Dynamite Chicken is an assemblage of clips and original footage designed to illustrate the counterculture as it was in the early seventies, just as the decade was moving on from heady days of the sixties. There is a lot of Richard Pryor included, as he was filmed on a basketball court rambling on various subjects such as the one he begins the movie with: farting. He reminisces about his father farting, how women don't really fart, how celebrities must fart too, and so on until it's time to launch into the sketches and interviews which make up the bulk of the running time - and some music, too.
"Of its time" would be the kindest thing to say about Dynamite Chicken, along with an observation that the editor certainly earned his pay packet as a collage of imagery is arranged rapid fire onto the screen. This is the kind of film that would play to college and university campuses back in the seventies, presumably to an appreciative audience where the radical politics espoused along with the hip humour would have been appropriate for those who felt that the mainstream was not catering to their needs. Although the mainstream is featured here with many clips and photographs of recognisable pop culture and political artefacts, the tone is relentlessly satirical.
And nothing dates quicker than satire, so that what may well have gone down a storm with pot-smoking students on a Saturday night does not look quite so hilarious on in the cold light of the twenty-first century. But satire has entered the mainstream itself nowadays, so does not seem quite as daring as when the followers of Lenny Bruce (who is included in an archive extract) were pioneering the humorous attack on the status quo; it depends on the comedian of course, but Dynamite Chicken is intriguing for its early take on various sacred cows, even though it packs so many targets into its short duration that it looks more like a selection grabbed at random.
So there's not much to raise much of a titter from this these days, as even Pryor isn't working at full strength though it is entertaining to listen to him voice the first thing that pops into his head, and his cachet at the time means that director Ernest Pintoff (who is an Oscar-winning filmmaker, but not for this) returns to him again and again. Or it could be that he wanted to get his money's worth out of what footage he had of him. Whatever, there is more here than Pryor, not that the publicity would have alerted you to that, but there's also journalist Paul Krassner voicing his opinion on violence (if you're a member of the Viet Cong then it's OK), Al Goldstein predictably setting out his sexual manifesto, and sketches from the Ace Trucking Company.
There are other interviews, one of which with John Lennon and Yoko Ono which must last thirty seconds, if that, and features Lennon telling us about his "bed-in" while Yoko looks on silently. Big closeup of John's right foot, too, for no apparent reason. In a way, it's refreshing to recall the days when engaging with politics didn't automatically prompt the rolling of eyes and complaints that it's boring and a waste of time, but Dynamite Chicken undercuts its pioneering spirit by implementing a sneering tone, as when ordinary folks are sent up for enjoying fast food burgers or taking pride in their flag, and the quotes from feminists are juxtaposed with even more shots of naked women frolicking, which does suggest a conflict of interest. If nothing else, the film encapsulates the more popular left wing of the time when such stances were taken to be un-American - pictures of Richard Nixon proliferate - but had not moved on as much as they thought they had.