As its title suggests, “The Silence of the Hams” is a very distant (and slightly retarded) cousin to the genre-parody pix of Mel Brooks and the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker gang. There’s a sophomoric glee to Italo one-man-band Ezio Greggio’s endeavor, but the pic — which tanked in its home territory — remains a feeble grab bag of scattershot and stale gags. Still, brand-name cast is sure to attract video rentals, and undemanding substance-abusing adolescents may actually get a kick out of the earnest but lame proceedings.
Greggio’s love of Hollywood oozes off the screen as “Psycho,””Basic Instinct, “”Night of the Living Dead,””Dracula” and, of course, “The Silence of the Lambs, ” among other pix, get lampooned. Ham-fisted “Hams,” however, will leave most viewers pining for the originals.
Pic opens with helmer being stabbed to death in the shower, which is about as sharp as the proceedings get. Narrating in his crisp Italian accent, Greggio backtracks to explain how he came to be offed by an unseen assailant whose identity is revealed in the final scene.
In a pastiche of L.A. where Rodney King is seen beating the police, FBI recruit Jo Dee Fostar (Billy Zane, sporting the somewhat plastic makeup popularized by Sean Connery in the early James Bond pix) gets his first big case , which takes him to the Hollywood Nuthouse to interview inmate Dr. Animal Cannibal Pizza (Dom DeLuise, doing a way-over-the-top Hannibal Lecter impression).
When Fostar’s girlfriend, Jane (Charlene Tilton), steals $ 400,000 from her employer (Rip Taylor) and holes up at the Cemetery Motel — a run-down Bates Motel clone run by edgy Antonio Motel (Greggio) — Jane’s exotic sister, Lily (Joanna Pacula), enters Fostar’s life.
Martin Balsam, from the original cast of “Psycho,” plays Inspector Balsam, who checks into hotel guests who check out for good.
Finale — in which the true culprit is unmasked and unmasked and unmasked — has a smidgen more oomph than the paper-thin silliness that precedes it.
Highly idiomatic, literal dialogue abounds (“May I be frank?””I thought you were Jo”) and the script’s command of colloquial American English is excellent.
But apart from a handful of genuinely funny sight gags and a few on-target snippets of literal humor, pic’s major accomplishment is having lured so many erstwhile, current and demi-celebrities into playing along.
John Astin addresses a disembodied foot in a table-top box as “Smelly Thing,” and everyone does the distinctive Addams Family theme-song finger-snap whenever thesp is around. Phyllis Diller, as a secretary, tries to foist cups of coffee on everyone she meets.
Pic also provides plenty of work for celebrity look-alikes. Bill Clinton and George Bush duke it out while jogging with Zane. A dead ringer for Hillary Clinton appears, and pic features a “Thriller” spinoff in a graveyard with a Michael Jackson clone.
Production design conveys enough key elements to readily identify the sources being spoofed. Lensing and editing are OK.
Ominous score — heralded at one point by a voiceover that says, “The tension was so thick and the music so pretentious they knew they must be getting close”– is the one consistently fine production element.