Saturday, April 30, 2016

forgotten cinema : king frat

Hi There

A constant quarrel in the world of cinema, look you see, is just what exactly makes a film a cult one, a classic one or a cult classic. Some would argue that if a film is remembered in any sort of fond way by more than one person several years after it has been released then that’s all the boxes ticked. For others, there is criteria to meet. A certain memorable quality has to exist, for certain, and strangely many think that if a film was a financial success then by default it must be excluded from “cult” status.

None of the above really helps in understanding where exactly King Frat fits in with a definition, then. It’s one that I remember fondly, at the least, and I dare say some of my friends from the time we all first saw it don’t carry negative thoughts on it.

Having nothing particular better to write about right now, and mindful of the fact that I stumbled upon the DVD of this film as I was unpacking some other stuff, I figured I might as well have a bit of a gander.

Sorry, no I am not going to dig out too many facts and figures related to the film – there’s plenty of information like that around the web anyhow. Yeah, sure, it would be nice for me to keep everything in one nice place for you, but you really should get out more in terms of visiting other sites. People, for the most part, put effort into putting stuff on the net; the least you can do is have a look.

Oh yes, my dream then as it is now is to one day have a number plate like the one above on my car. That would be awesome to drive around with.

Plot? Mindful of the above, as per most stock reviews of the film it doesn’t particularly stray too far away from being a “homage” to Animal House, with the studio that financed and released it clearly hoping to catch some of the coins of money that film did. You basically have a “bad boy” fraternity on a college campus and the administrators of the college wish for it to be gone due to it not conforming with the prim and proper posh image they wish to have represent them. Meanwhile, all the “bad boy” fraternity wishes to do is party and have fun.

The above is it, but weirdly, and sometimes you think accidentally, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Nostalgia bathed in sentimental hygiene? For sure. I first encountered this film, as I did so many of the films I have fond recollections of, via Mike Llewellyn. This was a film he was aware of and seen long before anyone else at school. His parents had a somewhat “flexible” level of tolerance as to what films he could rent and watch. Also, the video shop at the petrol station at Marton Road only had this on Beta, and Mike had a Beta. So his house will be the first where we saw it. After that, it emerged that a video shop called Flixx, located on Linthorpe Road in town (I think where the Subway is now, or close), had both King Frat and Party Animal on VHS. I can remember my Mum agreeing to drive me there and rent them. I probably made copies of those rentals, but I am not sure how wise it is to state such a thing here so I shall not, thanks.

For the most part, then, the film is a sequence of vaguely connected scenes and set ups which illustrate how much fun the bad boys of the fraternity, Pi Kappa Delta or something, have, whilst showing the extreme displeasure of the authorities, or if you like powers that be, at this being the case. Huge chunks of this humour – in particular the big contest at the heart of the film – are scatological. Which kind of makes it strange that I recall it so fondly, as it’s not over the years been a source of humour that I’ve particularly cherished or celebrated.

Highlights? Well, the bit where they “burn sh!t” through the ventilation system of a funeral home whilst the service is being held for the former dean of the college was memorable.

In our innocence, or our uneducated and unaware 10 or 11 year old minds, it was of course actual sh!t that we thought they were burning; we didn’t know that the word was a slang term for marijuana. Also, we didn’t know what marijuana was.

Then of course there is the centerpiece of the film, the big news and big deal fart contest.

Erm, yeah. To my younger mind, and maybe exposure to this is why my mind went the way it did, this was the most ridiculous and audacious thing ever, was hugely funny, and somehow made perfect sense. Who was I to doubt or question that in this amazing place called America that they had something as interested or as well attended as fart contests?

The host / judge of the contest seemed legit, and he certainly spoke of a way in which it all seemed so serious and real. Also, the Fartometer was an amazing looking piece of technology, far beyond any device we had ever seen.

Is there any merit or redeeming feature to the film? Oddly yes. One gets a sense that it was accidental, but it’s genius if this was deliberate. A good deal of the plot resolution, as in how – surprise! – it turns out that the fraternity is allowed to exist is that proof is delivered that the land of the campus actually belongs to the tribe or if you like society of the American Indians, or Native Americans if being politically correct makes your world better, which one of the frat members belongs to. In effect, then, this film makes a comment on the at the time very rarely mentioned historical fact of large amounts of American land being stolen from the native population, long before references to it were fashionable or even politically correct.

Does this vague value make it worth your time watching? Not in itself, no. Beyond some funky music, the film is pretty basically made, quite poorly acted and overall quite dated. But then I did, and still do, find it riotously funny. If you are one of them f*****g Millennials that I speak of so fondly here from time to time that has been raised on things like American Pie, Freddy Got Fingered and Road Trip, then this movie will give you a glimpse of the origins of the traditions of those films. Also, I would suggest that the makers of Beavis & Butthead, and South Park, were “aware” of King Frat, and allowed their own excellent work to be “informed” by it.

For me the film brings back memories of how awesome this America looked in the 80s, and how much I, and I suspect many of my friends, would have loved to have been going to college there. It just looked all so free and fun and wonderful, far more exciting that the stuffy, pompous and uptight life that laid ahead of us in England.

If for some reason you are inspired to seek out King Frat and watch it after reading this, what can I say but either sorry in advance or I hope you enjoy it and laugh as much as I did and still do.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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