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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
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!!!
I always wanted to see The Gong Show Movie. As a kid, I was a big fan of Mr.
Barris. I wanted to grow up to be just like him. He represented the ultimate
Made near the end of the Gong Show's run in 1980, Chuck Barris made a critically lambasted vanity project about how much "fun" it was being the host of the program. Unlike Mariah Carey's "Glitter", Chuck Barris wasn't trying to make a masterpiece. He pretty much portrays a week in the life of himself. You get to see the "talented" contestants attempts to impress him to get a chance to appear on T.V. (some of whom were deemed too racy for the 1970's so this R-rated movie showcases performances that never aired). Wherever he goes, he runs into people who were smart enough to know that having zero talent was good enough to appear on The Gong Show; everyone is trying to audition for him on the spot with some zany numbers. Cameos by just about all his favorite judges appear (I liked Rip Taylor's hilarious role as a waiter) and there are some amusing numbers; especially the showstopper "Don't Get Up For Me". Although it's not a very good film, it's great to finally be able to see a time capsule of one of the most off-beat programs ever aired on the boob tube. My next wish: I want too see the "Best Of The Gong Show" on DVD. Now!
BTW, it was great to see "The Unknown Comic" again. The idea of putting a paper bag on your head while cracking horrid jokes was pure genius. I think he even had his own movie made in the mid-80's, too.
This movie is just one big "uncensored" episode of the infamous tv show "The Gong Show" and for fans of the show, like myself, it's truly a memorable classic. When this movie was released 21 years ago, it was bashed by critics who called it "nothing more than a sleazy freak show" and that's probably the reason why it was never released on video. I think it's about time that somebody re-issues this hilarious tale of just how far a game show host will go to exploit and humiliate the guests on his show. Chuck "Chucky Baby" Barris plays himself in a much more mellow role than the one he played on the show (rumor has it that Barris was high on uppers during almost every broadcast...and it showed) as a man frustrated with the networks who want him to keep his syndicated show on a fine line between the insane and the obscene. This being too hard to do, Barris suffers a nervous breakdown which leads him into exile in a desert in Morocco where all his friends follow him and convince him to just "do what he wants to do" despite what the networks who broadcast his show say. This is accompanied by a catchy tune titled "Don't Get up For Me". Barris finally goes back to the states and does the show "his way", causing one network executive to literally faint during the broadcast. This movie was a perfect ending to The Gong Show itself, which went off the air a few months after the movie premiered. The uncensored collection of auditions and show performances in this movie are priceless. Some of the acts include a man portraying Jesus Christ on the cross singing the Dean Martin tune "Please Release Me, Let Me Go", The Unknown Comic's vulgar jokes, two siamese twins singing The Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together", Jaye P. Morgan flashing her breasts, a human flatulent machine, an upside down banjo player who is dropped onto the stage head-first, and a folk song about legalizing prostitution, just to name a few. The soundtrack is great and it should be released along with the movie itself. The problem with today's movies are that all of them, whether great or horrible, are released on video while many movies before 1990 were never released on video. It didn't matter if they were great or lousy. I hope to see a copy of this movie on the market within the next few years. My copy isn't that good because it's very very old and barely watchable. That's why we need this cult classic on video. See it if you can. If not, petition to see it by having MCA Universal release it on VHS and DVD. 21 years without it is enough. Get your act together Universal...it's about time.
Actually, it's a MUST see for Gong Show fans.
The film is uneven, but there are some excellent scenes such as the hospital scene.
Plus, you get to see Gong Show rarities like the popsicle twins and Jaye P.'s unsheathing.
Note that 30% of the voters (so far) have given this film a 10 and about 30% have given it a 1 !
A much underrated (and sadly, widely unavailable) film about an egomaniacal talent show host starring the co-writer and director of the film who also just happened to be the host of the real Gong Show. Although at times self-indulgent (the film ends with most of the Gong Show regulars trying to woo Barris out of the desert), the film is on the whole truly bizarre and should appeal to fans of "out" cinema of the 60's and early 70's. No surprise, then, that the film was co-written by underground legend Robert Downey Sr. whose presence is strongly felt; fans of his work should not be taken aback by Barris's role in the spotlight as Downey clearly had some significant input here. Don't miss it if opportunity arises, and what with Spike Jonze working on a Barris related project, hopefully opportunity will be more available soon.
If you weren't a fan of Chuck Barris' silly game show, you probably should
steer clear of this movie. But if you WERE a fan (or are just curious to
check out a particularly wacked-out part of television history), you'll
probably derive some totally mindless enjoyment here.
The story, such as it is, revolves around a typical week in the life of Barris and the trials and tribulations he goes through to make sure the show goes on - dealing with guests, panelists, fans AND battling the network brass who want him to tone down the raunchiness BUT keep ratings up at the same time. This movie is definitely Chuck's baby he co-wrote, directed, stars and even wrote a few toe-tapping ditties on the soundtrack. Some saw the movie as a shameless vanity project, but I think they missed the point Chuck Barris WAS "The Gong Show" and his trademark wackiness was a huge influence on TV game shows of the period ("The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game" and "The $1.98 Beauty Contest" are others he created or helped create). As the story unspools, there are lots of very funny out-takes deemed "too hot for TV" laced into the proceedings and lots of familiar faces from the show's heyday can be spotted, adding to the fun.
This movie is an amusing tribute to an odd but essential piece of TV history.
Hollywood gave us "Birth Of A Nation. It gave us "Gone With The Wind"
and "The Wizard of Oz" in one year, 1939. "Citizen Kane" followed and
was itself followed by such classics as "The Best Years Of Our Lives,"
"On The Waterfront," "The Ten Commandments" "Ben Hur," and "2001: A
Space Odyssey," among other titanic films.
Then in 1980, the one true master, the genius that is Chuck Barris, gave us "The Gong Show Movie," based on what was perhaps Newton Minnow's brightest light, the TV show, "The Gong Show."
In a nutshell, this is what it's really all about. Life itself. The secrets of the universe revealed and the meaning of life itself, all for you and me in glorious color. All in "The Gong Show Movie." BTW, the 10 score and this review might be just a tad facetious. Maybe. Possibly.
The Gong Show Movie, is about The Gong Show's creator Chuck Barris (who also co-wrote and directed this film) who after several auditions for the show and taping it is getting exhausted. For those who have never seen The Gong Show, it was a game show hosted by Chuck Barris, where they would get people to perform on stage showcasing a talent of theirs and they are judged my several celebrity judges and if they are not liked then a huge gong would be banged. Several of the people on the show had some very unusual and unique talents which would make the television show funny. In the movie Chuck, is getting fed up with the show and trying to keep the ratings for the show up as well as making sure the show isn't offensive and doesn't offend the audience. Everywhere he goes people seem to recognize Chuck and show him their own talents which they hope can be showcased on the television show and eventually Chuck as a breakdown and it is up to the staff and crew of The Gong Show to bring him back. I have never actually seen an episode of The Gong Show, but I have read about it and seen clips of it and it looks like it was a fun show. The show was a hit for several years but when this movie came out to theaters it did very poorly and it currently isn't available on video or DVD. The film isn't very well made and at times it looks like a made for TV movie. The acting also isn't that great and the film tries to make us laugh with several different jokes and sketches but the jokes and sketches just did not work and they did not work and they did not make me laugh. There also really isn't much of a story to this film either other than showing different people auditioning for the show and Chuck's run ins with bizarre fans of the show and spending time with his girlfriend Red. Despite these flaws there was still something I liked about this movie. It was entertaining enough and in some ways the film was so flawed that it almost gave it a campy charm making it fun to watch. The film is entertaining and there are some catchy musical numbers so I'm recommending it for those who will appreciate this film more for it's camp value then anything else because the sheer fact that this film doesn't work on a lot of levels coincidentally does make it work as a B film.
Basically this is just a fictional tale of Chuck Barris going crazy
trying to keep the "Gong Show" on the air and appease the censors at
the same time.
Those sections of the movie are drivel--unfunny, really stupid and tedious.
But when they show unedited acts from the "Gong Show" this movie takes off.
The acts are sick and crude--and absolutely hilarious. My favorites are a version of the "Vatican Rag" (with one guy dressed as a priest and three other guys as nuns acting out the song) and some teenage girls sucking on popsicles that are--um--a very unusual shape and color. All the acts are good, but these two stand out.
I'm shocked that this isn't available in video or DVD! It bombed at the box office but so did "Ishtar" and I see tons of those available! Hopefully with the Chuck Barris movie being released soon this will be rectified.
Not a good movie but a very fun good-bad movie. And you get to see Jaye P. Morgan's breasts!
I used to hurry home from school every afternoon in time for The Gong Show, which even my mother would watch instead of whatever soap opera was airing on the other channel. This erratic big screen version of the show captures its anarchic appeal, and whilst the 'story' is less than interesting, the uncensored material from the show itself is priceless. There's also one truly brilliant moment in the framing sequences: toward the end of the film, the cast pursue a harried Chuck to the Sahara Desert and serenade him with a marvelous song called Don't Get Up For Me--one of several songs penned by Barris for the film. It's well past time for the original series to be resurrected on DVD, and it's something of a surprise that this spin-off has been unavailable on home video all these years. A nostalgic treat for those in the 35-55 demographic, The Gong Show Movie may not be high art, but it will certainly leave you laughing.
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