The Groove Tube, 1974 – Mod Movie Monday at The Tiki BlogPosted on February 22nd, 2010 2 comments
One of the craziest, funniest, raunchiest movies of all time, the first major motion picture ever to use the sketch comedy format made famous by Saturday Night Live and Second City TV, here’s this week’s Mod Movie Monday Feature
Starring Ken Shapiro, Chevy Chase, Richard Beltzer and ensemble.
In the 60s and early 70s modern ‘sketch’ comedy was still new, and Channel One Theater in New York was one of the groups pioneering this off-beat sort of comedy. From that was born The Groove Tube, written and directed by Ken Shapiro of Channel One.
As always I won’t give anything away, but I can give you a basic idea of what you’re going to see. The viewer is to believe they are not watching a movie, but TV in a world where nudity, adult themes, far-out trips, cursing and unbound comedy is uncensored. After the opening credits (which spoofs 2001-A Space Odyssey and features music by Curtis Mayfield) the viewer seems to be watching a TV that someone else is controlling…changing stations, watching commercials, etc. (much like Robot Chicken does today (except with real people instead of toys)). (wow, that’s a (lot of) brackets!) Each sketch is a full commercial or part of a TV show, and include such greats as Koko the Clown, Brown-25 from The Uranus Corporation, a commercial for “Geritan”, Chevy Chase singing “I’m looking over a four leaf clover”, and “Channel One Evening News.”
Although Shapiro played the anchor on the Evening News, the skit and its tagline, ‘Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow,’ were taken along to Saturday Night Live with Chevy Chase, and live on today as Weekend Update.
This movie pulled out all the stops, using full-frontal nudity, drug use, prostitution, and silliness in a truly funny way. I also believe this was the first and only time a grown man in a suit, hat and brief case danced through the streets of New York singing “Just me, Just You” and lived to tell about it.
Seriously, this movie is funny as hell. I waited 25 years to see it and wasn’t disappointed. Back in 1975, when it was playing at the Towne-4 movie theater next to the Searstown Mall in Pleasantville, NJ, my family wanted to see it. The TV commercials made it look like a straight-up comedy (without the raunchiness), and the newspaper ad showed it as being rated “G” (it’s actually rated R). When we got to the movies, and I still remember this clearly, the pretty young girl at the ticket counter told my my parents “Aw, you don’t want to take him in there”, to which they said, “But it’s rated G”, to which she replied, “Oh no, sorry about that. The paste up guy at the newspaper didn’t do the ad right and the “R” slipped off the ad, if you look at the paper again you’ll see the “R” overlapping the ad under it.” How about that, huh? So I didn’t get to see it. Considering I was 7, it’s probably a good thing.
This is some pretty low-brow comedy so for a drink & snacks I’d say cheap beer and chips all the way. Miller High Life and Doritos would be very 70s. If you’re not a beer drinker, then Jack on the rocks, and Herrs potato chips. Some New Yawk style pizza too. Watch it by the glow of a Lava Lamp and a Spencer’s Gifts fiber-optic tree for full effect, man. Yeah.
-Tiki Chris for Tiki Lounge TalkMod Movie Mondays, Personal Stories, Tiki Talk 70's, Groove Tube, Mod Movie Mondays, movie, retro, saturday night live, snl
The Groove Tube is a hilarious time capsule from 1975. Very ahead of its time, and it certainly influenced others who followed.
I actually first discovered it on VHS in the 1980s. Believe it or not, I was going through a large bin of miscellaneous VHS tapes at, of all places, K-Mart. It was the only copy in there. Given the content, the supplier must have mistakenly put a copy in with their shipment. Anyway, I took a chance, and bought it. Wow – it was great. Lots of brilliance, and some clever ideas.
The people who rate this poorly today are wrong. They are rating a movie out of its time context, and ignoring the surprisingly good work they accomplished on a paltry budget back in the 1970s. To appreciate this, you have to mentally place yourself back in the proper time period – the 70s, and not judge it by what followed. Otherwise, it’s kind of like people who say, “I don’t like movies that are black and white!”
Both Ken Shapiro and Lane Sarasohn are still around. Ken keeps a very low profile these days; you won’t find him on the net, and he is not to be confused with the Ken Shapiro on IMDB who has written for some awards shows – different guy. Sarasohn has his own website. Buzzy Linhart, the hitchhiker (and since, a musician) has a website as well. We all know that Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase went on to greener pastures. Nobody knows what happened to the girl in the Volkswagen (Richmond Baer), however I did find that someone with that name died around 1980, and I suspect it may have been her.
If you do some googling, a woman who was an extra in the ending dance sequence wrote a post on her blog describing how that worked out (she was approached on her lunch hour to do it, and I think she was paid $1). I don’t recall any more details, but it was an interesting story.
Anyway, I’ll always have great feelings about discovering and watching this film. The fact that it cost only $200,000 to make and grossed $20,447,000 (in the 70s) says that people REALLY liked it. That could only have come only from very strong word of mouth.
I remember seeing this movie in a book I got from the the library. Unfortunately, it was titled “The 100 Worst Movies Of All Time”. If I’m not mistaken, it was written by the guys who created Rotten Tomatoes before that came into existence. Other notable movies that I remember from that book are: “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians”, “The Omen”, and “Freaks”, the movie that starred a bunch of pinheads, midgets, and other side show oddities. And truth be told, I think I still have this book to this day. It’s probably up in the attic with the other book I checked out at the time, “The Muppet Movie”. That should give you an idea of how long ago this was. Man, I’m goin to have some killer late fees…..
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