Mel Brooks: Legend of his Own Write

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Out of all the multi-talented comedians, he ranks up in the top favorites in the hearts of fans. Not only has he shown his talents as a writer, but also as a producer, director and actor (among his other talents). Brooks has enjoyed decades of success; his list of achievements is never-ending. It would put many directors and producers to shame. Brooks’ work has earned him an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy and a Tony award. Three of his films ranked in the top 20 on American Film’s Institute’s list for Top 100 Comedic films of all time (Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein).

mel_brooks-robyn_hilton.jpg image by lunchbox_394

Brooks ties with his Jewish heritage are quite apparent in his films with the Jewish concerns and motifs. He says: “My comedy…comes from the feeling that, as a Jew and as a person, you don’t fit into the mainstream of American society. It comes from the realization that even though you’re better and smarter, you’ll never belong.” Watching his movies, you can tell he channels his angst for the Germans (with comedy of course) through direct contact with these German characters. The reasoning behind this was as an officer in the military he never came face-to-face with German soldiers, so he felt he should have done more while in service. Brooks took the challenge of taking extreme serious situations and turning them into explosive comedies.

Mel Brooks' Greatest Gags

He continues to mock the American WASP mainstream of the perfected blond hair, Beach boy mentality – everything white and plain. Hints of sexual innuendos and vulgarity are cleverly placed within each film, adding to the humor of his works. Brooks continues to stand above the rest by adding on to his repertoire as a talented musician (drummer). In his films, he finds music playing a pivotal role. He wrote scores such as Springtime for Hitler in The Producers; if he isn’t writing his own music, he uses classical tunes to add elements of laughter to the mix.

Audiences can identify and appreciate the use of historical symbol references (of that decade of course) and jive chatter. His use of modern lingo intensifies the comedic viewpoint and sets the trigger for all viewers to unwind and relax. His consistency of actors always gives a feeling of comfortability for movie-goers, as they are guaranteed superb performances to live up to Brooks’ film ideals. Hands down, here is a mere sample of Mel Brooks’ best moments:

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

A parody of the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, it follows the classic 1931 Dracula film in retrospect of plot and characters.

This scene stands out for its authenticity of a natural reaction during filming. Brooks ensured it by not informing Webber (Harker’s character) of how much blood would douse him. No method acting here, folks!

 

In this clip, a continual repartee ensues between characters. Hints of Brooks’ sexual innuendos flourish as well as his notation to the ‘original’ Dracula, Vlad Tepes. More references (Boris and Natasha in Rocky and Bullwinkle) are flooded into this hysterical scene while Dracula and Van Helsing duke it out with their “who will have the last word.”

 

During this segment, an uptight Renfield is paid a visit by Dracula’s vampire vixens. Renfield’s quick conversion from this is ‘wrong’ to being ‘wronged’ supplies a fit of giggles.

 

In this setting, Brooks’ classic humor shines through as he pokes at the British persona (or their lack of passion/personality).

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
A comedy which references various past Robin Hood films, primarily Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Part One and Part Two shows twenty minutes highlighting Brooks flair. Throughout this Robin Hood movie, there is a slew of modern twists that keep the viewer on their toes. The movie draws the audience (of all ages) in as they can identify with the symbols Brooks uses in this film; it adds volumes to this parody.

Blazing Saddles (1974)

A satirical Western comedy. Nominated for three Academy awards, Blazing Saddles is considered one of America’s greatest comedies.

This scene coined the ‘Mongo-Punch.’ The modern use of illegally parking in a ‘red zone’ sets off the stage for Mongo doubling up his fist and knocking out a horse. Who would have saw that one coming?

This 6 minute video selects some of the best moments of Blazing Saddles. This is a classical Brooks film from A to Z. A slew of racial slurs, sexual innuendos, vulgarity, use of language and display of contemporary icons has entitled this movie as one of America’s greatest comedies. None could draw controversy such as he. (Disclaimer: Those who are opposed to profanity or racial slurs, do not watch this segment.)

Young Frankenstein (1974)

This parody classically jabs at the horror film genre especially the adaptations of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

The monster meets the hermit and gets more than he bargains. The expressions used by Peter Boyle is priceless and sets the humorous tone for all the blind man’s mishaps in this segment.

During this portion, Frankenstein’s own creation turns on him. Who would play a game of charades while their life is in the hands of a giant monster? Only Brooks would have thought of such a hilarious antic. His clever play on words (abby normal) finishes off the scene as an immense gut buster.

Love the man or hate him, it’s hard to discount the impact he’s had not only on comedy, but on the film industry all together.  The world would look very different if not for Mel Brooks’ odd point of view.

-April