Parody movies, or spoofs, have been coming since the 40’s, although a few existed earlier but modern parody started when Mel Brooks cracked his hands at Blazing Saddles in 1974. Not only it laid the foundations for future spoofs, but also started a legacy, a rather short-one I must say. In a little more than 10 years, some of the best spoofs in history were released, a majority from Mr. Brooks himself and some from ZAZ, the true, but sadly, the only, successors to the former. From the mid-90’s onwards, the genre began to deteriorate and has almost become a permanent fixture in worst movies of all time lists and reviews out there. Here’s why:
The 70’s was a unique decade and many movies either kick-started a genre or laid important foundations: Apocalypse Now for war, Annie Hall for crazy-sex-comedies, JAWS for killer animals, modern blockbusters and summerhits, Halloween and TCM for slasher films and, et al, Blazing Saddles and nearly all of Mr. Brooks’ films for the spoof genre.
You see, Mr. Brooks’ films were genuinely funny and highly watchable. You could watch them over and over again, regardless of whether you’ve really seen the originals or not. Every joke works like a charm and doesn’t repel you away. Granted, some scenes may seem long and repetitive but he makes up for that by the wide range of interesting characters and/or extras. That’s right, even the extras, significant to the plot or not, are interesting and not brain-dead or dull-as-a-hanging-thread in other spoof films. Everyone in his films seems active and engaging in some sort of a-way, not apathetic or deadpan, although there are, but very less. My most personal favourite is High Anxiety, a spot-on spoof on Hitchcock’s films among a few others, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The jokes are funny, Brooks as the lead actor wasn’t bad at all, the storyline is engaging and top of all, the supporting characters are just about his best ever although his most perfect casting was in Young Frankenstein, which is No. 2 in my book. Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder, Terri Garr, Peter Boyle and the utterly irresistible Madeline Kahn, who was to Brooks what Anna Karina was to Jean-Luc Godard. If you want to become a fan, start with the above mentioned film and you won’t be disappointed. Check out Silent Movie also while you’re at it. But these were his 70’s films. The 80’s proved unlucky and the 90’s disastrous.
Despite producing only 2 films in the 80’s, he still managed to light that spark, however small, and managed to keep his name up for a-while and the films in question are History of the World, Part 1 and Spaceballs. The former was okay and bearable to watch but it didn’t have the power of his previous works whereas the latter was genuinely funny. Seriously, I mean it. Come on, before he retired, Rick Moranis was a great actor and his Darth Vader parody, Dark Helmet, was spot-on and so was his screen-presence. The supporting cast weren’t bad either and my favourite character is Barfolomew, amazingly played by John Candy. After this film however, Mr. Books fell and never recovered. His 90’s films proved a pain-in-the-ass but Robin Hood: Men in Tights proved to be quite good. (still not finished)