Sunday, 15 September 2013

Retro review: The Groove Tube (1974) comedy, Chevy Chase, Ken Shapiro

groove tube vipco cover
Being a glutton for punishment, I subjected myself to another 70s sketch comedy film. This time, The Groove Tube actually had moments of worth! I recall this again from the days of the video store, but couldn't remember if we ever actually rented it. Nothing rang a bell while watching it, so I guess not. I did however, have vivid memories of that video cover, and was amazed when the "character" pictured appeared in the film. More on that later...
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Opening with a 2001: A Space Odyssey spoof, only with the primates finding a television instead of an obelisk, and straight into a sequence involving a hitchhiker who thinks he's getting lucky only to run butt naked into the police (and instantly surprising is that the film doesn't shy away from full frontal male nudity! The naked man in question is musician Buzzy Linhart who wrote "Ya Gotta Have Friends" for Bette Midler, which was also used in Shrek!) Another big shock was hearing Curtis Mayfield's Move On Up as the main title theme. This film just gained it's first positive points!
groove tube spoof buzzy linhartgroove tube spoof buzzy linhart
Next up is a brilliant take on a morning kids show, involving Ko-ko the clown (director Ken Shapiro, who appears several times). In true pre-school fashion, grown ups are told to leave the room so we can get to the "make believe time". These include reading heavily explicit passages from Fanny Hill and the Marquis de Sade. Wonderfully subversive, although maybe not belly achingly funny.
Chevy Chase pops up for the first time (don't worry, he's not overly used) in a brief advert for a diet supplement which is basically an excuse to have adult movie star Jennifer Welles strip off. No complaints here. Chase's fingers also star in an amusing take on the old Yellow Pages ad, only rather than walking, the fingers "do it"
groove tube spoof chevy chasegroove tube spoof chevy chase
A lengthy, but not too unfunny, TV show "The Dealers" features Shapiro once again, as he and Richard Belzer (yep, the same one who would later star in Law & Order) play a pair of drug dealers who are all too quick to ditch their stash at the first hint of suspicion. This section also includes a rather brilliant psychedelic animated section which could have come straight out of Yellow Submarine. 
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 groove tube spoof groove tube spoof
The spoof news report, which would become a standard trope in this type of film (and indeed on TV) is actually very funny, with lots of smutty sounding foreign names and even some stock footage from the old serial, King of the Rocket Men. It also includes one of the better payoffs, and includes some funny commercials on behalf of the Uranus Corporation... There's also a section in which comical music is played over real political footage, a technique used often later by the Not The Nine O'clock News team.
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A sports section, in which the International Sex Games are commentated on expands the idea used by Woody Allen in Bananas, but more graphically. The satellite link to the "action" in Germany (which looks like an old 8mm loop) amusingly breaks down when it gets too explicit. The actress on screen, by the way is Mary Mendum, who made several hardcore films with cult director Joseph W. Sarno (whose Vampire Ecstasy, 1974 was released on DVD in the UK last year) under the name Rebecca Brooke.
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The most memorable skit is an infomercial warning of the dangers of VD, hosted by "Safety Sam" the intriguing looking guy on the video sleeve. Yep, that's what you think it is... The actor who had the balls to do this (sorry, couldn't resist) chose to leave their name off the credits, however..The lame song and dance number that plays the film out is superfluous once you've seen this bit!
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In conclusion, while not laugh out loud funny, this is much more memorable than many other spoof/sketch based films of the time. Worth checking out if only for Safety Sam...
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6 out of 10

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