|Image from Wikipedia.|
1. Blazing Saddles (1974) - Western spoof. This is Mel Brooks' funniest film (his best is below), and he's chased it ever since. Don't get me wrong, I'm in awe of the man. But his best work was in 1974. The cast, Cleavon Little, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Madeline Kahn, and especially Gene Wilder are sublime. The jokes are rapid-fire, and hilarious. The script (co-written by Richard Pryor among others) would never be green-lit today. But it will live on forever on video. If you haven't seen it, add it to your movie list. ****
2. Young Frankenstein (1974) - Universal horror spoof. Mel Brooks' best film by a mile, and funny too, if less rapid-fire than Blazing Saddles. Probably more quotable than any other film in history, this is a cinematic masterpiece. It's as much an homage to the original Frankenstein series as it is a send-up. Wilder is also at his best, and ably supported by Terri Garr, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn. ****
3. High Anxiety (1978) - Hitchcock spoof. The last Mel Brooks film of the list isn't in a league with the first two, but is better than most attempts by others. And it holds a very special place in my pop culture noggin. I've loved this since I saw it (again and again) on TeleCinema, the precursor to HBO. Madeline Kahn doesn't enter until the second half, but is fantastic. Cloris Leachman is demented and very memorable as Nurse Diesel. Harvey Korman, Ron Carey, Dick Van Patten and many others are all pros. The more you know Hitchcock, the better you'll like it. ***
4. Airplane! (1980) - Disaster movie spoof. This is one of the funniest movies of all time, by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker (ZAZ). It's somewhat dated, having been shot in the waning days of the 1970s. But considering the heyday of disaster movies was the 70s, that actually helps with the humor. Robert Hays and Julie Haggerty are pitch perfect, but it's the unlikely comedic performances of Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen (at the time, not known for comedy), Peter Graves and Robert Stack that added an extra layer of brilliance. (Followed by a much lesser sequel) ****
5. Hot Shots! (1991) - Top Gun parody. Jim Abrahams of ZAZ was behind this one, and he loses nothing without the Zuckers. It's a riot. It spoofs far more than Top Gun, though it uses that movie as a framework. Charlie Sheen is terrific in the lead, and supported by many funny supporting actors, including Lloyd Bridges (again). (Followed by a decent sequel) ***-1/2
6. Top Secret! (1982) - Elvis movie/Cold War parody. ZAZ again, and this one is an odd one to try to describe. In addition to Elvis movies, and "behind enemy lines" Cold War movies, this one spoofs The Blue Lagoon, beach movies, westerns and even The Wizard of Oz! Scattershot, but oh-so funny. Val Kilmer--in his first major role--is fantastic: singing, dancing and hilarious. Not a lot of famous co-stars, though Omar Sharif and Peter Cushing are here, but it doesn't matter. It's the characters that make this one, and wow, what characters! Deja Vu, Latrine and Chocolate Mousse, just to name a few! This one is only marred by a too-abrupt ending. Watch it. ***-1/2
And that's going to have to wrap it up for this week. More to come! In the mean time, have a great Monday!