Gross, as in really big

Rude humour a Canadian specialty

Published: Jul 20 2015, 01:01:am

Friday, March 12, 1982
TASTELESS. THAT WAS THE CLOSEST thing to a positive comment in Variety's trade-oriented review of the film Porky's.
    Tasteless. That's all that can be said about the advertising campaign that distributor 20th Century-Fox is mounting on behalf of the Canadian-made motion picture, a comedy about sex-obsessed teenagers.
    Written and directed by Bob (Murder by Decree) Clark, the picture narrowly missed being tagged with the dreaded U.S. X rating. Cut so that Porky's could qualify for the milder American R (for Restricted) label was a too-sexy nude scene featuring Vancouver actress Kim Cattrall.
    Currently [1982] on view in the Genie Award-winning Ticket to Heaven, Cattrall had an important supporting role in 1981's Clark-directed Tribute. In Porky's, she has star billing, playing a character the press notes identify as "the secretly libidinous Miss Honeywell, gym teacher and cheerleader at Angel Beach High."
    The picture, scheduled to open here next Friday [March 19], has B.C.'s own Restricted rating, with the classifier's warning: frequent very coarse language, some nudity and suggestive scenes."

The above is a restored version of a Province news feature by Michael Walsh originally published in 1982.

Afterword: To the best of my recollection, Porky's opened as scheduled in Vancouver. I have no idea why my review took a month to find its way into print, although I may have accumulated some vacation time and was off the week that it arrived. By mid-April 1982, the picture had made Canadian film history and the review was part of the following news feature:

Tuesday, April 20, 1982
PORKY'S. Music by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer. Written and directed by Bob Clark. Running time: 94 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. classifier's warning: frequent very coarse language, some nudity and suggestive scenes.

BRACE YOURSELVES. A LITTLE movie with modest expectations just became a hit. A picture that was not planned in Hollywood, contains no big name Americans and does not resemble any of the current trend movies has managed to take the No. 1 spot on Variety's weekly list of the 50 Top-Grossing Films.
    A sharp, clear note sounds in the film community when a picture's domestic rentals — money earned at the boxoffice — exceeds the film's production costs. Suddenly. everyone knows that Porky's is a $ucce$$.
    You know what that means.
     Since Toronto-based Bob Clark's high-school sex comedy is not part of an already-established trend, many will be tempted to see it as a trend-setter. At this very moment, less imaginative filmmakers are planning adolescent pant-and-drool epics that will get made because they promise to be "just like Porky's."
    But why wait on the copycats? In all likelihood the lookalikes will miss the essential point and, attributing Porky's popular success to its exuberant vulgarity, will concentrate on ever-greater grossness.

     See Porky's now, and you may be surprised to find out how good-natured, sweet-tempered and appealing rude humour can be. Clark uses teenaged sexual anxieties to power a plotline that is both more complex and more interesting than expected.
    His picture introduces the boys of Angel Beach High in Florida, circa 1954. Our heroes — "Pee Wee" Morris (Dan Monahan), Tommy Turner (Wyatt Knight), "Meat"Tuperello (Tony Ganios), Billy McCarty (Mark Herrier), Tim Cavanaugh (Cyril O'Reilly) and Mickey Jarvis (Roger Wilson) — spend a great deal of their time discussing, plotting, planning and pursuing sexual experience.
    Their preoccupation eventually brings them to Porky's, a notorious roadhouse hidden away in the swamplands of the next county. There, under the protection of his brother, Sheriff Wallace (Alex Karras), the publican known as Porky (Chuck Mitchell) offers illicit pleasures to the underaged.
    Or so we're told. In fact, the superheated six are not treated well at all. Their humiliation at the hands of the unscrupulous Porky is a major growth experience for the group, and the real mainspring of the plot.
    What Porky's does (and does rather nicely) is develop a theme through its story. Three years ago, Clark managed a similar feat, examining the use and abuse of power within the context of a Sherlock Holmes thriller called Murder by Decree.
    In Porky's he keeps us laughing — one report claims that it contains "every high school sex joke of all time" — while his characters learn some values-laden lessons in teamwork, tolerance, honesty and honour.
     For the most part, the director avoids the two things that can make a sex comedy utterly offensive: mean-minded male characters and sex-toy females.
    Here, the young women, among them a self-aware carny attraction known as Cherry Forever (Susan Clark) and a classmate named Wendy Williams (Kaki Hunter) have some of the best lines. Sex is a subject that intrigues virtually everyone in the picture, male and female, and there is no sense of anyone being "used."
    Which brings us to the picture's villains, a pair of hulking individuals who are villains precisely because they are mean, vicious and dishonest, One is Porky, a thief and bully who makes promises — "get it at Porky's" — that he doesn't keep.
    Down another plotline is the girls' gym teacher, Beulah Balbricker (Nancy Parsons).  A bitter, over-stuffed sausage of a woman, she is the absolute opposite of the healthy, open release that athletics are supposed to represent.
     Indeed, that aspect of the story is hilariously brought to life by Balbricker's co-worker, coach Lynn "Lassie" Honeywell (Kim Cattrall). Her nickname tells us all we need to know about the pure animal passion she will eventually give into.
    A bawdy romp, Porky's is a film that owes much to both 1978's Animal House and Meatballs (1979). Like them, it is a good enough picture to be discussed seriously because there is a sense of "something" going on beneath the high spirits, something that leaves audiences feeling good about the story and its characters.
    Six prints of Porky's are playing locally. According to Odeon Theatres' Ron Keillor, the company wishes it had more.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1982.

Afterword: Pee Wee Morris was Dan Monahan's first starring role in a feature film, a part that he would reprise in 1983's Porky's II: The Next Day and Porky's Revenge (1985). Aside from a co-starring role opposite Tim Matheson in the derivative college comedy Up the Creek (1984), Porky's pretty much was his movie acting career. Having majored in business as well as drama at Ohio University, he seems to have had a vocational Plan B that has given him the leisure to follow his passion for golf. Monahan celebrates his 60th birthday today (July 20).
Monday, February 14, 1983
    For anyone interested in the Canadian feature-film industry,  1982 was the year of Porky's. Released last March, director Bob Clark's period sex comedy took off like a rocket. It quickly became Canada's all-time boxoffice champion.
    Last month, it made history. Variety published its annual list of the year's "Big Rental Films," and Porky's became the first Canadian-made movie to make it into the international top ten.
    With domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals of $53.5 million, 
Porky's occupies the No. 4 spot. It trails E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ($187 m), Rocky III  ($63,450,000) and On Golden Pond ($63 m).
    It's ahead of An Officer and a Gentleman ($52 m),
 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas ($48 million), Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan ($40 m), Poltergeist  ($36,175,941), Annie ($35,180,855) and Chariots of Fire ($27.6 m).
    Made for $5.5 million, Porky's is one of eight Canadian films on Variety's chart. Closest to it on the list is the Franco-Canadian co-production Quest for Fire, in 29th position with rentals of $12.2 million.
    Among the other Canadian productions listed are Visiting Hours (52), If You Could See What I Hear (58), The Incubus (59), Atlantic City (70), The Amateur (81) and My Bloody Valentine (108). Together, they account for total rentals of $29,347,491.
    One measure of Porky's financial success is the fact that its rentals total is greater than that of all the other Canadian films combined.
    It was a good year in general. Total the 1982 rentals of all the Canadian films listed and the sum — $95,047,491 — is nearly three times greater than the 1981 figure.
    Porky's performance is even more spectacular when taken in perspective. Canada's previous box office champion was Ivan Reitman's Meatballs, a 1979 comedy that placed 16th on its year's Variety chart with $19,674,000 in rentals.
    In 1979, there were four Canadian features listed, including Clark's own Murder by Decree (88). The total rentals for the year were $26,716,000. In 1980, five Canadian films generated only $22,550,000 in rental fees.
    Canada's previous record year, 1981, saw eight features make the Variety chart. A group that included Heavy Metal (39), Scanners (65) and Clark's Tribute (84), they accounted for rentals of $32,252,365.
    Not unexpectedly, Porky's: The Next Day is already in the can. It is scheduled for release in June [1973]. As if that weren't enough, Montreal producer Harold Greenberg has announced that "we have authorized a script for Porky's III."

The above is a restored version of a Province feature report by Michael Walsh originally published in 1982. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Currently credited with having earned $111,289,673 (US), Porky's held the title as top-grossing Canadian film for a full generation. In 2002, Winnipeg-born writer Nina Vardalos's U.S.-Canadian co-production My Big Fat Greek Wedding was able to claim the honour. To date, her set-in-Chicago, shot-in-Toronto romantic comedy has earned a reported $368,744,044.
    Although writer-director Bob Clark's returned to the United States in 1984, his place in Canadian film history is assured by the eight features he made here during his 10-year residency. Among his work currently included in the Reeling Back archive are 1974's Black Christmas, Murder by Decree (1979), Tribute (1980), and the classic A Christmas Story (1983).