A week in the life of "The Gong Show" host and creator Chuck Barris who lives through a series of outrageous competitors, stressful situations, a nervous breakdown and other comical ...
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A week in the life of "The Gong Show" host and creator Chuck Barris who lives through a series of outrageous competitors, stressful situations, a nervous breakdown and other comical characters involved in his life and work on the TV show. Written by
Chuck Barris has had a most curious, yet successful, career in TV - creating some of the best of what would now be known as the first "reality" game show programs. He has even been the subject of a not-quite-weird-enough bio-pic "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (George Clooney directing the pitch-perfect Sam Rockwell from an interesting, though downbeat script by the awesome Charlie Kaufman)- but probably nothing rates as odder on the Barris gong than THE GONG SHOW MOVIE.
Barris plays himself in this underplayed curio about the strife of being Chuckie-Chuckie-Chuckie. The film seems to veer back and forth from being a behind-the-scenes expose of the nightmare it was for Barris to create, host and syndicate the wonderfully bizarre "Gong Show" TV series and a dour, serious filmed autobiography of the troubled, creative genius. Barris, as himself, seems to absolutely hate the Gong Show phenomenon he has created for himself, and overtly resents its mind-numbing success. As a reader coming in from the understanding of his Dangerous Mind "autobiography", it helps flesh out his malaise.
Directed by Barris and co-written by Robert Downey, Sr., the movie is observant and quite crude, rough and documentary-like, but unfortunately the viewer is left on the outside looking in and cannot celebrate the symphony of bizarreness that Barris created. We end up hardly laughing at the desperation and sadness that Barris conveys of his situation throughout the film. Though the show was a otherworldly treat in the most 70's, low-brow yet knowing way - the film (accurately?) portrays The Gong Show as a meat factory that just exists to churn out awful acts at the behest of it's self-loathing court jester/master of ceremonies and B-list jury of peers - and served up to its junkie audience who can't get enough.
This is a most unusual and somewhat fascinating portrait of the 1970's, and is probably easier enjoyed by those who can appreciate the cutting-edge nature of the production, and less by those who are seeking a filmed-version tribute of the cult classic TV show. Ultimately, the balance of self-examination and flat-out appreciation of the cancelled show is off-whack - but should only be seen through the eyes of knowing what you are about to see isn't what you ultimately THINK or hope you are about to see. I would have gladly wished to see Barris mock the acts, guests and surrounding sycophants with a bit more outer vengeance than the implosive, introspective tact he takes on here. But ultimately what's here isn't totally without the familiar faves - there's also The Unknown Comic, Rip Taylor, Jamie Farr and Jaye P. Morgan (and her uncensored breasts). By the way - look for Saturday Night Live's Phil Hartman in a bit part!
Pulled from release just days after it's initial opening date by Universal in 1980, and heretofore unavailable on video or DVD (unless you find it on eBay), I would recommend this lost piece of cult nostalgia for those truly interested in seeing an almost-honest, partially laugh-free, docu-drama wrapped around one of the most inherently cultural, whimsical touchstones of the me-generation.
By the way Universal - I WOULD BUY THIS DVD. Just in case you're reading this... maybe you and whoever owns the rights to the TV show (Sony?) could get together on this?
BACK WITH MORE... STUFF!!!
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