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PORKY'S: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Scott Colomby, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons, Eric Christmas
Directors:  Bob Clark, James Komack
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  287 Minutes
Release Date:  May 22, 2007

“Why…why do they call you Lassie?”

“I…don’t…knooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!”

Porky’s ***1/2

Porky’s is the movie that always makes me think of my mother.

Now, don’t go reaching for your mouse in disgust…hear me out.  When I was a kid, my family owned a video store, and one night, my parents cautiously brought home Bob Clark’s notorious teen comedy and allowed me to watch it with them under their nervous eyes.

We all laughed hysterically, but none so much as my mom.  Particularly, Clark’s legendary single-take scene where prudish girls’ coach Beulah Balbricker (Parsons) demands a police lineup from the school principal Carter (Christmas) in order to identify…er, a certain student’s offensive private part.  All this plays out while three boys’ coaches find it harder and harder to keep a straight face in the background.  My mom would literally laugh until she cried, and whenever we played the laser disc, we always had to back that scene up two or three more times so she could watch it again.

Ah, the good old days.  But for Bob Clark, they weren’t always good.  Porky’s was a movie he had envisioned his entire career, but the man who made A Christmas Story into an all-time holiday staple was met with only fear and resistance as he tried to get his dream project off the ground.  He struggled every step of the way, and when he finally finished it, the studios didn’t want to touch it.  Why?

Well, it’s hard to believe in our American Pie era, but Porky’s pushed envelopes that no one believed COULD be pushed, and many more felt SHOULD be pushed.  It was high school in Florida just the way Clark remembered it, filled with humor, sex, recklessness, and even a moral lesson or two.  It was a strange film to kick off the AIDS sensitive 80s, but in retrospect, it seemed like one last hurrah for the sexual revolution.  It was going out kicking and screaming…and thankfully for us fans, laughing as well.

The poster image, with the eye goggling up at a lovely naked form through a shower peephole was instantly iconic, and for many, so was the film.  The critics ravaged it, ‘decent’ folks everywhere thought it was a sign of the end times, but it made money hand over fist.  It became the film you HAD to see.  And if you were a mere 11 or 12 years old, as I was at the time, it was a badge of honor if you could say you HAD seen it.  Some generations of kids brag about sex we never actually had; ours bragged about the movie we never got to see.

Porky’s is a sexy film, to be sure, but if that’s all it was, it would have been a bust.  No, it was an instant classic because it was damned hilarious.  To this day, it remains one of the few movies that can make me laugh until I can hardly breathe.  And yes, I think about my dear mother, and how nothing made her laugh the way Bob Clark’s naughty cinematic escapades could do.

So who cares if Ebert hated it?  I’m more curious about he spewed venom at Clark’s movie, yet gave a thumb’s up to American Pie.  Times certainly do change, but you can’t argue one fact: without the Pork, there would have been no Pie. 

Bob Clark is sadly no longer with us.  Neither is my mother.  But somehow I can envision them laughing it up together.  I’d like to think so.  It was so much fun, it made you want to do it again…

Porky’s II: The Next Day (zero stars)

"Get the flock out of here!!"

…but you probably shouldn’t have.  Success breeds inevitable sequels, and Bob Clark and cast tried the well a second time.  It apropos that the second movie was subtitled “The Next Day”, because it plays out like the awful hangover following a really great party.

Clark says he made the second one because his actors didn’t earn much off the phenomenal success of the first.  And he probably also wanted to take a direct shot at those who condemned his original movie.  So for the second time around, we have a bunch of religious zealots trying to stop the students at Angel Beach from…are you ready?…performing Shakespeare.  They even team up with the Klan to stop the play.  And no, not the clan headed by a man named Jed who moved to Beverly.

The movie’s credits play over scenes from the first movie, which may have been because Clark suspected they would be his only laughs in the picture.  If so, he was right.  How could things have gone so sour in one step?  Usually it takes at least a couple.

It’s an excruciatingly unfunny endurance test from start to finish.  If Bob Clark thought he was thumbing his nose at all who thought he was a hack sleaze for making Porky’s, all he may have done in reality is prove their point.  It makes more defenders of the movie question their stance than detractors.  Seriously, was Shakespeare the best threat he could come up with?  I know it takes place in the 1950s, but come on…it was the era of The Catcher in the Rye.  Insulting my intelligence is bad enough, but at least have the decency to try and disguise the fact that you’re insulting it.

Could the auteur of A Christmas Story really have stumbled so badly?  It happens.  If Robert Altman can make Popeye, I guess anything is possible.  At least he learned from his mistakes.  When it came time for one more sequel, Bob Clark was mercifully nowhere near it.

Porky’s Revenge **

"But...what about the monastery?"

"Aw, F**K the monastery!!"

It was James Komack who helmed the return to Angel Beach, and his offering, while not as dead in the water as the first sequel, still needs some life support.  There’s more mirth, merriment and hijinks as the boys from Angel Beach High (minus a couple of protagonists; no explanation) have a lot on their plate.  And hey, gotta love those high school students battling the bulge and receding hairlines, don’t you?

The plot is episodic, but at least more existent than the previous film.  Our favorite sex-obsessed teens have a state championship to win in basketball, and a dilemma…their old ‘pal’ Porky is back in business, this time operating an illegal casino, and their coach owes the big man a big debt.  Their only chance to get Porky off of all their backs once and for all is to throw the final game.  But things get even weirder when the loveable lunk Meat (Ganios) ends up with Porky’s nymphomaniac daughter, and seems to be on his way to a shotgun wedding.

Well, of course our guys save the day, through a few amusing and intricate schemes, but these boys are no Veronica Mars.  What unfolds is mostly as you’d expect…the third time isn’t the charm, it’s the cliché.  Thank God the producers let the ‘kids’ graduate this time, so at least they got their diplomas barely ahead of their midlife crises.

Video **

They get progressively better as the sequels advance, but for the most part, these films suffer from the same problems a lot of 80s films have on DVD…they look a little washed out, a little grainy, and a little soft.  I doubt full-scale restorations are in the works for any of them, so we can comfortably settle for these as-good-as-you-can-expect anamorphic transfers.

Audio **

All three have stereo tracks, and all three are adequate but not exemplary.  Dialogue is clear, but there’s not much dynamic range, even with the renditions of classic songs on the soundtracks.

Features **

The only extras are with the first film, and they include a delightful commentary from the late Bob Clark, which is a funny and entertaining listen.  There are two retrospectives; one with Clark and one with modern comedians looking back at the legacy of the movie.  Finally, there are trailers for all three films, and a very strange video game promo that’s hard to believe was for real.  The packaging, with its neon sign replica, is a definite winner.

Summary:

Though it overstayed its welcome by a couple of sequels, Porky’s remains a true American original; one that tickled funny bones, spiked libidos and broke down barriers all in one bold swoop.

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