IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH MEL BROOKS REVIEW: “Silent Movie” stars Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Robots), Marty Feldman (Young Frankenstein, The Last Remake of Beau Geste), Dom DeLuise (All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Cannonball Run), Sid Caesar (Grease, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), Harold Gould (Patch Adams, Freaky Friday ), Ron Carey (The Out of Towners, Fatso), Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Pennies from Heaven), Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit, Striptease), James Caan (The Godfather, Misery), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret, Arthur ), Anne Bancroft (The Graduate, The Miracle Worker), Marcel Marceau (Barbarella, Joseph’s Gift), and Paul Newman (Road to Perdition, Cool Hand Luke). It is directed by Mel Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay with Ron Clark (Revenge of the Pink Panther, Life Stinks), Rudy De Luca (The Good Bad Guy, The Carol Burnett Show [TV series]), and Barry Levinson (Sleepers, Toys). Has-been film director Mel Funn (Brooks) tries to buy his way back into the movie industry’s graces by making a silent film and cramming it with Hollywood’s biggest stars.
And so we have returned to the Mel Brooks vault! It’s good to be back, and with a bang, if I might add. “Silent Movie.” Just when you thought the funny guy couldn’t come up with something even more outlandish, he takes a jab at the silent film era… in the late 70s. Say what? Oh yeah, the film executives at the time were also scratching their heads. Oddly enough, the story of “Silent Movie” is basically taken from true events. Mel plays, well, Mel, who tries to get back into the film business by making the “next big thing.” This thing being- you guessed it – a silent movie. In order to get the green light, he runs around with his buddies Dom and Marty to get some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to sign on. Essentially, this is another meta piece, with only one line of dialogue. And boy, is it good! I never really watched cinema from the silent era, however I knew of the giants. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, they were all heroes of their time in the film industry, all of which Brooks took heavy inspiration from when crafting this movie. There are plenty of sight gags to behold, all of which are accompanied by score and sound effects. I laughed quite a bit, and was quite floored to find such big stars grace the screen at such a young age. Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft; they all had fun guest spots on this wacky journey, and for those of you who are film buffs, this is a real treat to watch. The best talent on this quite possibly fell to Marty Feldman, whose physical comedy was genius (honestly, just his sheer presence and facial expressions would’ve made me laugh). Casting him and Dom Deluise opposite Brooks was a smart move. Their chemistry was terrific, and the bits that ensued were awesome. The whole story is really just a collection of physical gags, mixed with the star prowess of some of the leading actors at the time. There’s not much meat to “Silent Movie,” but if you were expecting that I would be confused. You get what you paid for (it’s in the name) and they did a heck of a job pulling off such a feat. Granted, I would’ve loved to see a clip or two of the fake silent movie they were making with these big stars (to have them onscreen altogether, good grief), but I understand where the plot is coming from. They are literally imitating real life with cinema, about cinema. It’s a fun piece of entertainment that has enough there to keep you at your seat. Though it may not have much rewatchability value, it certainly gives you a show when you see it. For those who can stomach a silent movie, I’d say give it a shot. From what I have seen of Brooks’, it definitely takes a special kind of audience to enjoy this, but if you find that you’re interested, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it. I know I did; I thought I was going to be bored, but I was actually tickled at the adventure. Kudos to Brooks for bringing back the silent picture in the 70s, while making a fun film at the same time. FINAL SCORE: 87%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: