Before SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was on tv, and before AIRPLANE!, and even before KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, there was a little movie called THE GROOVE TUBE that was really the first over-the-top-satirical-movie-comedy. First shown in theatres in wide release in 1974, the movie is a series of sketches that parody and satirize popular television segments and movie sequences of the time.
The sketches vary in style and format. Featuring a group of humanoid apes that are drawn to a strange-humming quadratic object, the opening sequence of the movie parodies the opening of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. A sketch shortly after parodies many drive-in movies of the period having a hitchhiker meeting a beautiful companion that ends with a naked romp through the woods. In another sketch a corporate sponsored cooking show features the sponsor's shortening used through-out the cooking process and ends in a dish not quite picture-perfect.
The longest sequence in the movie is a short film entitled "The Dealers." It revolves around a couple of pot-heads who are attempting to become dealers and not just users. There are some funny moments in the spoof, particularly during the movie theatre, but the piece goes on for far too long.
One of the more clever sketches in the movie is the "Koko the Clown" segment. The piece begins with a basic children's format, but during "special imagination time" while the big people are all supposed to be out of the room, Koko sits down, pulls off his nose, and reads letters from children and their requested pieces of literature. Also memorable is a PSA about venereal disease that features a carefully masqueraded body part and a series of corporate energy commercials from the Uranus Corporation.
Besides being notable for being one of the first, if not the first movie of its type, THE GROOVE TUBE is notable for two actors who appear in it. The first is a young Richard Belzer. Belzer appears in several of the sketches, but is featured in "The Dealers." The other actor in the movie worth noting is Chevy Chase. Chase only appears in one notable sketch that is like a human-performance act one might see on a variety show (which were still popular at the time). Also, during the fake news broadcast, the host says the line, "Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow." That line was Chevy Chase's closing line at SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE as the "Weekend Update" host.
There are a several funny things in THE GROOVE TUBE and a few comedic gems. The movie is definitely outrageous, at times crude and almost revolting. However, even putting that aside some of the gags just don't work.
The biggest negative about THE GROOVE TUBE is that it hasn't aged very well. So much of the humor relies upon a person having some connection to the television commercials, media formats, and movie sequences of the early 1970s. Young film buffs will recognize some of the references, e.g. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the Cheech and Chong movies. However, they don't make, let along air them on tv, the type of low-budget PSAs as satirized in the movie. Someone under the age of 35 has never seen a corporate commercial similar to the ones the Uranus Corporation segments parody. Cooking shows don't feature their sponsor's foodstuffs and unless someone has seen Monty Python sketches, the under 30 crowd probably will find the on-spot reporting with the roving reporter unusual.
There were parts of the movie that I really like and others that I found dull. Fans of movies like KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE and AIRPLANE! might enjoy THE GROOVE TUBE. Those who were college students in the 1970s might also enjoy watching the movie for nostalgic reasons (from what I've been told the movie was shown at a lot of college campuses during the mid-1970s). For film and entertainment buffs, the movie is worth watching because it was one of the originators (if not The originator) of a particular type of movie comedy as well seeing Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase in one of their earliest film roles. Beyond that, the movie is a curiosity, but not really a must-see.
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