When "Kentucky Fried Movie" opened in American theaters 10 years ago, critics greeted it with such phrases as "stupid," "a waste of time" and "not worth a nickel."
The film makers were thrilled.
"We ran all those (blurbs)," said Robert K. Weiss, producer of "Kentucky Fried Movie." "It was great for business."
So, critics beware. Weiss is at it again, this time with "Amazon Women on the Moon," another shotgun skit comedy that blends Mad magazine-style parody with chesty gratuitous nudity into something for people who clearly aren't seeking enlightenment.
"Amazon Women" (opening Friday) features 20 too-dirty-for-prime-time TV sketches, written by Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland and filmed under the guidance of five different directors--John Landis, Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton and, making his directing debut, Weiss himself.
"I am real happy producing, but when this opportunity came up (to direct), I jumped at it," said Weiss, co-producer on Universal's summer hit "Dragnet." "This was a chance to do a lot of funny stuff with friends."
The critics will decide how much funny stuff there is in "Amazon Women," then the target audience--presumably hip high schoolers and college students with easy majors--will decide for themselves.
With these kinds of movies, it is best to judge success by the ratio of funny skits to skits attempted.
"People are looking for a good batting average and that's what we tried for," Weiss said. "It's the old problem, trying to figure out what is funny to other people. With five directors, there were differences of opinion even among ourselves. . . . Some of it is going to stick to the wall and some of it ain't."
If half of the 20 mostly unrelated skits stick to the wall, "Amazon Women" will be regarded as a roaring success. That would certainly give it a higher batting average than "Kentucky Fried Movie," "Groove Tube," "Tunnelvision" or any others in the genre.
"Amazon Women" gets its title from the film's longest sketch, a parody of early '50s space movies, where rockets were fueled by sparklers or match sticks, and moons and planets were portrayed by painted paper plates dangling from strings.
Weiss directed this segment, which is used in the film as a spliced-up night-owl TV movie, interrupted by tacky commercials and technical difficulties. It stars Sybil Danning as the leader of a band of scantily-clad moon maidens armed only with what appear to be metal real-estate poles.
"It is a low-tech adventure," Weiss said, "with plumbing fittings and sets from K mart. It is like a thousand movies I have seen on TV in the middle of the night."
Weiss said that he and co-producer Landis, the director on "Kentucky Fried Movie," had first dibs on the script and that they had cut some sketches out of the herd (the original script was nearly 900 pages long) before the other directors signed on.
"We all saw things there we felt we absolutely had to do," he said. "We all had dinner one night in a Japanese restaurant and sorted through everything. It was like trading baseball cards. 'I'll give you this sketch if you'll give me that one.' "
Weiss, an alumnus of both the Bronx and Southern Illinois University, said he refused to trade away either "Amazon Women" or "Titan Man," the story of a teen-age boy who goes to his small-town pharmacy to equip himself for his first sexual experience, only to discover--through the clanging of bells, a marching band and photographers' flash bulbs--that he is the one-millionth buyer of Titan condoms.
Landis, working between his preliminary hearing and trial on charges stemming from the "Twilight Zone" deaths (he was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter in May), directed five of the segments.
Weiss said he was directing and producing instructional videotapes for the Los Angeles Police Department when he and Landis met in 1975.
"I came out to Los Angeles to work in videotape production and the company I was working for had this contract with the LAPD. So, I started working on them. Some of my more memorable titles were 'Recognition of Injuries,' 'Chemical Agents' and 'Pushing a Motor Vehicle Out of an Intersection.' "
Weiss said there was no stunt-man job open when Landis showed up, but the two became friends and when they discovered that they were both friends of the three people behind the satirical Kentucky Fried Theater troupe, they decided to collaborate on a feature film.
"It was like an 'Andy Hardy' movie. Like , 'I'm a producer, you're a director, these guys are writers , let's do a movie.' "
"Kentucky Fried Movie," which they got financed by shooting a 10-minute pilot at their own expense, cost $650,000 in 1977 and was a financial success, thanks largely to college audiences who didn't care what critics said.
It launched Weiss' producing career, it gave a huge boost to Landis' directing career (he had done one previous movie, "Schlock"), and it launched the screen writing/directing careers of Kentucky Fried Theater's Jim Abrahams and Jerry and David Zucker. Their next film was "Airplane!"
Weiss later produced Landis' "Blues Brothers" and the Kentucky Fried guys' hilarious but short-lived TV series "Police Squad."
Weiss said "Police Squad" is now being developed as a feature for Paramount by Abrahams, the Zuckers and Pat Proft. Weiss will produce.
"I wanted to do it ('Police Squad') for years. The boys said 'No, we want to try something else.' I think Mel Brooks changed their mind. He said, 'Nobody does this stuff like you guys. You've got to do more.' That made them take another look at 'Police Squad.' "
Brooks was right about Abrahams and the Zuckers. Most of "Airplane!'s" scattershot comedy "stuck to the wall," and their follow-ups--"Top Secret" and "Ruthless People"--had more good moments than bad.
Weiss' projects have been much more erratic. "Blue Brothers" and "Dragnet" were box-office hits, "Dr. Detroit" was a flop.
But producers rarely take the heat for failed humor. As a co-producer and co-director on "Amazon Women," he will be more vulnerable than he has been in the past.
First of all, this anthology is eight times more expensive than "Kentucky Fried Movie," and it has attracted some stars (all of whom worked for the same salary, he said) who will bring more attention to it.
Among the cameo players are Rosanna Arquette, Griffin Dunne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lou Jacobi, B. B. King, Steven Guttenberg, Henry Silva, Ralph Bellamy and Carrie Fisher.
One thing is certain . Director Weiss has given producer Weiss some things to think about.
"When a producer looks at his watch, he doesn't see time, he sees money," Weiss said. "It is not so many hours to lunch, it's so many thousands of dollars to lunch.
"The director is trying to get his best shot, to cover himself on a scene or explore for something new. It's the producer's job to show him his watch and say, 'Take a peek, pal, let's get moving.'
"When I was directing on this movie, I kept looking at the watch with the dollar signs on it and asking myself, 'Is this is $50,000 joke?'
"Half of you says 'Yes,' and half says 'No.' It gives you a sense of balance."