"Of course it sucks. I mean, come on: 'The Gong Show Movie'? Geez..."
I miss the '70s. Disco. Bowie. Shot-on-film porno. It just gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling all over, contemplating the detritus of my lost childhood. I can even get kinda nostalgic about "The Gong Show," the absolute nadir of junk television, which was essentially the Marat/Sade Variety Hour. Insane people acted weird for cash and prizes. I watched the show with a combination of fascination and vague horror.Well, now you know how I got this way.
The Gong Show Movie went crashing into theaters the same year the Village People tried to cash in, just as disco was flatlining, with Can't Stop the Music--and do you think I'm trying to suggest something here? Was this ever a good idea?
Gong Show producer/host Chuck Barris, who looks like Billy Joel after an all-nighter, stars as himself. The joke here is that our man Chuck is burned out with the rigors of being rich, famous, and instantly recognizable whenever he goes. People keep accosting him on the street, begging to be put on the show. He's getting into fights with hecklers. He just wants to get away from it all. Does this sound gripping or what?
Chuck can't act. Chuck can't sing, either, though his self-penned tunes keep popping up throughout the movie, sung in a horrid fake-Dylan manner--more than enough to convince the viewer that we are indeed in vanity project Hell. Chuck also co-wrote the script with underground film icon Robert Downey, Sr. (Junior's dad), whose trademark brand of frenetic, incoherent weirdness, much in evidence here, went out of fashion circa 1969. Downey's contribution probably accounts for the movie's uncertain tone, which wavers uneasily between wild (though unfunny) comedy and straight drama. Or at least I think it's supposed to be dramatic when Chuck's girlfriend dumps him and a mournful ballad cues up on the soundtrack. Sung by Chuck, naturally.
Chuck's trials are interrupted ad nauseum by (presumably real) outtakes from The Gong Show, in which we get to hear jokes on the order of "You know what turns my stomach? Tits on my back!"And by this point you begin to feel silly for having passed on seeing "Freddy Got Fingered."