Academic journal article Film & History

The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks

Academic journal article Film & History

The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks

Article excerpt

Robert Alan Crick. The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks. McFarland, 2002. 231 pages; $45.00.

Does Not Sugarcoat

Mel Brooks has turned out comedies of varying success throughout the past few decades. Some, such as Young Frankenstein and History of the World-Part I, rank high on this genre list, while others, such as Dracula: Dead and Loving It seem to have missed their mark with even his diehard fans. However, as Robert Alan Crick states in The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks, "If not Brooks, to whom else's films can we go for Yiddish-spewing, Old-West Indian chiefs; for madhouse patients convinced they're cocker spaniels; for Catholic abbots who pray in pig Latin (3)?"

Mr. Crick does not try to hide the fact that the comedic filmmaker created some less than successful movies. He writes "[fans expecting] a book ignoring the weakness of Mel Brooks' lesser films and concentrating solely on his best works, are likely to find Big Screen Comedies something of a disappointment (14)." He even adds that Mr. Brooks might not be pleased with the reviews. This is the appeal of the author's work: a book that does not sugarcoat the flops made by the moviemaker, but instead attempts a more objective and in-depth analysis and criticism of all of his films.

The Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks begins with a nice fourteen-page introduction, despite a few lofty and lacking remarks. For instance, Mr. Crick explains some of his motives behind writing this book, such as starting movie fans talking about Brooks films again. This goal seems a bit of a stretch for a book of reviews. To add, he attempts to explain why some of the filmmaker's later movies flopped in just a few pages by simply examining only a little bit of information such as a change of cast, while a fuller and much more in-depth approach was needed. The author could have simply omitted this information and focused solely on the individual merits of each production. However, this would have also left his work lacking; therefore a chapter or two devoted to the reasons why this phenomenon occurred would have helped.

These criticisms aside, the true strength of this book lies with the individual in-depth analysis of each Brooks film, which follows the introduction chronologically. …

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