Americathon (1979)

USA, West Germany,
86m
35mm film, Technicolor
mono, English

An American science fiction comedy film directed by Neil Israel.

Plot Summary

In the near future, the United States is bankrupt and the government is facing having to hand over its remaining assets to a group of Native Americans who are now in control of the Nike Corporation. President Chet Roosevelt decides that the only way to save the country – and his job – is to stage a fund-raising telethon.

Credits

Crew
Director: Neil Israel
Lorimar Filmgesellshaft GmbH
Producer: Joe Roth
Script: Neil Israel, Michael Mislove, Monica McGowan Johnson
Play: Peter Bergman, Philip Proctor, Herschel F. Rubin
2nd Unit Director: Stan Jolley
Director of Photography: Gerald Hirschfield
Music: Tom Scott
Songs: Eddie Money, Elvis Costello, The Beach Boys, Nick Lowe
Re-Recording Mixer: Michael Minkler
Production Designer: Stan Jolley
Property Master: Thomas Gark
Casting Executive: Eve Brandstein

Cast
John Ritter (President Chet Roosevelt)
Harvey Korman (Monty Rushmore)
Fred Willard (Vincent Vanderhoff)
Chief Dan George (Sam Birdwater)
Richard Schaal (Jerry)
Peter Riegert (Eric McMurkin)
Nancy Morgan (Lucy Beth)
Zane Buzby (Mouling Jackson)
Meat Loaf (Oklahoma Daredevil)
Elvis Costello (The Earl of Manchester)
Terence McGovern (Danny Olson)
Tommy Lasorda (Jimmy Dunphy)
Howard Hesseman (Kip Margolis)
Jay Leno (Poopy Butt)
Dorothy Stratten [Americathon stage dancer – uncredited]

Alternative Titles

Amerika 1998 – Norwegian title

Includes extracts from
The Animal World (1955)

Extracts included in
Dorothy Stratten: The Untold Story (1985)

Press

1979
Cinefantastique vol.9 no.2 (Winter 1979) p.32
It is a superficially humorous film, successful as often as it is not, focusing on the manner in which Americans are misled by their better insticts (i.e., patriotism). Like a telethon, which tries to be all things to all people, Americathon is a typical seventies comedy; it tries to be all things to all college students. It is an undisciplined in need of a teething ring – its bite never reaches the meat of its matter. […] Aesthetically speaking, Americathon is ultimately defeated by its uncanny knack for depthless insights into the greed and trickery of American ideals. With its screen-sized flashing neon “GIVE!” sign and bright stage, The Americathon is a flagrant display of lost dignity and triumphant greed. But all this gets in terms of script reinforcement is a moment when Harvey Korman shouts, “Dignity?” pulling down his pants and adding, “There's your dignity!” One almost laughs, but immediately thinks better of it. […] If Americathon has any strengths at all, it has the power to entertain the first time around but it leaves a sour aftertaste. Had it stuck to parody, itwould have been truer to its intentions. Satire is tougher, it has to hurt a little. Americathon doesn't sting or even ruffle the hair of its many targets. And when it accidentally makes the audience think, it leads them only to problems it has no ambition to solve. It's enough to give you the red, white and blues. – from an illustrated review by Tim Lucas

References

Periodicals
Cinefantastique vol.9 no.2 (Winter 1979) p.32 – illustrated review (by Tim Lucas)
Screen International 7 July 1979 p.6 – note

Books
Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.346 – credits, review
Elliot's Guide to Films on Video by John Elliot p.25 – credits, review
Hoffman's Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.22 – credits, review
Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.8 – credits
Rock on Film by David Ehrenstein and Bill Reed p.109 – credits, review
Science Fiction Film Source Book by David Wingrove p.26 – credits, review