Director Neal Israel
Music director Tom Scott
41% Rotten Tomatoes
Country U.S.A./West Germany
|Writer Phil Proctor, Peter Bergman, Neal Israel, Michael Mislove, Monica Johnson|
Release date August 10, 1979 (USA)
Screenplay Philip Proctor, Peter Bergman
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)
Similar movies Interstellar, Chappie, Blackhat, Police State III: Total Enslavement, Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports Exposed, Police State II: The Take Over
Tagline The ultimate spectacle is now a movie.
Americathon (also known as Americathon 1998) is a 1979 American comedy film starring John Ritter, Fred Willard, Peter Riegert, Harvey Korman, and Nancy Morgan, with narration by George Carlin, based on a play by Firesign Theatre alumni Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman. The film also includes appearances by Jay Leno, Meat Loaf, Tommy Lasorda, and Chief Dan George, with a musical performance by Elvis Costello.
Being set 20 years into the future, the film contains many prophetic elements, such as: predicting the demise of the Soviet Union, the prevalence of reality television, and the sale of public assets to the private sector (a trend starting shortly after the film's release). Also, The Beach Boys are shown still together and recording in 1998.
Americathon beach boys opening credits
In the (then-near future) year 1998, the United States has run out of oil, and many Americans are living in their now-stationary cars and using nonpowered means of transportation such as jogging, riding bicycles and rollerskating. Many Americans wear sweatsuits. Paper money has become completely worthless, with all business transactions being conducted in gold; even a coin-operated elevator warns, "Gold Coins Only". In search of leadership, Americans elect Chet Roosevelt (Ritter) as President. Roosevelt, a "cosmically inspired" former governor of California, proves to have little in common with Teddy Roosevelt or FDR other than his name. Roosevelt, an overly-optimistic man who quotes positive affirmation slogans, stages a number of highly publicized fund raising events, all of which fail. He becomes interested in having a relationship with Vietnamese American pop superstar Mouling Jackson. Real money comes in the form of loans from a cartel of Native Americans, led by billionaire Sam Birdwater (George), in control of Nike (which has been renamed "National Indian Knitting Enterprise").
The federal government, now housed in "The Western White House" (a sub-leased condominium in Marina del Rey, California), finds itself facing national bankruptcy and in danger of being foreclosed and repossessed when Birdwater goes public on national television with the fact that he lent America billions of dollars and now wants the money back, the alternative being foreclosure and the country reverting to its original owners, stating, "Hey, I have to eat, too. Does that make me a bad guy?".
In desperation, Roosevelt hires a young television consultant Eric McMerkin (Riegert) to help produce a national raffle. Instead, they decide that the only way enough money can be raised to save America is instead to run a national telethon, and hire vapid TV celebrity Monty Rushmore (Korman) to host it. However, Presidential adviser Vincent Vanderhoff (Willard) is secretly plotting to have the telethon fail so that representatives of the United Hebrab Republic (formed by the merger of Israel and the Arab states) can purchase what is left of the country when Birdwater forecloses.
To promote the movie, in 1979 Ted Coombs roller skated across the United States and back and gained a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. A photo novel of the film was also released in 1979, and the musical soundtrack was released on both vinyl and audiocassette by Lorimar Records.
The film was made available on VHS and laserdisc in the 1980s by Lorimar Home Video, both of which are now out of print. The home video rights passed to Warner Bros. in the late 1980s as part of their purchase of Lorimar. Warner Home Video made the film available in January 2011 on DVD in widescreen (1.85:1) format as part of their Warner Archive Manufacture-on-demand collection.
In 1984, New York City public radio station WNYC sponsored a marathon of American music dubbed "Americathon '84."
Referencing the movie's futuristic premise itself, there were many societal or political forecasts woven into the storyline, and a number of these have become reality, including:
The film's official coming attractions trailer includes the quote: "...see Americathon at your local theater before you see it happening in your own front yard!"
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