Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mel Brooks

I loved Mel Brooks as a kid. And why not? His humor can definitely be on the juvenile side. He will always be somewhat forgiven for his fart humor (Blazing Saddles-- my husband's favorite btw) because he created one of my all time favorite movies; Young Frankenstein. If you haven't seen Young Frankenstein, you really should. It was made in 1974 and stars a young Gene Wilder as Doctor Baron Frederick von Frankenstein, the grandson of the infamous creator of the Frankenstein monster. Probably my favorite part of the movie is when Wilder's character is addressing a class he is teaching and someone uses the traditional pronunciation of the name Frankenstein while asking him a question. He becomes so agitated that he stabs himself in the leg while yelling "My name is Fronkensteen!" Once he calms down and realises he has a scalpel in his leg, he quietly, brokenly says "class dismissed..." That cracks me up every time. This particular Brooks film is probably the best, IMO, because it goes beyond the normal, superficial humor that we see in a lot of Brooks' movies. Wilder's character struggles with his family legacy and yet embraces it in the end-- with humorous results. Mel Brooks often used the same actors in many of his movies. Gene Wilder starred in Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers. Other actors you would frequently see in a Mel Brooks film include Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn. I grew up watching many of these actors and thought they were tremendously funny. But the thing I liked best about Mel Brooks was that he often parodied my favorite film genres. I already mentioned Young Frankenstein, but perhaps you haven't heard of Spaceballs; Brooks' film spoof of Star Wars. Instead of Princess Leia, we have Princess Vespa. Dark Helmet takes the place of Darth Vader and Chewbacca becomes known as Barf. This is not for intellectuals mind you, it's slapstick and often goes for obvious jokes (such as the light saber being used in an overtly phallic manner) but it can be funny. In 1995 Brooks also attempted to spoof the Dracula legend by making Dracula: Dead and Loving It. By this time however I don't think audiences were as into these types of parodies as they used to be. Or maybe it's just that I had grown up and didn't find them as funny as I did when I was 10. In a way that's a shame. The movies are silly and meant to be that way. And for some reason Mel Brooks could get me to appreciate over-the-top humor the way no one else could. He also co-wrote and created the 60's series Get Smart. Maxwell Smart, played by Don Adams was the anti-James Bond (or perhaps a later version of Inspector Clouseau from Pink Panther). Bumbling and not-too-bright, Smart was always fun to watch while he tried to use his Bond-gadgets to save the day. Though I don't know that Bond ever had a shoe phone. So, for good or ill, Mel Brooks definitely had a hand in shaping my sense of humor. I still think Young Frankenstein is funny and I can chuckle at Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety. And though there have been some other great parodies made over the years (Airplane!) I can't think of any in recent years that were as funny as the old ones. Is a good parody a lost art? Or am I just not looking hard enough? What silly movies do you guys like and what do you recommend for a good laugh?

15 comments:

Top said...

High Anxiety was my fav, I can't even write which scene I love them all. And Get Smart! It's amazing to me that Don Adams was sooo funny in his goofy Mel Brooks/Buck Henry created way, yet he (Adams) was a WWII Marine! I miss him. Did you hear that Steve Carrell will be playing Maxwell Smart in the newest incantation? I hope it has the humor that Brooks/Henry created and not just the sex jokes ala SNL.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Blazing Saddles & Young Frankenstein are both favourites!

Sue Dent said...

I used one of the lines from Young Frankenstein in my book. Can you guess which one? Okay, I'll tell you. "Could be worse, could be raining."

We can NOT get enough of that movie. "Pooot the candle bach!"

Oh, HA! I have to go watch it again now.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Brooks made some great movies; unfortunately I think Space Balls was his last good one.

Madeline Khan was always a favorite of mine growing up, too. She even had a sitcom briefly, I think my family may have been the only one to watch it.

I think Brooks and Zucker, Abrams, and Zucker (Airplane and Naked Gun) worked very, very hard at making their comedy. Even if it was dumb or silly slapstick, it was carefully crafted.

Look at what passes for parodies nowdays; flicks like Date Movie and Epic Movie where it seems that they strove low to make the joke just to be sure everyone got it.

SQT said...

I love seeing people quote lines from my favorite movies!

"Nice knockers...Oh why thank you!"

The Curmudgeon said...

I was going to say that Mel Brooks was at his best when he had the smallest budgets -- you mention early Brooks movies (the Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein) -- and Spaceballs came, if I recall correctly, after he'd had some expensive flops. But I don't really know that; it's just my perception that he was funniest when someone was curbing his excesses.

Your post puts me in a show biz mood, so when you ask for a good, silly movie, I thought of My Favorite Year with Peter O'Toole playing Errol Flynn -- uh -- washed-up movie star Alan Swann. When newbie writer takes Swann home to dinner in Brooklyn you will laugh until you cry.

How about two silly movies with a fantasy angle? Ella Enchanted or The Princess Bride. Watch both and see the Cary Elwes' entire range. And the Princess Bride provides all sorts of quotes, like Young Frankenstein or Casablanca.

SQT said...

Oh, I love the Princess Bride. I got the book years ago (or more correctly-- the abridged version by William Goldman) and looooved it. I read it long before the movie came out and I was so happy that the movie stayed so true to the book.

SQT said...

Top-- I forgot to respond to your post. I had no idea that anyone was making a newer version of Get Smart. I have to admit, Steve Carrell seems like inspired casting. I hope it's good and not super cheesy like most remakes (Charlies Angels was so bad it was embarrassing).

DesLily said...

I can't count how many times I've seen that movie.... "roll, roll, roll in da hay".. heh.. actually the knockers one is my favorite lol.

Alex said...

I always liked Spaceballs the best.

avery said...

My favorite part of Young Frankenstein is when the monster sings, "Puttin' on the Ritz."

I also loved Spaceballs. I was elated when I found it at Target for eight bucks a few months ago. Rick Moranis was hysterical as Dark Helmet. He cracks me up anyway -- Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, it's all good.

Asara said...

Oh man, Spaceballs. I just watched that this past weekend, and it cracked me up all over again. "Do you think we're taking our orders a little too literally, sir?" "What? He said to comb the desert, so we're combing the desert!"

Ella Enchanted and the Princess Bride are also both favorites of mine. A lot of people won't watch PB with me because I say the lines along with the actors through the whole movie. "But Wesley, what about the ROUS's?" "Rodents of unusual size? I don't believe they exist. OOF!" and.. "See, I told you she wouldn't marry that rotten Humperdinck." "Yes, you're very smart, now shut up."

This is Spinal Tap is another favorite. "The trouble was that we had a Stonehenge monument on the stage in danger of being trod upon by a dwarf!"

Asara said...

OMG, I can't believe I forgot.. Robin Hood, Men in Tights!! Far and away my favorite Mel Brooks movie, even above Spaceballs. "We're men, we're men in tights (yes!)" I could do lines from that movie for hours.

avery said...

The Men in Tights scene where the blind guy is on the lookout tower:

"What are you doing up there?"

"I'm guessing. I guess no one's coming." Then he falls. "I can see! No, wait. I was wrong."

My other favorite line, "Hey, Blinkin!"

"Did you say, 'Abe Lincoln?'"

Asara said...

LOL!! Great lines there :) And when Little John ("They call me Little John. But don't let my name fool you, 'cause I'm really big!") falls into the creek after the "battle" on the bridge.. "I'm drowning!! I'm drowning!! I can't swim!"