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CLUCK! THE TRUE STORY OF CHICKENS IN THE CINEMA,  Jon-Stephen Fink and Meike Van Der Linden . 1981. Virgin Books. Possibly the least likely subject matter for a history of the cinema, but despite its jokiness and novelty it proves to be a surprisingly philosophical work. Every chicken reference imaginable is included, from the Giant chickens in Food Of The Gods, to the chicken bones in the handbag in David Lynch’s Erazerhead. Films are presented in an a-z listing, and each is rated not with stars but with chickens for its depiction of the level of significance of the chicken as image, metaphor or story central element. In Freaks,  an evil woman who tries to corrupt the real circus freaks used in the  movie, is turned into a giant chicken-woman,  and put on exhibition as a freak in her own right. This gets four chickens. National Lampoon’s Animal House gets  a one chicken reference as a chicken is only mentioned in a lame love song, (rightly interrupted by John Belushi’s character who smashes the guitar, presumably  as he felt that the chicken deserved more respect. The introduction even talks of the importance of chickens in Greek philosophy and world history,. The Pathe News chicken gets considerable mention. The level of research and depth of knowledge lifts this book above the level of a feast of trivia. A statue of a so-called chicken boy  towered above the streets of LA before disappearing in a 1926 earthquake. Even the most obscure film references included; we may remember the chickens being shot at the beginning of Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Sam Peckinpah) but who would have thought to include a film like Ma And Pa Kettle at Home in such a collection.  It seems a shame that this obscure classic book has never been updated and that other farmyard animals in the movies have not found their own tribute and history books. It seems almost cruel to eat chicken after seeing how much they have entertained us over the years.

 

Arthur Chappell

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