King Frat (1979)
Film review by: Witney Seibold
In 1979, in the wake of the success of “Animal House,” came a similar frat-boy raunch film that dispensed with John Landis’ cogency, sympathy, decency, and good taste. Gone were Bluto’s witty, Wilde-ian bon mots, and the classy nature of a mature drinking class. Jettisoned were the cosmopolitan characters, the tasteful, mature views of sex, the religious respect for the tenets of education, and the caring we felt for the fat, drunk, and stupid fratboys.
In 1979, the world was treated to Ken Wiederhon’s “King Frat.”
How do I describe “King Frat?” I’m not sure I can. Falling somewhere in the idiom of an “Animal House” ripoff, a limp imitation of a ZAZ spoof, and a Harmony Korine essayic dissection of lower-class criminals, “King Frat” follows a few oily and bloated alcoholic characters who go through revoltingly unconnected trials with no particular story arc, and not climax and no lessons whatsoever. It’s like the highlights reel from a forgotten sitcom where fart jokes, blow-up dolls, occasional nudity were allowed on primetime.
The film takes place at a college called Yellowstream University. Yes, that’s supposed to induce thoughts of urine. We meet the residents of the Pi Kappa Delta fraternity house. The mugging of the actors and the timing of their line delivery would have you believe that they are comic heroes in a comic film, but see the details of their life quickly leads one to see that they are extras from a Marquis de Sade novel. The star of the PiKaps is J.J. Gumbroski, better known as Grossout (played by the 42-year-old actor John DiSanti, clearly standing in for John Belushi). The aptly named Grossout lives in a constant state of inebriation, cooks meals with jockstraps and bug poison, fucks a talking blow-up lovedoll, and is famous for his farting.
The film gets started when it is announced that Yellowstream is hosting a farting contest.
…A farting contest.
The prize is $500. The PiKaps will be able to buy so much beer with that money. Grossout begins training (gulp), and is given horrible concoctions from the PiKaps “brains,” Tommy (Roy Sekoff, who look a lot like R. Crumb), and the frat house’s RA, the decidedly un-Indian Chief Latrine (the decidedly un-Indian Dan Chandler). The Chief character is so offensive, it’s hard to tell if the filmmakers were attempting to be shocking, were insensitive, or were perhaps playing a subtle parody of racist attitudes.
That’s kind of the story: Grossout attend farting contest. The contest itself is judged by volume, and the device used to gauge the loudness of the entrants’ flatulence is built from a Simon game. Grossout is threatened by the appearance of an ex-girlfriend, whom he knows has the loudest farts this side of the Pecos. Backstage, a dog drinks Grossout’s magic fart juice, and farts so hard it is propelled into the air. The filmmakers actually tossed a real dog into the air for this little gag. Grossout is eventually disqualified for “drawing mud.”
Screw you, movie.
But this is only the first half of the film. The reat of the film follows what I can only assume is an extended epilogue, in which other nonsensical things happen. Some of the PiKaps take an 18-year-old pledge to a brothel to lose his virginity. Another goes to spy on women in a gorilla suit, which leads to a trip to the hospital where a man’s penis gets stuck inside a woman’s vagina (don’t ask). There’s an early scene in which, while stones, some of the PiKaps accidentally steal the corpse of the school’s president. Eventually, the PiKaps are brought to trial for crimes against humanity, but get off because they can blackmail the judge! Triumph of the little guy!
There’s a subplot (?) about the school’s militant new president (Dan Fitzgerald) who is hellbent on taking down the PiKaps. I would have just called the police.
The PiKaps’ home is a rundown horror with holes in the walls, no paint, and, even watching it in the movie, I could smell the stale human fluids wafting from the walls. I always thought people liked these tales of drunken fratboys because it offers them a comfortaing place to be. There is nothing comforting or liberating about the PiKaps’ lifestyle. It’s a fantasy world of horror and debauchery and desperation.
Indeed, the film is so unfunny, it starts to become an object lesson after a while. Here is a comedy with no funny moments. A drama with no suspense, structure, or climax. An ensemble piece with no sympathy for any character. Even the penis jokes fall flat. It’s really quite fascinating.
Previously, director Wiederhorn did the best underwater Nazi zombie film ever made with “Shock Waves.” He went on to make “Night of the Living Dead Part II,” And “Meatballs Part II.”