Wednesday, March 21, 2007
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?