Archive for Mel Brooks

Quote of the Day: Days and Nights in the Forest

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2008 by dcairns

Into the Woods

“A LUMINOUS AFTERNOON in the black-and-white forest. The monster, played by Boris Karloff, pauses as he hears the sweet notes of a violin. His face lights, he lumbers through the woods, following the sound. He comes to a cosy cottage among the trees, very gingerbread. Inside, the violin is being played by a blind hermit, who is being played by O.P. Heggie. The monster approaches, and pounds on the door.”

~ from Jimmy the Kid, by Donald E. Westlake.

Well, since we just had Otto Preminger Week, seems like a good idea to name-check that other O.P., surname Heggie.

(Actually, Westlake conflates two scenes: the daylight forest above, and the hermit encounter which happens at dusk.)

The Sound of Music

The parody of the blind hermit scene in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, with an exuberant Gene Hackman in the Heggie role, is so very fine it almost ruins the original. But Mel Brooks clearly loves the James Whale movies he’s satirising, so there’s no real damage done. It may be a difficulty of the parody genre — if the filmmaker doesn’t love what s/he’s mocking, the spoof rarely hits the right notes. If they do love it, the parody won’t have bite. In Brooks’ case he’s not out to destroy the original, he’s just riffing on it, and so we end up with a pleasing comedy version of ’30s Universal horror, rather than any kind of deconstruction of it. Whereas BLAZING SADDLES attacks the ailing western the way Gary Cooper attacks Jack Lord in MAN OF THE WEST, not only delivering a punitive beating, but tearing the pants off it as well.

The Dead Walk

Euphoria #37: My Name is Jim

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2008 by dcairns

 Mel B

Kieran Thomson suggests one particular moment from Mel Brooks’ BLAZING SADDLES — and why not? Mel Brooks has given the world an enormous amount of euphoric hysteria during his stay on this planet, and about a third of it can be found in this one film.

At age eleven, Kieran is our youngest euphoric Shadowplayer yet, but he is wise beyond his years, having been the subject of intense scientific experimentation during his development, rather like DOC SAVAGE, MAN OF BRONZE, or Carl Boehm in PEEPING TOM. Kieran’s dad, a mad pharmacist, has wisely kept the child-proof caps on, but has dosed his offspring with many kinds of Psychotropic Cinema (Cocteau and Lon Chaney Snr at age 5), which may produce dizziness, seizures, severe itching, difficulty in breathing, swollen lips, abnormal body movements, profuse sweating or excessive excitement.

And it’s WORKED.

The exact Euphoric Moment cited by Kieran, and included in this clip, is this exchange:

“Are we awake?”

“We’re not sure. Are we… black?”

Weird how the studio refused to let Richard Pryor play Bart here, so Cleavon Little gets a shot at immortality. Either he was considered better box office because of VANISHING POINT, or Pryor just scared the crap out of the suits at Warner Bros.

Gig Young was originally cast as Jim, the Waco Kid, because Brooks naively thought a genuine alcoholic would be more effective. Once he realised that there was nothing funny about Young’s condition (Young subsequently committed suicide after murdering his wife) he offered the part to Gene Wilder, who’s almost as atypical a cowboy star as Cleavon Little.

Wilder deserves special honour for his work in THE PRODUCERS, BONNIE AND CLYDE, and WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. The latter is not a great film, but Wilder is monumentally impressive in it. Rather than play the part with a smile and wink to the audience (“I’m a good guy really”), Wilder is satanic and psychopathic throughout. I get a sugar rush of evil just looking at him. No wonder Marilyn Manson homaged this movie in a music vid.

Wilder’s oft-forgotten cameo in BONNIE AND CLYDE features maybe the best, and almost certainly the longest… comic pause… in history, a skill Wilder refined in EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK, where his entire performance is basically one long pause punctuated by short bursts of speech and motion.

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