What was initially announced as Auteur Completion Month is now the longer-term Auteur Completion Project (because it can’t be “completion” if I give up when the month changes). I don’t especially aim to watch everything Mel Brooks has been involved with (never saw Dracula: Dead and Loving It because his previous two were so bad) but I noticed that his one classic-era comedy feature (oops, besides The Twelve Chairs) I’d never seen was the one Jonathan Rosenbaum placed on his 1000 favorite movies list. And now that I’ve seen it, I must conclude that it was a half-remembered nostalgic favorite for JR, not one that received much recent, critical thought.
Starts off unpromisingly, with a jokey Orson Welles voiceover (the year before Slapstick; maybe the great man should’ve hired an agent) and a hokey caveman sketch starring 50’s comedian Sid Caesar (whose last movie to date was Stuart Gordon’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit). Catalog of human innovation (“the first artist… the first art critic!”) like one of those punny water-treading late Tex Avery shorts, or a sub-Mr. Show sketch (“man’s greatest achievement: the wheelbarrow”).
Some biblical business follows (including my favorite gag, the 15… 10 Commandments). Next: waaay too much time (over half the movie?) spent in Rome running away from Emperor Dom DeLuise, Empress Madeline Khan and 50’s comedian Shecky Greene.
L-R: possibly Ron Carey (Silent Movie, High Anxiety), maybe Mary-Margaret Humes (of an upcoming Michael Madsen/Roddy Piper horror film), definitely Gregory Hines (in his first film), and grimacingly Mel Brooks. I didn’t take very good notes.
Making up for the overlong Roman piece is an extended, extravagant musical version of the Spanish Inquisition, which could’ve stood on its own as a great short film. By now, narrator Welles has wandered away from the movie, off to film some Moby Dick closeups of himself.
Then Brooks is King Louis XVI of France, and also the piss-bucket boy chosen to replace him in event of a revolution. He helps the daughter of a deranged, imprisoned Spike Milligan free her father and… hell, I can’t remember the storyline, but it involves Harvey Korman (Lord Love a Duck, voice of the Great Gazoo on The Flintstones) as a character named Count De Monet, and in my second favorite joke of the movie, Brooks tries to run down a forced-perspective hallway.
Bunuel did it first:
“Coming attractions” finale features a cute Jews In Space trailer, a premonition of Spaceballs.
Cameos by Moon Over Parador director Paul Mazursky, Diner director Barry Levinson, Hugh Hefner as himself, freshly Oscar-nominated John Hurt as Jesus, Jackie Mason, and an uncredited Bea Arthur.