve always felt the same way, Bill. And that’s why the mainstream media —

O’Reilly : Is always cutting you off and selectively taking what you say completely out of context to make you look uninformed or ignorant.

Palin : Exactly. It’s not my fault I look, you know, maybe a little unprepared or uninformed—it’s theirs.

Dinner's almost ready

Dinner's almost ready

Lots of movies are bad.  Some are bad intentionally (think Troma).  Some are bad unintentionally (think “Ishtar”).  Some are so bad they’re good (think Ed Wood or Larry Buchanan).  And some, well—some are so bad—so mind-rendingly, unfathomably awful—-that they by pass the “so bad they’re good” signpost and in true “do not pass go, do not collect $200” fashion, they come full circle and end up at awfulness all over again. Such a film, my friends, is Wayne Berwick’s 1978 celluloid monstrosity “Microwave Massacre.”

This is such a brutally incompetent attempt at a horror spoof that it almost accidentally ends up becoming a send-up of that which it’s trying to send up—a spoof on horror spoofs, if you will. As such, it’s an almost singularly bizarre viewing experience and if I said you had to see it to believe it, that still wouldn’t be going far enough, because the truth is that you won’t believe what you’re seeing even as you’re seeing it! The only—and I do mean only—movie I can even possibly compare it to in terms of sheer gray-matter-melting “what the hell is this and why?”-ness is the 1989 canuxploitation cult semi-favorite “Things” (which I really need to get around to doing a proper write-up on sometime soon here).  Not that the two films are all that similar in and of themselves, but they both achieve, purely by dint of  sheer ineptitude, similar levels of IQ destruction in the viewer’s mind—and both have a strange way of sitting on your DVD shelf, daring you to watch them again—and again—and again—until it’s too late, and you’ve succumbed to the bizarre and wretched new reality they both create — one in which you, the viewer, find yourself literally needing to see them every so often for reasons you cannot, and don’t even want to, fathom.

This, my friends, is the opening shot in “Microwave Massacre”—

That's one way to grab the audience's attention

That's one way to grab the audience's attention

It’s also the best shot in “Microwave Massacre. ” Okay, that’s not quite true—the best shot comes shortly thereafter, courtesy of the same lady, but that’s beside the point, which is—oh, hell, I have no point here—do you see the effect this film has?

At any rate, the plot is essentially this : Donald (Jackie Vernon) has a problem. All his buddies at the contruction site he works at have better lunches than him (and you thought you had troubles!). While they get subs,  he gets whole crabs— shell, claws, and all— stuck between two pieces of bread. Donald’s wife May (Claire Ginsberg), you see, fancies herself something of an amateur Julia Child, only she’s nothing of the sort. She’s also a ball-busting shrew who has worked Donald’s nerves down to frayed, snapped, fried tendrils. As such, Donald dreads his loveless, sexless home life and takes solace in his lunch breaks and his evenings at the local watering hole.

Still, at some point a guy’s gotta go home, and when Donald finally can no longer delay the inevitable and stumbles through the door, he always finds May there, waiting for him at the dinner table, with a hideous pseudo-gourmet meal she’s prepared in her newfangled, big-as-the-whole-kitchen (this being 1978 and all) microwave. May is very proud of her microwave and what comes out of it, but Donald invariably finds her “cordon blue cookery,” as he calls it, completely unappetizing. Folks, something’s gotta give here.

One night he finally snaps and kills her (bet you didn’t see that coming). He was drunk when he did it, though, and can’t remember it. Still, when he finds her in the microwave (yes, all of her—and yes, this frigging microwave really is that big) the next morning, he figures he’d better conceal the evidence, so he cuts up her body, wraps the pieces in aluminum foil, and puts her in their extra refrigerator out in the garage. There’s just one problem. Donald soon can’t remember which wrapped-up bits are his wife and which are food—it’s not a problem for long, though, because soon enough he accidentally starts chomping on one of her hands , decides he likes the taste, and keeps going. In short order he’s bringing microwaved May-meat to work and sharing it with his buddies on their lunch breaks. They all like it, and suddenly he’s the most popular guy on the job (what they don’t know won’t hurt them, I suppose).  His wife’s corpse doesn’t provide and endless supply of food, though, and soon Donald must resort to killing prostitutes and the like in order to keep up the meat supply for himself and his friends. Along the way, various attempts at cinematic hijinks ensue, and about eighty minutes later, the microwave goes “ding!” on this movie and it’s all done.

If it sounds like I’m giving short shrift to the “plot” here, rest assured, I’m not. It’s paper-thin. As in, cheap-toilet paper thin. And the same can be said for the “talent” on display here. Jackie Vernon isn’t funny. He never was funny. Neither are the jokes. They couldn’t have even looked funny on paper. The supporting cast, for the most part,  seem to be doing this for beer money, much like Vernon himself, who goes from henpecked husband to cannibalistic serial killer without ever once changing —or even adopting—a facial expression, and delivers every single line as if we were reading from the script. The gore effects, what few there are,  don’t even rise to “that’s so bad it’s kinda cool” level. The direction is flat, lifeless, and utterly without anything resembling even the most basic ideas of “flair.” You’ll honestly wonder if every scene was done in one take.  The film was apparently shot for about $70,000-$80,000, and 20 grand of that went to Vernon. I couldn’t tell you where the rest went—it doesn’t seem to be on display in the finished product.

Director Wayne Berwick had an interesting pedigree—he’s the son of exploitation veteran Irv Berwick, whose career spanned a good three decades or so and included such varied titles as “The Monster Of Piedras Blancas” and “Malibu High.” I guess he thought he’d give it a go at following in the old man’s footsteps, but this and the 1986 straight-to-video “The Naked Monster” were his only turns in the director’s chair. In fact, this movie never even got picked up for a theatrical run and sat on the shelves until its first video release in 1982.

According to an interview with Berwick in Stephen Thrower’s “Nightmare USA,” this film was intended to play for the “stoner crowd,” which just goes to show you how poorly conceived the whole enterprise was from the outset. “I’ve got it—let’s make a movie for the stoners starring a 60-something, washed-up, no-talent comedian who wasn’t even cool in their parents’ days.” Oooooo-kay then—

Anthem Pictures' "Microwave Massacre" DVD

Anthem Pictures' "Microwave Massacre" DVD

An outfit that I’ve never heard of called Anthem Pictures released this flick on DVD a couple of years ago. It’s a bare-bones release that looks like a direct-from- VHS transfer and features no extras whatsoever. Somehow that seems appropriate.

 To sum things up, then—if you watch “Microwave Massacre,” I must warn you that you’ll wish you could turn the clock back to the time in your life before you saw it once it’s over. You’ll wish you had never known such a thing could exist. This film will make you pray to whatever deity you used to  believe in before you you started watching it that your brain would just melt and start oozing out your ears because you’ll swear it’s turning to mush inside your head  and you just want the pain to be over with. You’ll long for the life you used to have before you’d been exposed to it. And then you’ll want to watch it again.

Promo Poster For Dire Wit Films' "Isle Of The Damned"

Promo Poster For Dire Wit Films' "Isle Of The Damned"

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not at all a fan of Troma-style “instant cult classics,” if you will, and prefer films that actually earn their “cult” status without the aid of a fully-laid-out blueprint, but I must admit that “Isle Of The Damned” the second feature from director Mark Colgrove and Dire Wit Films, is a refeshingly bizarre serving of intentional cinematic sewage that spoofs the excesses of the Italian cannibal film subgenre while not losing completely the sense of genuine unease that the best of these flicks, like Deodato’s “Cannibal Holocaust,” instill in their viewers. In other words, “Isle Of The Damned” does make you laugh and also makes you feel ashamed for doing so.

This is thanks in large part to a truly disturbing subplot involving Billy, the young teenage ward (played by a guy in his late 20s/early 30s, naturally) of lead character “Jack Steele” about which the less I reveal the better— suffice it to say that Billy’s travails are the source of much uneasy laughter during the course of the film, and while the typical cheesiness of fake moustaches, overtly lousy dubbing, over-the-top cheap gore effects and the like are easy enough to crack fun at without feeling guilty, laughing at the struggles of “poor little Billy” will give you the same feeling as watching the animal slaughter in “Cannibal Holocaust”—you don’t really want to see it, but you can’t turn away. In that sense, then, “Isle Of The Damned” succeeds because it not only mocks but also captures the spirit of the Italian cannibal subgenre, since it’s just as cringeworthy, albeit in a completely different way.

Sure, much of the humor is overly obvious (the supposed “director” of this “lost classic” is “Antonello Giallo,” for instance, and the film’s promo poster blares that it was “Banned In 492 Countries,”) but there is plenty of unexpected and more ambiguous ” humor” peppered throughout in addition to blatant absurdities like a “jungle locations” that look like upstate New York or southern rural  New Jersey and a huge mansion located on a primitive, “uncivilized” island.

Does the entire film still have the overall subtlelty of a hammer blow to the skull? Of course, but that’s part of its—and I use this term loosely—charm. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this film to everyone, but if you think that the “instant cult classic” genre has nothing to offer, I’d humbly suggest that you give “Isle Of The Damned,” warts and all, a chance. Shot for something like $20,000, this film delivers the warped and twisted goods and leaves you feeling guilty for having so much fun. Who can ask for more than that?