Friday, December 26, 2008

King Frat (1979)

Directed by Ken Wiederhorn
Starring John DiSanti, Robert Small, Ray Mann
Rated R
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"You mind if I smoke?"
"Of course not. Do you mind if I fart?"

Everything about this film - from the title, to the poster, to the opening shot of a sign that reads 'Welcome to Yellowstream University' - strongly suggests that it is moronic, possibly even sub-moronic, a cinematic lobotomy that you may never recover from. Even in a genre awash with gleeful dumbness, King Frat promises to positively astound you with it's shameless anti-intellectualism. And on that promise, it delivers. The first mooning, for example, occurs one minute and fifty-one seconds into the film. The second? Two minutes and thirty-two seconds. Clearly, we are taking a ride on the short bus.

Third mooning: three minutes, fifty-seven seconds. And this time, a guy in a yellow track suit - the president of the school, no less - has a heart attack and dies when he sees the wall of man-ass. This homicidal, pants-free joyride introduces us to our protagonists, a frat house full of over-aged creeps who live only to guzzle beer and offend the locals. The charmless horde in this gluttonous Animal House rip-off are all stock characters bled dry of any real personality. JJ "Gross Out" Gumbrowski (John DiSanti) is the low budget Belushi, a nauseating maniac who spends most of his time eating and/or expelling waste. Splash (Ray Mann), is the token black character. His job? Washing the floors at the rival golden-boy frat house. Kevin (Robert Small, who had to be 35 when he made this) is the horn-rim glasses-wearing smartass. Jock (Mike Grabow) is exactly that. He wears a football helmet in every scene and communicates in grunts. There are a few others, but you get the idea.

It is not often that a gag-reflex warning needs to be issued for a teen comedy, but you really should know what you're getting into here. Gross-Out doubles as the fraternity cook. There's a stomach-churning scene in the first half-hour where he makes a spaghetti dinner for the fellas. One of the guys pops in and says, "It is ready yet?" Gross-Out fishes a meatball out of the pot, takes a bite, and then spits it back into the sauce. "It's ready," he says. And then he realizes that he's missing his gum, so he jams his fist back into the sauce to look for it.

Yeah, you should probably keep an empty bucket next to the couch when you watch this.

Somewhere amidst the blow-up fuck doll gags and the power-puking demonstrations, the plot kicks in. There's a farting contest coming up. The Pi-Kappas think their man Gross-Out can win it. And so he enters it. Nearly twenty excruciating minutes of King Frat's running time is taken up by this contest. Ultimately, Gross-out loses when he, ahem, "draws mud". Later that night, they throw a 'loser's party' to celebrate. Everyone wears costumes, a white funk band called Natural Magic plays, Gross-out has sex while eating pizza and taking a shit, and the Pi-Kappas steal the rival frat house's statue. The statue, no surprise, is a little boy with a large penis.

What little focus King Frat had is largely abandoned by the second half, as the film devolves into a series of pointless skits. At one point, a guy in a gorilla suit peeps in a sorority house window, which at least provides us with a glimpse of female nudity. There's a whorehouse scene, a wacky ambulance ride, and a rival frat house punch-up. None of it is funny or clever. It all limps to a courtroom finale that aims for uproarious but lands somewhere near tedious.

King Frat (or King *@#! Frat, as it was also known) was directed by Ken Weiderhorn, who showed promise with his directorial debut, the still-shuddery underwater Nazi-zombie-creepfest Shock Waves (1977). Looking back, it appears that one might have been a fluke. King Frat was his follow-up, and the headache-making Meatballs II - the one with the space alien camper - soon followed. Fortunately for Weiderhorn, King Frat was released hot on the heels of Animal House and rode its wave of beer-buzzed good will to healthy box office receipts, particularly in drive-ins, where patrons received rolls of King Frat toilet paper (!) with their tickets. It was released on VHS a few years later, and has remained a curious cult favorite ever since. It's hard to see why, since the film is a cheap, loud, and ugly lame-fest, with no sex appeal, zero originality, and no real sense of humor beyond grade school scat gags. But I dropped out of college, so what do I know? Perhaps farting is much funnier when you're in a fraternity. At any rate, there's a good chance you will come away from this one much dimmer than when you arrived, so make sure you've got the brain cells to spare before viewing.

Availability: King Frat is available on DVD.
Buy King Frat at Amazon.
-Ken McIntyre

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