Saturday, December 19, 2009

Boxed Brooks

The Mel Brooks Collection (Fox)
Although his comedies grew increasingly spotty in their laughs over the years, at his best in the mid to late ‘70s, Mel Brooks made audience-pleasing farces combining crude belly laughs with sophisticated movie-buff humor. This deluxe boxed set houses eight Brooks-directed films and a mediocre remake of To Be or Not to Be (1983) starring Brooks and wife Anne Bancroft that was directed by Alan Johnson.

The Twelve Chairs
(1970), History of the World—Part I (1981), Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) alternate gutbusters with desperately unfunny segments, while the big four—Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (both 1974), Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977)—can be watched again and again without sacrificing hilarity. Brooks was never a primarily visual director, so aside from sharper clarity, the Blu-ray transfers aren’t that much better than the original DVDs: with the stunning exception of Young Frankenstein, whose lustrous B&W photography looks so beautiful that you might find yourself admiring it at the expense of the comedy.

No matter: just watch it again. The discs are housed in an impressive coffee-table box which includes a full-color 120-page book about Brooks’ career. Extras include commentaries, interviews and deleted scenes, including six new making-of featurettes.
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