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Friday, January 15, 2010

KING FRAT (1979)

The deserved success of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) inevitably spawned several imitators that had none of the original's quality in the department of overall cinematic craftsmanship, a trend that continues to this day, and most of that wretched breed chose to focus on ultra-lowbrow gross-out/"shock" humor, reasonless vulgarity and gratuitous nudity to put asses in seats. But none of the ANIMAL HOUSE clones was as flagrant in both its ripoff status or its chimp-with-a-camera filmmaking than 1979's KING FRAT, a film that brings to mind what ANIMAL HOUSE might have been like if it had been helmed by a ten-year-old. I was first introduced to the film during my own wild college days and watched it while out of my mind on any number of intoxicants that evening, so I remembered little of it except for it's horrendous theme song and have sought to see it again from a far more sober point of view. Unavailable in the U.S. on DVD until a recent release on a solo disc and in a double feature with the 1977 T&A festival CHEERING SECTION, KING FRAT is now once more unleashed upon an unsuspecting public and it has to be seen to be disbelieved.

KING FRAT has no linear plot to speak of (which makes it ideal for watching while completely fucked up) and is instead a series of "comedic" adventures starring a pack of seriously overage students at Yellowstream University. Lacking the wit to come up with characters as memorable as those found in the film it so mercilessly rips off, KING FRAT gives us a bland assortment of perpetually-drunk automatons (they can hardly be called characters) who carry out what the script dictates, and among them can be found a profane black dude, the requisite freshman pledge, the jock (who constantly wears a football helmet so we know he's a jock, as if the fact that he's named "Jock" wasn't enough of a hint), a couple of interchangeable ladies' men, a jaw-droppingly offensive "Injun" stereotype named "Chief" who's played by a white guy (and dressed like a crazed Vietnam veteran), and a painful John Belushi/Bluto knockoff by the name of J. J. "Gross-Out" Gumbrowski (John DiSanti).

College student "Gross-Out" (forty-one-year-old John DiSanti) hits the can with his faithful inflatable girlfriend, Griselda.

Unlike the beloved Deltas from ANIMAL HOUSE, you will not give a shit about what happens to any of these manikins or root for them in any way.

Since KING FRAT has no actual plot, here's a breakdown of things that go on in the movie, little of which is tied together by what is commonly known as story structure:
  • The Pi Kappa fraternity hears about a "fart contest" — which is announced with a front page headline in the local paper — and enter sure-fire winner Gross-out in the proceedings. He goes up against a number of flatulent contestants, including his ex-girlfriend/female counterpart, and the object is to produce farts of incredible volume while not "drawing mud."
  • The freshman pledge is desperate to lose his virginity to his chaste girlfriend, but that plotline leads absolutely nowhere and not even its "twist" conclusion can save it.
  • Gross-Out and the black dude pump marijuana fumes into the funeral of the school's recently-deceased dean (whom they killed by causing him a fatal heart attack during a drive-by mooning) and exit the scene with the corpse in the back of their bitchin' ride (a hearse). The dead dean's body is then taken to the frat house, where it proceeds to pop up throughout the film's lowjinx.
  • The black dude inexplicably has a job scrubbing floors for the obnoxious and uber-whitebread enemy frat, a position allowing him to be beaten up by enemy frat boys when their mascot, "Dionysus," is stolen. The mascot in question is one of those fountain of a cherubic little boy taking a leak, only here, in a failed attempt at visual wit, the statue is eqipped with a poorly-crafted oversize phallus. If that doesn't sound funny, that's because it isn't.
  • A Pi Kappa in a gorilla costume rips off John Belushi's famous Peeping Tom scene and as a result falls from a tree when busted by the object of his voyeurism, breaking his leg in the process. That leads to the open-negligeed girl suddenly turning sweet and accompanying him in the ambulance, where she straddles and fucks fucks him, only to discover upon arrival at the hospital that they are stuck together like a pair of dogs rutting in the street. They're led into the emergency room (she with a paper bag over her head to preserve her modesty), where they displace an old man who bitches endlessly about being unable to piss.
  • The dean who steps in to replace his dead predecessor vows to affect an attitude that was the polar opposite of the previous dean's stance regarding the Pi Kappas and comes off as a tenth-rate Dean Wormer whenever he tries to foil the Pi Kappa's fun. John Vernon is an admittedly tough act to follow, but...
  • The battle between our heroes and their foes is a pitiful fistfight that's the most feeble knockoff of ANIMAL HOUSE's climax imaginable.
  • The film ends with a wordless and incongruous shot of a pre-teen boy wearing a t-shirt announcing he'll be in the school's class of 1999 (twenty years from the film's release date, meaning the kid would be nearing thirty upon graduation). The child sneers at the camera and lets loose with a belch, after which the credits roll.
With all of that (and less) in mind, KING FRAT is very obviously a complete and utter disaster, but as such it's a fascinating mess. It's a textbook example of a cheap ripoff that so slavishly apes its source material but gets everything totally wrong, and it is for that reason that I highly recommend experiencing it for yourself. Much like with THE COUNTRY BEARS, I sat from start to finish of KING FRAT with my eyes bugging out of my head and my mouth hanging open in disbelief at its shameless ripoff-ness and lower-than-lowbrow content — seriously, how do you beat "drawing mud?" — and I was highly entertained by its worthlessness. It seemed like just when the film couldn't possibly stoop any lower, it would do just that and then top (bottom?) itself again. So I heartily recommend renting KING FRAT to run it for a room full of drunken reprobates who will no doubt enjoy jeering at its staggering incompetence. It's a true anti-classic.

The packaging for the DVD pairing of KING FRAT and CHEERING SECTION: the image used for KING FRAT is not from the film.


Mindlesskirby said...

Remember that Mad Magazine movie? That was bad. King Frat reminds me of it for some reason

John Bligh said...

You're thinking of UP THE ACADEMY, which Bill Gaines had Mad's name taken off of... Awful movie.

And, shock of total shocks, Netflix actually has KING FRAT... I just moved it to the top of my queue.

Anonymous said...

In the late seventies I was young film director doing commercials in Miami, Fort Lauderdale area. A low end film crew came to town, hired most every available actor in South Florida and that's how "King Frat" was made. I heard nothing but stories about the fools behind the camera -- how I came across your blog is beyond me. But when I saw King Frat, and was lured in.

Should have been at the premiere in Miami with the cast and crew. Talk about a "high priced spread." They're people in Haiti eating better than we did that night.

John Bligh said...

Having just seen KF for the first time... It makes me wonder if those who made the film actually saw ANIMAL HOUSE or read about it third-hand in a foreign-language newspaper. They had no clue what made the original funny.

William Meisel said...

Anyone who does not see the value in this movie lacks a sense of humor. Its pure gold.

Moe Porne said...

yeah, I'm sorry, but King Frat is one of the best late 70's romps ever's incredibly fun and goofy and the theme song is one of the best romp opening themes ever (right up there with Hamburger: The Motion Picture) I'm with William, whoever doesn't see the value of King Frat severely lacks a sense of humor...feel free to give a listen to my recent episode about it