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US VHS cover for the film
|Directed by||Neal Israel|
|Produced by||Joe Roth|
|Written by||Phil Proctor &
Peter Bergman (play and adaptation)
Neal Israel &
Michael Mislove &
Monica Johnson (screenplay)
|Narrated by||George Carlin|
Chief Dan George
|Music by||Tom Scott|
|Editing by||John C. Howard|
|Distributed by||United Artists (1979, original)
Warner Bros. (2011, DVD)
|Release dates||August 10, 1979 (USA)|
|Running time||86 min.|
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.
In the (then-near future) year 1998, the USA has run out of oil, and many Americans are living in their now-stationary cars and using other non-gas-powered means of transportation such as jogging, riding bicycles and rollerskating.
The federal government, housed in "The Western White House" (a sub-leased condominium in Marina del Rey, California), is near national bankruptcy and in danger of being foreclosed and repossessed by a cartel of Native Americans in control of Nike (which has been renamed "National Indian Knitting Enterprise").
In desperation, President Chet Roosevelt (Ritter) hires 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 to run a telethon, and hire TV celebrity Monty Rushmore (Korman) to host it.
The film is prophetic in some instances, predicting the rise of reality television, the proliferation of Nike products, the turning over of public assets to private ownership that has been going on since shortly after the film's release, and The Beach Boys still together and recording in 1998.
- John Ritter as President Chet Roosevelt
- Harvey Korman as Monty Rushmore
- Peter Riegert as McMerkin
- Fred Willard as Vanderhoff
- Chief Dan George as Sam Birdwater
- Zane Buzby as Mouling Jackson
- Meat Loaf as Budnitz
- Elvis Costello as Earl of Manchester
- Tommy Lasorda as Dunphy
- Jay Leno as Larry Miller
- Howard Hesseman as Margolis
- Cybill Shepherd as Gold Girl
- George Carlin as the Narrator
Dorothy Stratten appears, uncredited and in a brief non-speaking role, in a Playboy bunny style outfit during a scene where Meat Loaf's character donates blood. The Del Rubio triplets can be seen performing "America the Beautiful" behind several posing bodybuilders. John Carradine was to have played "Uncle Sam" in this film, but his scenes did not make the final cut edit. Director Neal Israel has a cameo as a protesting Rabbi holding a picket sign reading "The President Is A Yutz" (Yiddish for "a stupid, clueless person").
In a scene where Eric McMerkin is reading a list of "Government Approved" performers, the names of "Proctor & Bergman" (the authors of the original play) can be seen fifth on the list, credited as "Comics."
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.