Directed By: Ernest Pintoff
Starring: Richard Pryor, Joan Baez, Andy Warhol
Tag line: "Let's Hear It For Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll!"
Trivia: This film was partly funded by John Lennon and Yoko One, who also appear in it
The opening titles for 1971’s Dynamite Chicken act as a precursor for what’s to come, describing the film as “A contemporary probe and commentary of the mores and maladies of our age... with shtick, bits, pieces, girls, some hamburger, a little hair, a lady, some fellas, some religious stuff, and a lot of other things”. It turns out to be the perfect synopsis for what is an odd, yet wholly intriguing motion picture.
Addressing many of the issues prevalent at the time, Dynamite Chicken has no narrative structure to speak of; it’s a collection of images, sketches and video clips that occasionally wrap around a specific theme, i.e. racism, women’s liberation, drugs, poetry, and even hamburgers (by way of a visit to Burger King, where we watch the employees preparing for the day’s business). There’s a segment on censorship featuring Al Goldstein and Jim Buckley, the founders of Screw, a weekly pornographic magazine that debuted in 1968. Following a montage of dirty words and sexual imagery, the sequence concludes with Goldstein and Buckley standing around a blow-up sex doll and exclaiming “Fornication is fun, but Screw is better”. The sole link joining all this chaos together is a running monologue, delivered by Richard Pryor as he walks the streets of New York City, talking about everything from his childhood and home life to why he’s convinced the Pope doesn’t fart.
With a slew of recognizable faces, including John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, and rock group Sha Na Na, Dynamite Chicken is a veritable time capsule of America in the early ‘70s. Sure, the social issues it addresses, and the political messages it conveys, are no longer relevant, but the spirit of anarchy that resonates through every single frame ensures, at the very least, it will always be entertaining. Dynamite Chicken may be dated, but it’s never, ever dull.