OK, so it started with a bet that I could find ten movies with significant roles for chickens.
Poultry’s main involvement in movies seems to be running out of the way of cars and therefore provided the countryside equivalent of cardboard boxes in urban car chase scene. More significant appearances proved harder to find.
Here are the results of my research:
1. STROSZEK (Werner Herzog, 1977)
The film that started this whole ridiculous business and, it seems, the most significant chicken actor in film history. Herzog discovered his star in a small town sideshow, running on a turntable to gain food from an automated dispenser, thereby neatly representing message of the film and Stroszek’s struggle. ‘Stroszek’ was the film allegedly being watched by Ian Curtis when he decided to commit suicide and therefore the chicken makes a cameo appearance in ’24 Hour Party People’ too. As I haven’t seen ‘Control’ I don’t know whether he turns up there, but as Stroszek also spends most of the last third of the film carrying an enormous frozen turkey the film must be considered the Holy Grail for poultry fans.
2. PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
At the other end of the scale for chicken lovers is this chicken snuff movie from Peckinpah. Opening with a scene of real chickens buried to their necks in the sand and then having there heads shot off, the film also contains what seems certain to be a real cock-fight. Frankly I don’t think the American Humane Society monitored this one.
3. HOT SHOTS PART DEUX (Jim Abrahams, 1993)
In which Charlie Sheen shoots Saddam Hussein with a chicken, and yet the death has more dignity than his real one.
4. CITY OF GOD (Fernando Meirelles, 2002)
It seems that chickens are good for opening and closing films, and in Meirelles film of gang culture in Rio de Janeiro we’re taken on a journey through the whole vista of the neighbourhood by one of our feathered friends.
5. ANGELHEART (Alan Parker, 1987)
‘I gotta thing about chickens’ says Mickey Rourke’s chicken-phobic private eye.
Watching Bill Cocby’s TV daughter Lisa Bonet ‘s sex scene with Rourke while drenched in chicken blood probably left a lot of boys passing through puberty at the time confused and disturbed…
6. POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (Lloyd Kaufman, 2006)
So it’s a Troma film, Lloyd Kaufman’s directing and the biggest name in the credits is porn-hedgehog Ron Jeremy, so you just know they made up that title before they even wrote the script. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t refer you to any particular chicken-related event, however many adult actors are credited as ‘Chicken Zombie’ in the cast list, so you can probably make your own film up in your head and it will be more entertaining.
7. HIDDEN (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Not having seen Poultrygeist yet isn’t of great concern to me, but still not having watched ‘Hidden’ despite having the DVD sitting by the TV is something I’m ashamed of. I’m told there’s a significant chicken in it…..I’m grasping at straws now aren’t I….
8. CHICKEN RUN (Peter Lord/Nick Park, 2000)
I was really trying to avoid including this, but I’ve succumbed to the inevitable. Other animated chickens include Oscar nominated ‘The Chicken From Outer Space’ (John Dilworth, 1995) and, shudder, ‘Chicken Little’ (Mark Dindal, 2005).
9. FLY AWAY HOME (Carroll Ballard, 1996)
While I can’t seem to find a non-animated film wholly centred around chickens, their cousins the geese get their own movie as 13-year old Anna Paquin spends an entire movie trying to convince a flock of Canada Geese to migrate south.
10. Any version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL you care to mention, but preferably not the Jim Carrey abomination.
And so to end on a seasonal note and one more member of the poultry family. A reformed Scrooge sends a prize turkey round to Bob Crachit on Christmas Day.
And so my desperate attempts to fill this list is complete, two chickens short of a coop.
I’ll be happy to hear if you have your own favourite chicken-related movies, if only to feel I’m not the only one wasting my life on this rubbish.
PS: Tell your friend about the joys of chickens (and other assorted poultry) in cinema.