Equal parts self-congratulatory and self-destructive, this noisy comedy/literature/music anthology was undoubtedly envisioned by its creators as a bracing attack on mainstream sensibilities. Luminaries including Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, Richard Pryor, and Andy Warhol contributed sequences, with Pryor appearing onscreen the most frequently. In lieu of a proper overriding aesthetic, producer-director Ernest Pintoff merely assembles unrelated pieces into a sloppy collage. Long sequences of Dynamite Chicken comprise jump-cut montages of images, news headlines, performances, and photographs, accompanied by lofty allusions to censorship and freedom and rebellion—as well as leering shots of naked women. It says a lot about Dynamite Chicken that one of the participants is Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein, one of history’s sleaziest pornographers; Goldstein’s inclusion proves that many important progressives of the ’60s and ’70s blurred the lines between fighting Establishment inhibitions and inflicting lowbrow tastes onto an unsuspecting public. Furthermore, it’s impossible to imagine that Dynamite Chicken changed any minds during its original release—the piece is so abrasive that it simply represents true believers preaching to other true believers. After all, the film’s many laments about censorship ring hollow considering the presence of myriad full-frontal shots, since it’s not as if Dynamite Chicken was impacted by censorship. Anyway, Pryor delivers a few sharp lines, even though most of his material is skewed toward shock value (“I think the American flag would make a great douche bag cover”), and it’s interesting-ish to note contributions by future comedy notables Michael O’Donoghue and Fred Willard. Yet the non-appeal of Dynamite Chicken is summed up by a quick shot featuring a sound tech generating atonal feedback—this one’s all about sound and fury, signifying nothing. That is, unless a close-up of Lennon picking his toes is your idea of entertainment.
Dynamite Chicken: SQUARE