WolfmanOz at the Movies #59

All About Me !

Is the memoir of Melvin James Kaminsky better known as Mel Brooks.

Born on June 28th, 1926, Mel Brooks has had a career that has spanned over seven decades incorporating TV, movies and theatre in which as a writer and director of comedy he has had many successes with broad farces and parodies.

It is an indictment of our miserable times that his humour would be now be deemed as unsafe and therefore would be cancelled. I’m sure TV stations now would have trigger warnings for a number of his films if they dared to screen them, and yet, his humour, for all intents and purposes, was simply very funny.

During his teens he changed his name to Melvin Brooks and like Lee Marvin, from an earlier post, saw active service in World War II, mostly as a combat engineer and he participated in the Battle of The Bulge.

After WWII, he became a comedy writer for TV, where he was hired by his friend Sid Caesar to write jokes for his TV series. He would continue to be a prolific comedy writer in TV for the next 15 years culminating in him creating the iconic and classic TV comedy show Get Smart in 1965, although his involvement in it was largely limited to just the first season.

For several years, Brooks toyed with a bizarre and unconventional idea about a musical comedy of Adolf Hitler. He explored the idea as a novel and a play before finally writing a script. He eventually found two backers to fund it, and made his first feature film, The Producers (1968).

The film was quite outrageous in its satire in that all the major studios refused to distribute it but he finally found an independent distributor where it became an underground hit. Brooks also won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The film is about a theatre producer (Zero Mostel) and his accountant (Gene Wilder) who, as part of a scam, decide to stage the worst stage musical they can create. They find a script celebrating Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and bring it to the stage.

In a 2001 interview, Brooks explained – “I was never crazy about Hitler . . . If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win . . . That’s what they do so well: they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter, they can’t win. You show how crazy they are.”

He followed up The Producers with The Twelve Chairs in 1970 which largely went unnoticed. But then in 1974 he directed and co-wrote, in the same year, two of the best and funniest American comedies ever made.

The first was Blazing Saddles a riotous send-up of the western genre, where a new sheriff is appointed to the town of Rock Ridge – it just so happens he is black !

It is just one of those films where belly laughs are continually hitting the audience non-stop amidst a pool of obscenities whilst at the same time western movie conventions are being parodied outrageously.

It also allows me to show the greatest farting scene in cinematic history !

Brooks immediately followed it up with Young Frankenstein which is arguably his best film, albeit it may not be his funniest; but in terms of narrative, technique employed plus it is all gloriously photographed in black and white, the film is a loving homage to the three Universal Frankenstein films of the 1930s starring Boris Karloff.

Brooks even managed to entice Gene Hackman to make a hilarious uncredited cameo in the delightful sendup of the original scene from The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935).

After Young Frankenstein came Silent Movie (1976) where Brooks also starred as a once-great Hollywood film director planning to make a comeback by making a silent film.

The film starts well for the first half although the second half peters out, but Brooks showed he could deliver on visual comedy.

Hitchcock was the next target of Brooks in the wildly uneven High Anxiety (1977) but it was still funnier than most comedies released in the late 70s.

Brooks output slowed down in the 1980s and 1990s with History Of The World, Part 1, Spaceballs, Life Stinks, Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Dracula: Dead And Loving It. His films were increasingly become more and more uneven but even in the poorer ones he could still generate laughs.

He could even annoy Kevin Costner who didn’t take too kindly to Robin Hood: Men In Tights sending up Costner’s own serious and mediocre film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. For me it this was Brooks best comedy film since the 70s.

Mel Brooks will be 97 later this year – long may he live on.


and the tease for next weeks post (should be easy for calli to know what it is) . . . Not that it matters, but most of what follows is true

33 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #59”

  1. Petros Avatar

    Don’t get saucy with me Bernaise.

  2. Tony Taylor Avatar
    Tony Taylor

    I didn’t get a harumph outta that guy.

  3. shatterzzz Avatar

    Interesting graph on movie watching trends …..


  4. alwaysright Avatar

    Mel Brooks
    A hero of mine and my children’s generation.

  5. alwaysright Avatar

    Missed it by that much

  6. Cumborah Kid Avatar
    Cumborah Kid

    Blazing Saddles and History of the World, Part 1 are my favourites

  7. lotocoti Avatar

    It’s Frankenstien, if you don’t mind.

  8. Bear Necessities Avatar
    Bear Necessities

    What in the wide world of sports is going on round here….

  9. Bear Necessities Avatar
    Bear Necessities

    Thanks shatterzzz for those graphs. It shows how better technology (special effects, CGI etc.) have made Science Fiction, Thrillers and Fantasy more viewable. Pity about Westerns.

  10. jupes Avatar

    Get Smart – absolute classic.

  11. Bruce in WA Avatar
    Bruce in WA

    Tell me, schatze, is it twue what they say about the way you people are … gifted?
    [sound of zipper opening]
    Oh, it’s twue. It’s twue. It’s twue, it’s twue!

  12. Old School Conservative Avatar
    Old School Conservative

    Two of the “14 films that break the Fourth Wall” are Mel Brooks classics. Of course Blazing Saddles breaks many walls in the closing scene, including the line “Piss on you! I’m working for Mel Brooks!”

  13. calli Avatar

    Hi Wolfman…I was wrong last week. There’s a German film by that name, but I imagined you were going to do a piece on All About Eve, hence the pun on cuckoos and Birdies.

    I’m fastening my seatbelt in anticipation of a big bump!

  14. calli Avatar

    And…may the Schwartz be with you.

  15. duncanm Avatar

    February 23, 2023 at 3:15 pm
    Spaceballs…a family favourite.

    I hadn’t noticed Dark Helmet has a cock-and-balls tie

  16. johanna Avatar

    I like the story about how he pursued Anne Bancroft, of The Graduate. He probably would be arrested these days. He even serenaded outside her room.

    They got married, and were together until he died.

    Silent Movie – amazing!

    Mel was a mensch.

  17. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Just back, showered, cool-downed and refreshed after refereeing a high school girls soccer game in the mid-30s.

    calli says:
    February 23, 2023 at 3:11 pm
    Hi Wolfman…I was wrong last week. There’s a German film by that name, but I imagined you were going to do a piece on All About Eve, hence the pun on cuckoos and Birdies.

    I’m fastening my seatbelt in anticipation of a big bump!

    You certainly were wrong . . . I’ve always found All About Eve a little over-rated, so it won’t be high on my future list of potential posts.

    I assume you’d be able to guess what the tease for next week is (it’s not that difficult) ?

    johanna says:
    February 23, 2023 at 4:50 pm
    I like the story about how he pursued Anne Bancroft, of The Graduate. He probably would be arrested these days. He even serenaded outside her room.

    They got married, and were together until he died.

    Silent Movie – amazing!

    Mel was a mensch.

    It was a love match made in heaven . . . they were in separable for over 40 years, until she died in 2005 of uterine cancer.

    Yes I 100% agree Mel was a mensch.

  18. calli Avatar

    Oh, and Wolfman…bicycles and umbrellas.

  19. WolfmanOz Avatar

    I reckon you’re on the money calli !

  20. 132andBush Avatar

    Ah Spaceballs, such a p*sstake.

    Various partners of our offspring have been introduced to our families humour over the years, including but not limited to Dave Allen, The Goodies, Monty Python, Dads Army, you get the drift. I think because we are all Star Wars fans Spaceballs is a favourite with Blazing Saddles a close second.
    Fiancé of eldest watched Spaceballs for the first time two weeks ago. Nearly hyperventilated when Princess Vespa takes revenge for her singed hair!
    Then again with the alien scene at the end “Hello my baby hello my honey….”
    Good job she likes it all, she’d be out otherwise 🙂

  21. Louis Litt Avatar

    Henley Lamar on a solo “my mind is a swirling torrent of riverting ideas cascading through body etc”
    Slim Pickens – “ why gee Hadley, you got a younger smoother than a $20 a night hooker”.

  22. Louis Litt Avatar

    Tongue not younger – ahhh

  23. Louis Litt Avatar

    “Springtime for Hitler and Germany “ – I turned that up to 11 all the time.

    But for me the scene stealer was LSD – Lorenzo Saint Duwa – “I give a flower” .
    You can sense the musical iterations combined with the repressed emotion of the urban hippie then exploding into grunge “
    Play it Wolfie!!!

  24. Louis Litt Avatar

    Tell me, does that horse nay in the background when you mention “Jastinta Adhern”

  25. duncanm Avatar

    Ah yes, Vespa, the Druish princess

  26. Pyrmonter Avatar

    In the Producers – Zero Mostel was fanastic; as he was also in A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. It’s a pity there wasn’t rather more of him.

  27. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Zero Mostel was quite a unique talent and he suffered badly during the 1950s blacklists; he was also rather a prickly person to deal with professionally.

  28. Real Deal Avatar
    Real Deal

    Blind Beggar; “Don’t inhale, until the tip glows….” When I first saw that in the 80s I was in hysterics.

    What made it even funnier was the dawning realisation that the beggar was played by Gene Hackman. Like Mel, Gene is in his 90s and still hale. For a serious actor he has a great gift for comedy.

  29. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    Hedley Lamarr: I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

    Taggart: [finding pen and paper] Could you repeat that, sir?

  30. Old School Conservative Avatar
    Old School Conservative

    In the “Springtime” dance routine, surely that is Mel Brooks voicing “….come and join the Nazi Party”?

  31. Jannie Avatar

    Yes! He vas my boyfriend!

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