The Kentucky Fried Movie was released in 1977 and was the work of the Kentucky Fried Theater — Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker — who would later go on to make such better-known movies as Airplane!, the Naked Gun trilogy, and Top Secret! It was directed by John Landis (Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, Blues Brothers). It was basically arranged as a series of short sketches with a “Feature Presentation” in the middle.
The sketches range from out-and-out parody (Willer Time) to movie previews (Catholic High School Girls in Trouble) to a television news segment (a prolonged sketch which establishes several running jokes) all the way to the simply bizarre, as in the case of His New Car, Feel-Around, and the United Appeal for the Dead.
Although there is not much star power associated with the movie, there are appearances by Donald Sutherland, George Lazenby, Bill Bixby, and Leslie Nielsen. Most of these are for a matter of seconds, as Abrahams and the Zuckers grab many of the major parts for themselves.
The “Feature Presentation” is a thorough parody of 1970s kung-fu movies. Entitled “A Fistful of Yen” (the name being a parody of the classic Western “A Fistful of Dollars”). Starring the martial arts champion Loo, it tells the touching tale of a kung-fu master who travels to the mountain fortress of the evil Dr. Klahn in order to end Klahn’s evil plan, save democracy, and kill 50, maybe 60 people. There’s even a scene in this minifilm which was lifted for Austin Powers.
Like the other Kentucky Fried Theater movies, the Kentucky Fried Movie is home to some of the most gratifyingly awful puns you've ever heard in your entire life — for example, the attorney waving a marital aid at the distraught witness and yelling, "Ma'am, are you aware of the penal codes in this state?!" The movie is eminently quotable, reasonably rewatchable, and completely inexplicable.
Opinion is highly divided on this movie. Many people absolutely hate it, many people love it, and a fair number of people think that it’s funny, but not really worth seeing. I fall into the second camp. I was first shown this as a young lad, and didn’t understand any of the dirty jokes. Now that I understand the references and innuendoes, I find the movie to be thoroughly enjoyable. Certainly not an intellectual garden of a movie, but entirely worth watching. The sort of movie that has to be recommended with a slight disclaimer along the lines of “give it a chance — it has some amazingly funny scenes.” There are enough gems amongst the sketches that it’s very hard to leave without at least a few favorites. All in all, a thoroughly silly, thoroughly underappreciated movie.
(Very) partial cast list: