Club Fed

  • 1991
  • 1 HR 31 MIN
  • PG-13

The greed and scandal of the 80s takes a pounding in CLUB FED, but it's the viewer who feels the real pain. Clownish jokes and hammy vaudeville performances render the satire virtually toothless, and one has to be a hopeless celebrity-spotter to derive any real pleasure from the proceedings. Club Fed is an experimental minimum-security federal prison...read more

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The greed and scandal of the 80s takes a pounding in CLUB FED, but it's the viewer who feels the real pain. Clownish jokes and hammy vaudeville performances render the satire virtually toothless, and one has to be a hopeless celebrity-spotter to derive any real pleasure from the

proceedings.

Club Fed is an experimental minimum-security federal prison where wealthy and prominent convicts are "rehabilitated" via swimming pools, tennis courts and luxurious condo-style cells. Crazed FBI official Vince Hooligan (the normally sedate Joseph Campanella in a frenzied performance) wants to

shut down the place for his own devious reasons, and he sends Howard Polk (Lance Kinsey), alias Agent 976, to the club posing as a white-collar felon. Polk is supposed to uncover any sign of criminal activity persisting among the rich riffraff. Instead he falls for fellow inmate Angelica (Judy

Landers), a sexy innocent who was railroaded into jail after her mobster boyfriend's slaying. Meanwhile Hooligan, impatient for results, contacts his other secret agent at Club Fed--sleazy Warden Boyle (Burt Young). Boyle decides to frame the pure-hearted Angelica for running a fraud scheme, and

Polk must fight not only to save his ladylove but Club Fed itself.

One of the more peculiar aspects of this film is that the club is presented as genuinely successful in its aims. Using aversion therapy and torture (administered by cult actress Mary Woronov of ROCK'N'ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and EATING RAOUL), the joint succeeds in turning grotesque, greedy businessmen

into (equally grotesque) social activists. The roster of celebrity crooks includes Sherman Hemsley as a corrupt TV preacher (a sleazy takeoff on his role in the TV sitcom "Amen"); Allen Garfield as an inside trader who not only reforms but becomes a flaming transvestite; and Karen Black, virtually

foaming at the mouth, as a Leona Helmsley-type blueblood. West-Coast right-wing broadcast personality Wally George makes a cameo appearance as himself (no, not behind bars).

Unfortunately, all of these performances are gratingly unfunny, with dumb gags dumped artlessly over the screen like so much toxic waste. The best joke is probably the Reverend's oversized crucifix, which is really the receiver for his stereo headphones--Luis Bunuel would have been proud. Landers

plays the virtuous-but-dumb blonde bombshell with a touch of Mr. Magoo on the side: whenever nearsighted Angelica loses her glasses she becomes a walking disaster area, her superhuman clumsiness repeatedly foiling the villains.

Producer Ruth Landers is the parent of Judy and her equally comely sister Audrey, and CLUB FED was one of a number of movies meant to showcase the Landers Sisters both together and separately. (Judy's solo vehicle was the unfortunate CALIFORNIA CASANOVA). Their finest cinematic achievement was

probably GHOSTWRITER, a middling fantasy-comedy with Judy as a dead Marilyn Monroe clone and Audrey trying to solve her murder. The sisters are certainly easy on the eyes, but their movies so far are not, and CLUB FED is only for the desperate.

One should note that there is a real-life "Club Fed," at least by reputation. The nickname was applied to the federal correctional institution at Lompoc, California, which has hosted such guests of the state as Watergate trio John Dean, John Erlichman and Robert Haldeman, and Wall Street's Ivan

Boesky. Administrators and inmates alike have denied that the prison maintains a country-club atmosphere. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)

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