Silent Movie (1976) Poster

(1976)

User Reviews

Review this title
68 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
Brooks' overlooked gem
jrs-830 November 2004
When one speaks of Mel Brooks the talk immediately goes to either "Blazing Saddles" or "Young Frankenstein" or "The Producers." How often do you hear mention of "Silent Movie?" After watching this film again just yesterday I can say that this film is also a masterpiece and ranks on the same lines of the previous films.

"Silent Movie" is deceptively simple in plot. A washed up movie director (Brooks) comes up with an idea to make a silent movie to help save the studio that once employed him. Once given the okay by studio chief Sid Caesar, Brooks and his sidekicks Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise set out to find five superstars to help make the movie a hit. And that's all there is to it - plot wise. What Brooks does is fill every single scene with great ideas. Shots that have absolutely nothing to do with the story are thrown in to get a laugh. Brooks hits the bullseye most of the time. I don't think I went more then a minute without laughing throughout.

Another master stroke is John Morris' rousing score that fills the movie from beginning to end. Without it the movie would have failed. And, yes, it truly is a silent movie save for one spoken word which most people probably are aware of anyway. It's another classic Mel Brooks moment.

"Silent Movie" followed "Young Frankenstein" which followed "Blazing Saddles." It's safe to say Brooks was at his peak during this period. His quality of films began to dip after "Silent Movie" starting with the amusing but overblown "High Anxiety." But we still have this time period to savor when Brooks may have been the best (if not then equal to Woody Allen) comedy director of his time.
36 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The producers
jotix10020 November 2004
Mel Brooks' comedies are made for the pure pleasure of having a good time and to enjoy what the master has decided give us in the way of sheer comic relief. His movies are a riot of visual and witty gags; they are completely insane. Granted, his humor is not for everybody, but those of us that appreciate this great man's talent, truly have a ball watching this picture about the lunacy in the movie industry, again and again.

Mr. Brooks and his sidekicks, Dom DeLouise and Marty Feldman do amazing things. Basically it's all visual, since there's no sound for the viewer to react to what one sees on the screen.

The guest cast is incredible as well. Anne Bancroft, Bernadette Peters, Paul Newman, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Sid Caesar, and the rest appear to be having the time of their lives as Mr. Brooks pull the strings so we can have a great time.

This is a great film to watch with friends; the more, the merrier!
24 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Silent clowns, loud laughter
Petey-1014 February 2005
A team of movie makers, Mel Funn (Mel Brooks), Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) march into a film studio to speak to the chief (Sid Caesar).They've got a marvelous movie idea, that can't fail.They want to make the first silent movie in 40 years.So soon they're into the making process.They have to get the biggest stars there are in the show business.They're after Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, James Caan, Anne Bancroft (Mel's wife) and Marcel Marceau, the mime.The crook of the story, Engulf (Harold Gould) does everything to stop the movie from being made.Mel Brooks made this extremely funny comedy in 1976.He made it completely silent, except for one little word said by the French mime. The comical work of Mel, Marty and Dom is something you don't have words for.They're not the only people in this film who deserve praises.Caesar and Gould are excellent and so are those who appear as themselves.Then I must mention people like Bernadette Peters, Carol DeLuise (Dom's wife) and Charlie Callas.Film maker Barry Levinson can also be seen there. This movie seems in some points like a real silent movie made in the 20's.Except this one comes with color.Mel and the gang do it as good as did comics like Chaplin,Keaton and Lloyd.The use of music by John Morris is marvelous.There is a huge amount of funny scenes offered in this flick.I almost laughed my lungs out when the trio tried to get in Liza Minnelli's table dressed in armors.That scene is one of many, which makes you howl from laughter and wake your neighbors. Thank God somebody had the courage to do a silent movie after all those years.That man was Mel Brooks.There is a talented young man who will go places.And remember; Silent Movie doesn't mean silent laughter.
22 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Irony and Self-Reference
BrandtSponseller29 March 2005
Mel Brooks plays a has-been director named Mel Funn in this spoof of Hollywood and silent movies. The film is set in some alternate universe era that is an amalgamation of 1930s through 1970s Hollywood. In the film's world, it's the age of the "talkies", which have apparently been around for some time. Funn's latest script, what he's banking on as his comeback, is retro--he's written a silent movie. Naturally, he's having problems selling his script. Shortly after the film begins, Funn, who is making the rounds with his two questionable companions, Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), shops his script to one last big studio head, played by Sid Caesar. Caesar's studio is about to go under if they can't produce a blockbuster. He initially tries to throw Funn out, but when Funn promises he can get big stars for his film, Caesar gives him a chance. If he can get the stars, he's got a deal. Silent Movie is primarily the story of Funn, Eggs and Bell trying to get stars to do their film.

Of course the irony of Silent Movie is that it's a silent movie about how silent movies would be ridiculous to produce in a later age in Hollywood. The Mel Brooks film itself is ridiculous film in many ways, not the least of which is that it is silent. Brooks also embraces another fading convention--humor based on slapstick and vaudeville.

To a large extent, Silent Movie exists to enable a series of gags, mostly centered on various extended cameos. Often the gags are like a classic comedy compilation--we get Sid Caesar doing his "facial tick schtick", Charlie Callas doing some "blind man" slapstick, Henny Youngman with a fly in his soup, and so on. Marty Feldman's "Eggs" might cause us to ask where the ham is--these classic routines are it.

There are also longer scenes with potential "stars" of the film. These include Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, and Marcel Marceau. Sometimes they spoof themselves, sometimes they play roles in new gags, and sometimes they come pretty close to their actual public personae.

Maybe Twentieth Century Fox told Brooks in reality that if he wanted to do a silent film spoof, they'd only bankroll it if he had a lot of stars attached. So he got them, working them into the film without really working them into the fabric of the film (they're present as cameos, not as stars). But there's also a conceit in Silent Movie, as a fiction, that we're not watching the actual film but a film about getting ready to make a film, maybe echoing what happened in "real life" in preparing to make the film. If you want complex self-referential layers, focused on blurring the distinctions between art and reality, Silent Movie definitely provides that. In many respects, the layering is similar to the more recent Incident at Loch Ness (2004).

Maybe such depth is surprising given that the surface aim of Silent Movie is to provide absurdities so you can laugh. The contrast to those easier to decipher surface qualities underscores interesting facts both about the public perception of Mel Brooks and the history of his career. Brooks has often been perceived as aiming for a kind of modernization of the Three Stooges. While his films have qualities that allow for that comparison, it is far from telling the whole story.

Brooks' films (as director) at least through 1981's History of the World, Part I all have a strong postmodernism beneath the veneer. He's not just making us laugh through slapstick and clever, pun-filled dialogue, he's also saying a lot of very intelligent things about the medium of film, as well as the relationship between films and reality, and between films and the audience. A lot of his humor rests on toying with the typical filmic or narrative conventions. For example, he routinely breaks through the "fourth wall" and he routinely breaks the implicit genre contracts he makes. It's just as intellectual as anything Monty Python did--at least until 1987's Spaceballs, which can be seen as the turning point from Brooks' earlier works of genius to a much more straightforward way of storytelling. It's not that Spaceballs and what followed weren't good, but they do not have the same sense of postmodernist play to them as is present in Silent Movie.

In addition to all of the fiction/reality layering, the film breaks the "genre" contracts of silent films in that once in awhile a character says something and we hear their voice on the soundtrack. The music is also frequently synced to the action (this wasn't possible with actual silent films--the technical "solution" that allowed synced music also allowed synced dialogue), and occasionally there is foley (sound effects that are supposed to be the sound of character actions, like walking) synced on the audio track as well. It underscores that this is a faux silent movie, despite the many other apparent cues of authenticity. This is a relatively minor example of postmodernism in the film, perhaps, but nevertheless illustrative of Brooks' goals and interesting to note while watching.

As interesting as all of that is, Silent Movie isn't a complete success. Sometimes it's just a bit too hokey or uneventful for its own good. But it's still an important entry in Brooks' early oeuvre, which is his most significant period in my view.
28 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
This is a silent review
notevenwordshere22 November 2008
In the land of Mel Brooks, Blazing Saddles is often deemed king. Equal successes like Young Frankenstein and The Producers are the king's notorious sons, while Spaceballs is his court jester. And I think it's safe to say Robin Hood: Men in Tights and History of the World Part I would be the beheaded wives unable to bear him children.

But, to stretch this metaphor so thin you can see the blood running through the blue veins of its translucent skin, there's the wise old man, an adviser -- he is, in fact, the king's ailing father. Such is Silent Movie, and such is its role in the kingdom.

Making a silent film in 1976 was a gutsy move, which Brooks parodies by making the plot of Silent Movie about a director trying to make a silent picture. With only one word of dialogue -- spoken, ironically, by Marcel Marceau -- the film relies heavily on the forgotten arts of vaudeville and slapstick. Brooks is not foreign to these tricks; in fact, they have always been the primary source of laughter in all his movies. Sight gags and outrageous behavior are his fodder, and he uses them abundantly here: the Coke machine battle; the board room's reaction to Vilma Kaplan's picture; the heart monitor/Pong machine; and more.

Silent Movie is full of laughs, far more than any director has the right to expect. The reason is because Mel Brooks (who is teamed up here with the very funny duo of Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman) will try anything for a laugh, no matter how silly. Even if we're not laughing, we're chuckling; and if we're not chuckling, we're smiling at the audacity.

To return brazenly to that thin metaphor I hatched earlier would be a kind of critical suicide. Yet I might as well. Blazing Saddles may be king, and Silent Movie may be the wise adviser. And Young Frankenstein and The Producers may be princes. But royalty usually serves a god. That god is Mel Brooks -- and with every movie of his that I see, I realize just how much I love going to his church.
14 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
What Can Words Say?
EmperorNortonII4 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
It's been decades since silent movies were regularly made. Mel Brooks took a bold step in conceiving a modern silent for his classic "Silent Movie." He seems to understand the classic slapstick of the old silents, and it shows in his movie. And who can forget Marcel Marceau's line, "Non!" (especially since it's the only line of dialogue)?
15 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Is Slapstick Dead?" "NON!"'
ElMaruecan827 August 2011
"Slapstick is dead!" shouts Sid Caesar, the anxious producer, before sliding across the floor and hit the wall. You would think that indeed, slapstick is dead, that this kind of dated humor wouldn't work with today's audience, but that it worked during the post-Watergate pessimistic 70's, is the best guarantee of timelessness... and Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" is not only one of the most underrated comedies but his best film in my opinion.

It's interesting to note that the movie came out in 1976, the infamous year where the success of the cheerful "Rocky" over the more realistic "Taxi Driver", the cynical "Network" or the political thriller "All the President's Men" proved that the audience needed something new, but since the 70's revolutionized cinema, the newness could only be inspired from the past, the Golden Age. "Rocky" as the triumph of the underdog over the adversity was a celebration of the faith in human spirit à la Frank Capra, and in the same vein, "Silent Movie" is a return to the roots of comedy, the heritage of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and silent era's comedic treasures. Even the fans of Mel Brooks will notice the absence of explicitly raunchy humor and delightful vulgarity used to be his trademark. "Silent Movie" never exceeds a certain level of naughtiness, and the general tone carries the sweetness of a deliberate innocence drawing a big smile in our face.

"Silent Movie" is indeed a charming Family film that I had the pleasure to discover at the age of eight, I couldn't finish it but the least I saw was enough to keep intact in my memories. I remembered I laughed a lot, and even when i didn't get the jokes, I was smiling. I remembered the hysterical part in a shower, the funny sound effects, and more than anything, that skinny little guy with a race driver outfit who shared a vague resemblance with Jackie Wright, the little bald guy from "The Benny Hill Show", and it was not until I finally watched the film entirely that I put the name 'Marty Feldman' in his face. What a performance, he carries 50% of the fun, if only for him, the movie is a must-see, and never has the word 'see' be so relevant. "Silent Movie" is a visual delight in every meaning of the word. I even wonder why it hasn't been nominated for Best Art-Direction or Best Costume Design, the film's use of color creates a wonderful atmosphere making us wish that Keaton or Chaplin could have benefited from the use of Technicolor, at least once.

I mentioned the slapstick pioneers, but the movie still has a modern feel beyond the homage to a classic genre. It's a masterpiece of adaptation in the way it keeps its relevance for a modern audience in three distinct ways. First, the gags, to name a few, there's one scene implying that a group of gentlemen are having a sensitive reaction toward a sexy picture, I won't spoil it to you, but the way, it's suggested is extremely well done, and shows how tactfully Mel Brooks handles a cruder form of humor, to paraphrase one of the character, Sex would have indeed killed "Funn". The second aspect is the way Brooks stills uses the cardboards to feature verbal jokes, cheating with the virtuosity of an iconoclast, after all, being silent doesn't prevent a movie from having a good script. And ultimately, there's the self-referential element : Mel Brooks plays the role of Mel Funn, a director who wants to make a silent movie, and with his two acolytes, Dom Bell and Marty Eggs, played by the namesakes De Luise and Feldman, they will propose to real-life stars to participate to the film. This is the genius plot device that provided the film's most memorable moments and some extra publicity.

Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minelli, Anne Bancroft, Marcel Marceau, Paul Newman ... all these guest stars parody themselves in irresistible cameos that give the film an episodic feel without denaturing the narrative. "Silent Movie" is less a series of funny sketches than a self-reflexive depiction of the film. It's not just a tribute to silent movies but also to movie making, to the industry of cinema and the issues it faces : what "Sunset Blvd." did with a film-noir tone, Mel Brooks did with comedy and spoof humor. And the funniest reference to the industry is the big corporations that try to buy out smaller studios, the villainous team represented by Engulf & Devour is a clear reference to Gulf & Paramount. Ron Carey and the classy Harold Gould, provide the movie's best moments after Marty Eggs, and till now, I can't resist to the music played during their part, a sound that would have made Chaplin proud.

Music, sound play a significant part to the film's success, even for the jokes, the sound effects perfectly match the scenes, but we're so distracted by the laughs that we forget the technical achievement the film represents. Silent films require a masterful direction relying on so many specific mechanisms : the timing, the speed, the editing. Some scenes wouldn't be as hilarious without the fast motion; others would be pretty dull without the sound. In fact, not all the jokes will have the same impact, some will eventually fall flat, but Mel Brooks doesn't censor himself and uses the film as the occasion to experiment old recipes with modern ingredients, and the result is absolutely delicious as we can all cheer for an uplifting family comedy, and the wonderful time we spent.

And one particular moment is another proof of Brooks' comedic genius, there's absolutely no word to describe this scene, or actually maybe one which happens to be the only one spoken in the film. Only for that scene, the film is a must … who am I kidding? For every scene, this film is an absolute must see.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Incredible that he got it made - but not a patch on the real thing.
Ben_Cheshire27 June 2004
Brooks gets a silent movie made! Surely he deserves some kind of award for this - sure, he got away with it by the similarities between this project and his previous ones: it would be a spoof, a send up of silents, like he'd previously sent up the western, classic horror and the movie business in general. The other way he got it made serves as dramatic irony in the movie itself: "Silent Movie" is about Mel Funn, a movie director who ruined his career with drink, and his misfit friends Dom Deluise and Young Frankenstein's Marty Feldman who try to both resurrect Funn's career and save the studio from being taken over by the evil Engulf and Devour Corporation by putting on a silent movie. The only way Funn gets his studio boss (Sid Ceasar) to agree to the project, is if the picture is loaded with stars! So the primary plot of the movie is Funn and his friends chasing stars around town trying to get them to sign. It is ironic because each time a major star like Liza Minelli or Paul Newman appears for a token cameo, this star by their presence helps Brooks convince his boss to do the picture. Stars are really all that's needed to get a picture green-lit. If you've got Jack Nicholson or Tom Cruise saying they want to do your picture: it doesn't matter WHAT the script is like - it'll happen! There are other ways it'll happen, i'm sure, but the big star is sure-fire.

On to quality control: Brooks ends up with something that's fun, but just not as clever or complex as the thing its trying to send up. Physical comedy is actually a terribly tricky thing to do well, and make funny - and a whole nother ball game from dialogue comedies (the norm for Brooks - if you turned the sound off Spaceballs, you'd be left with nothing. Same for Blazing Saddles. It was presumptuous to think he could make a silent movie. The comic situations he's thought up are just so elementary. Its just a disconnected series of gags sewed Frankenstein-style onto the skeleton of "finding big stars to be in Mel Funn's silent movie."

There's certainly nothing to offend silent film fans here - its all very good natured, just very naive as to how to make a good physical comedy. The man who should actually make a silent comedy is Rowan Atkinson - best physical comic since the masters.

So i guess my main regret is that this will not probably win any fans for silent movies, let alone encourage people to check them out. If you want to see some great silent comedy, check out Chaplin's The Kid, Keaton's The General and Sherlock Jr. Those should be good jumping-off points.
13 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A Go-For-Broke Gagfest
jzappa22 May 2010
I suppose if anything epitomizes the style of Mel Brooks it is audacity, obscenity and a forthright quality that others seem either reluctant to use or often overplay with disastrous results. Brooks will do anything for a laugh. Anything. He is, for all intents and purposes, incapable of embarrassment. He's a rabble-rouser. His movies abide in a world in which everything is likely, especially the outrageous, and Silent Movie, where Brooks makes a bountiful aesthetic gamble and pulls it off, makes me laugh abundantly. On the Brooks calibration of amusement, I laughed not too radically more or less than at Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or The Producers. It just doesn't have the subversive and ironic panache of those classic films.

Brooks' fifth film as director, Silent Movie is streamlined fun. It's obvious in almost every shot that the filmmakers had a party making it. It's set in Hollywood, where Big Pictures Studio lurches on the brink of Chapter 11 and a merger with the mammoth Engulf and Devour syndicate, a daintily disguised reference to Gulf+Western's Paramount takeover. Enter Mel Funn (guess who), a has-been director whose career was stopped cold by drunkenness, who pledges to salvage the studio by persuading Hollywood's biggest stars to make a silent movie. This is a scenario that results in countless inside jokes, but the thing about Brooks's inside jokes is that their outsides are funny as well.

The wild bunch of Mel, Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman embark to charm the superstars, resulting in the shower of one, who counts his hands, confused, and discovers he has eight; and swooping another out of a nightclub audience. There are several "actual" stars in the movie, but the fun is in not knowing who's next. Everything transpires surrounded by a glossary of sight gags, classic and original. There are bits that don't work and durations of up to a minute, I guess, when we don't laugh, but a minute can feel pretty long. Perhaps it is Brooks' desire to control all that displaces an objective view of what will work.

Nevertheless, in a movie overflowing with skillful Chaplin-, Keaton- and Laurel and Hardy-inspired set pieces, these parts are the chef d'oeuvre: Right before seeing the Studio Chief, Mel and his friends cross their fingers for good luck, and Mel can't uncross his. He shakes hands with the Chief, and the Chief's fingers are crossed rather than Mel's. The Chief then passes this crossed state to his secretary's fingers the same way. Another running gag is obvious discrepancy between the title cards and what the characters are really saying. The spoken lines are inaudible, as it is indeed a silent movie, but they can be clearly lipread. At one point Brooks asserts misgivings about DeLuise's idea of a silent movie by shouting "That's crazy!" as well as an agitated mouthful, but the screen says "Maybe you're right." In another scene, Marty hits on a nurse but gets slapped. When he gets back in the car, Mel obviously mouths a curse word, although the screen says "You bad boy!" And then there's the scene where Feldman and DeLuise haphazardly unplug and plug in his heart monitor various times, winding up changing the screen to a ping pong game and playing while the Chief flatlines and recovers over and over. Brooks stands outside the majority of Jewish comics and filmmakers in his lack of self-derision and in the success of his main characters, but still, humor is his own defense mechanism against the world, and he goes for broke.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Nobody in the silent era was ever this shameless...
moonspinner553 February 2007
Once Mel Brooks got a taste of success (via the western parody "Blazing Saddles" and his monster-movie homage "Young Frankenstein"), he couldn't stop himself. This honest-to-God silent movie, full of rampaging shtick--and Brooks' celebrity friends popping in just long enough to enjoy the ride--was soon followed by a Hitchcock spoof, an historical free-for-all, twists on "Star Wars", Robin Hood, Dracula, et al. (all concepts). There aren't many original ideas here beyond the conception of Brooks, Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman mugging shamelessly in a silent format (with title cards reiterating the visual gags with a repeat punchline; when a joke bombs, it does so twice). Bernadette Peters (perhaps standing in for Brooks stable-player Madeline Kahn) and Burt Reynolds (in a lively cameo) give the proceedings some bounce, but rubber-faced Mel is all waving hands and toothy grins...and you can't escape from him. Except for one spoken word (by mime Marcel Marceau), an energetic score and sound effects, this really is a silent movie, but inspiration runs dry, especially since the 'plot'--about modern-day filmmakers casting a silent picture with stars and hoping to save a financially-strapped movie studio--doesn't allow for comic momentum to build. If you're attuned to this kind of childishly raunchy slapstick, there are a few big laughs, and it's blessedly brief. ** from ****
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A departure from the usual Brooks' fare
Jolie19 January 1999
When I think of Mel Brooks, I think raunchy. Who wouldn't, with scenes like the "Virgin Alarm" in "Spaceballs" and the chastity belt theme in "Men in Tights?" But this film is a nice departure from the usual Brooks fare. For one thing, it's a satire. While the three producers look for famous stars to be in their silent movie, they're simultaneously acting with the stars in a silent movie. Clever, eh?

Since the only line of dialogue in the movie is "Non!" by Marcel Marceau, cuss words were thankfully left out. It added some character to the movie, which played up the visual gags. My favorite part was the scene where the three producers walk briskly down the hall, hop, then walk briskly again. Shades of "The Wizard of Oz!" A nice little film.
9 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Silent laughter
Lejink4 July 2007
I like Mel Brooks broad, slapsticky humour, although Woody Allen in the same mode ("Bananas", "Love and Death") has him beat. While I admire his conceit in launching an almost literally silent movie into a market place gorging on the likes of "Rocky", "The Omen" et. al. it just doesn't come off. Perhaps the problem here is Brooks straining too much to emulate the silent masters such as Chaplin or Keaton or just failing to come to terms with the unique idiom of silent movie production. The silents were never vulgar for one thing. Surely the film should have been in B & W for a start and there are just too many word boards interrupting the flow. It's very hard to come up with original sight gags and while some made me smile, others are just very clunky and overlong. I also detected a fair degree of cronyism with appearances by Mel's wife Anne Bancroft, old boss Sid Caesar and stock players like Bernadette Peters and Dom Deluise. An old British comedy hero of mine, the gifted and sadly short - lived Marty Feldman fails to shine either - of the celeb turns possibly Burt Reynolds hams it up most convincingly. Overall though the film drags with much overacting and dud set-pieces. This movie started Brooks' decline (c.f. "History of the World" and "Spaceballs"). Proof that they really don't make 'em like they used to!
7 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Minor Mel Worth A Chuckle
slokes11 February 2014
Don't expect too much from this Mel Brooks send-up of silent comedy and, well, you'll probably still be disappointed. Just not as much.

Mel Funn (Brooks) is an out-of-work movie director who has an idea for how to get back in the business: Make the first silent movie in over 40 years. To get the backing of Big Picture Studios, Mel and partners Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) set about signing Hollywood stars to the project. Can Mel stay off the sauce long enough to see it through?

"Silent Movie" was Brooks' first film after owning 1974 with "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein"; as a result he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. You want to do a silent movie, Mel? Sure, why not? Well, maybe because Brooks' type of comedy was more verbal than visual. "Silent Movie" too often plays like a movie whose maker thinks it's funnier than it really is.

Take the cameo appearances of several big-name stars, another sign of Brooks' clout. Burt Reynolds has fun playing up his own ego, and so we do, too, while mime Marcel Marceau gets the funniest line in the picture (also the only line.) But the other stars brought in - Paul Newman, James Caan, Liza Minnelli, and Anne Bancroft - showcase their amiability more than their comedy potential.

The physical comedy gets really labored and obvious at times, not what you got watching the silent clowns, or even "Blazing Saddles." When Mel and his two buddies try to recruit Liza, for example, they dress as knights in bulky suits of armor. Instead of engaging Minnelli in conversation while trying to look natural in their odd attire, the three just bumble around in a commissary, knocking down tables and chairs until Liza pulls a face, recognizes Mel, and asks to be in his movie. End scene.

This strained gagginess extends to various sight gags. When we see a nurse in a hospital reading a smutty book, we can see patients on monitors behind her falling out of their beds, crying for help, etc. It's not much of a joke, but Brooks the director then pans over to put these monitors in close-up for a few seconds.

The movie does have moments of genuine funniness, albeit in the same patchy way as the later Brooks' comedies "High Anxiety" and "History Of The World Part I." When we first see Mel driving down a street, a card tells us we are in "Hollywood, Film Capital of Greater Los Angeles." The plaque on the door of Big Pictures' boss (Sid Caesar) reads "Current Studio Chief."

Caesar is pretty funny, too, as is Bernadette Peters as a sexy vamp who is sicced on Mel to take his mind off the movie. I love her big entrance, on stage inside a giant banana, from which she is peeled to deliver her silent catchphrase: "Ba-Ba-Loo!" Both Marty and Dom make for enjoyable company throughout, although they don't do much more than ogle ladies (Marty) or eat (Dom). In the technical department, John Morris's score and Paul Lohmann's cinematography are non-distractingly enjoyable.

The big negative in this film, as with "High Anxiety," is Brooks. There is no funnier white person in living history, but he doesn't work as an actor, even in a farce. He's always smiling too much, pressing too hard to show us what a nice guy he is. Of course, it doesn't help that he's his own director here. (Brooks did better work as the lead in the 1983 remake of "To Be Or Not To Be," which he didn't direct.)

"Silent Movie" is funny enough in spots and has enough of that old Brooks magic to make it pleasant if forgettable viewing. You can't help wanting more, but if you are like me, you're almost satisfied to get what you do.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Fun filled Mel Brooks movie about "silent movies"...
Doylenf7 October 2006
If you're a Mel Brooks fan, you've probably heard of SILENT MOVIE--and my advice is to see it if you haven't yet.

It's one of his more brilliant and inventive ideas and it gets the wacky screen treatment you expect from Brooks. Naturally, it's not really silent. There is a very well-timed background score (no, not a tinkling piano) and all of the thuds are vigorously heard on the soundtrack. But there's no dialog--you read the silly captions that replace the sound of voices, just as folks did way back when.

Sid Ceasar is a film producer that Mel has to convince to let him do a "silent movie". He agrees provided Mel hires well-known movie stars to give it box-office insurance. That's the gist of the plot which then has MEL BROOKS and DOM DeLUISE scouting around Hollywood for stars like Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, James Caan and Anne Bancroft to star in the film.

It's full of the usual sight gags, the falls on banana peels, through trap doors, everything that happened in a Keystone Kops comedy. Maybe not the funniest Brooks caper but still loads of fun to watch with a brisk running time of 87 minutes.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Utter drivel
crazydrummer22 September 2006
Mel Brooks must have been out of his mind to try this! I vaguely remember seeing it as a kid and enjoyed it then - so I got it on DVD to watch with my family. The jokes are SO obvious and witless - they just don't work. Most didn't even raise a smile and not one raised a laugh. Mel really should have watched some Buster Keaton or Laurel & Hardy to see how physical comedy is done by the masters. The physical comedy is amateurish at best. If he'd watched "The General" or "The Music Box" after making this he'd NEVER have released it. If you saw your mates doing some of these scenes for a charity event then you might laugh - 'cos they are amateurs and you'd enjoy them doing it but these guys are professionals! We expect better. My 11 year old daughter who loves Laurel & Hardy just said "They make the scenes go on too long. The joke's been done and they keep it going long after it's stopped being funny" Sorry Mel. The Producers, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles were your master works this should quietly be forgotten as a brave but doomed self-indulgent experiment.
6 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Silence Is Not Always Golden
strong-122-47888515 September 2015
Get this! Silent Movie's tag-line was - "The only sound you'll hear is laughter!".... (Oh!? Really!?)... And, of course, when it came to that laughter, the only one you're likely to hear chuckling merrily away would be director Mel Brooks (all the way to the bank) 'cause his $4 million movie had just grossed $36 million at the box-office.

Yep. That's the only laughter you're gonna hear in regards to this unfunny dud. 'Cause, believe me, it didn't provoke any laughter in me.

And, speaking about slapstick comedy - If this particular genre wasn't already dead by the time Silent Movie was released in 1976, then, to be sure, this film certainly succeeded in killing it, once and for all.

With the exception of but a few good sight gags - I swear Silent Movie's storyline (which came across like a Made-For-TV movie) was being made up as they went along. And cameo appearances by the likes of Paul Newman, James Caan, and Burt Reynolds did nothing to compensate for the utter stupidity of this picture.

And, finally - This dumber-than-dumb movie lost itself some very serious points for its blatant (and very unwelcome) product placement of the all-familiar Coca Cola logo.
4 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Terrible
pete-huntley22 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I'm half way through this, and it's awful. What was Brooks thinking? The silent comics had grown up making slapstick on stage and on film. Laurel and Hardy were both in their thirties with dozens of two reelers each before they were teamed up. Buster Keaton had been doing slapstick since the age of 3.

I can say this because I'm currently in the middle of watching a whole load of silents from L&H, Keaton, Charlie Chase, Harold Lloyd and so on. Those two reelers work because they only have 20 minutes to tell a full story. Scenes are either full on slapstick or 10 seconds long to move the story on. Moreover slapstick is the comedy of pain and embarrassment and to make it work you have to sell that - through overacting if need be.

Brooks completely fails to understand this. About 15 minutes into the film, Dom Deluise has a door slammed on his foot. Although the joke is blatantly set up, at first I didn't even realise that the slam had occurred. Deluise barely reacts. All I can think about is how Oliver Hardy would have sold the same gag - as I've literally just watched him do it several times over. Compare the two. No contest.

Mel Brooks has written a completely normal film and then simply taken all the sound out and replaced it with captions.

The only reason to watch this is for the cameos. Paul Newman, James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli, Marcel Marceau and Anne Bancroft gamely send themselves up. Paul Newman in his racing wheelchair is clearly enjoying himself and gives the best scene of the movie. As for the rest, Marty Feldman acts everyone else off the screen - when he's actually given something to do that is - thanks to his British physical comedy training.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A great watch
kelleant2 May 2017
This a great watch and worth it too. All this people who are giving this movie bad reviews are idiots who don't understand comedy. Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, and Dom Bell are on their A game in this movie and so I recommend it anyone who loves comedy or Brooks Any ways it a movie worth watching mind there is a lot of reading because of course it a Silent Movie.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Mel Brooks' Love Letter to Early Silent Film is Good for a Chuckle
brando64725 February 2017
Following he and Gene Wilder's cinematic love letter to James Whale's Frankenstein films, Mel Brooks wrote and directed a film hearkening back to an even earlier era with SILENT MOVIE. The film, for those who haven't seen it, is exactly what it claims to be: a silent comedy. Well, almost silent. There's a single spoken line in the entire movie and it's spoken by the one person whose delivery should guarantee a chuckle. The premise of SILENT MOVIE is, as I understand it, basically a comedic depiction of the trials and tribulations Brooks endured in trying to get the movie made in the first place. At the center of the film is our trio of filmmakers: Mel Funn (Brooks), Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), and Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman). Mel Funn is a former Hollywood director whose career tanked when he fell into alcoholism. He has dreams of reviving his career with the first silent film in decades and his friends Dom and Marty are coming along to help him see it through. The studio is, obviously, more than a little hesitant at first but they've got the evil east coast conglomerate Engulf & Devour breathing down their necks in hopes of acquiring the company. When Mel promises to fill his picture with the biggest stars, the studio chief (Sid Caesar) gives him a shot. SILENT MOVIE is then a race against time for Mel to collect some of the biggest names the mid-70s has to offer and save the studio.

SILENT MOVIE is slapstick fun in the vein of the classics like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. I'm a fan of Chaplin (and need to make time to watch some Keaton) and dig the goofball comedies of early cinema, and Brooks pulls from his love for the era to fill this movie to the brim with classic gags. There's loads of fun to be had here but it starts to drag after a while. Those early Chaplin films run about fifteen to twenty minutes apiece and, while some of them do run longer, they work best in those smaller, easily digested doses. I think the longest Chaplin film I've seen was about 70 minutes and, even then, it lost some of its fun by the end. SILENT MOVIE is just under ninety minutes and, regardless of how much fun the bits are, it runs a little long for me. I'm not adverse to silent film. I loved THE ARTIST, which brought the genre back again in 2011 to great success. But that had better storytelling and didn't have to rely on pratfalls and funny faces to fill out a feature-length runtime. I was thoroughly enjoying SILENT MOVIE up until around the halfway mark when my attention began to wander. A large section of the movie follows Funn as he tracks down Hollywood stars to convince him to join his movie, and it doesn't switch things up until the last twenty- five minutes or so when we head into the final act.

Just as the characters in the film need to bolster interest in their silent film with the inclusion of big stars, so does SILENT MOVIE itself. Half of the movie is a string of cameos from the likes of Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, James Caan, etc. If nothing else, it's fun to watch these big name stars get in on the cornier slapstick the movie brings to the table. I suppose my favorite cameo bit would be Caan's. It felt the most like a classic silent film comedy scenario with Caan inviting Funn and his buddies into his trailer for lunch to discuss their movie. Of course, the trailer has poor suspension so the four of them are teetering around inside as the trailer lurches from one side to the other with the slightest gesture. It was definitely one of the funnier scenes, as opposed to their courting of Liza Minnelli which involved arduous minutes of Funn and the gang toppling over each other in suits of medieval armor in the studio commissary. The bits are hit and miss, but I can at least say that most of them register on the positive end of the spectrum. At minimum, they'll elicit a smile. I can't be too harsh overall because I see what Brooks was aiming for and I appreciate the sentiment. Those early silent shorts get little to no attention anymore and Mel Brooks has done his part in shining the spotlight on them once again for newer generations.

SILENT MOVIE probably isn't going to have you laughing your head off but, if nothing else, it's ninety minutes of harmless fun. There's nothing overtly racy in the film so it's a nice piece anyone of any age can enjoy. It's comedy fluff that I can't imagine will find itself atop many top comedy lists, or even top Brooks comedy lists, but it's good for some chuckles and people who know more about that early era of Chaplin and Keaton than I will probably find even more to appreciate.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
I Was Quite Disappointed!
Hitchcoc25 December 2016
I really like the hits and misses of Mel Brooks. He has brought joy to us all in many forms, from his comedy act to a series of fun movies. This one just didn't do it for me. I guess the concept was lacking any reason to exist. I can give it a six because of the characters' names, a lot of one liners, and a Brooksian bit of panache. It has an all-star cast with wonderful cameos, but it has little if any center to it. If we want to see silent films, we should watch Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd. But there are some rather nice moments and it comes across in a polished way. And, of course, there's the bit with Marcel Marceau. Not enough, however, to save the film.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Fantastic
Elgroovio12 September 2004
This film is Mel Brooks at his best. The thing in my opinion that makes this film so great is the fact that it is completely original. In those days people were in love with big colorful modern films, so it must have come as a pretty big shock to discover that suddenly somebody had made an old-fashioned silent film. There are so many things about this film that will make you just crack your teeth laughing, but most of the funniest of them are thanks to the comic genius of the actor Marty Feldman. Also in this film are some fantastic cameos by all sorts of stars. This is certainly one of Mel Brooks' best films, and should be put next to his many other great films like "The Producers" and "Spaceballs". Enjoy! 10/10
3 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
An undiscovered gem in the Mel Brooks catalog
itamarscomix16 October 2005
Silent Movie is often called Mel Brooks' worst film – it's certainly not on par with his masterpieces, Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, but keep in mind that it's also his most ambitious work; the concept of the movie – the story of a film director trying to make a silent movie in the 1970's, told itself as a silent movie – is certainly his boldest, and it wasn't easy to make it work, but it's as good as it should and could have been – as only Brooks could have done it. Even though the real Silent Movie was not a surprise hit like its fictional counterpart – in fact, it bombed in the box office, not quite unexpectedly – it's an essential part of the Mel Brooks classic catalog, and deserves much from attention than it got; it's also unbelievably funny.

Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman and Dom Deluis are Silent Movie's stooges, and they play their parts with every bit of love and respect for the classic silent comedies of the 20's and 30's. Like in Young Frankenstein, Mel's intention was first and foremost to revive the genre, but with self parody and self awareness; therefore Silent Movie is mainly slapstick and physical humor, and these three comedians make it work, especially Feldman who in himself proves to be a natural silent film comic born several decades too late. The humor is often as crude and simplistic as those films really were, but it works in this modern context much better than could be expected. The excellent cast also includes Sid Caesar and Bernadette Peters in excellent and hilarious performances, and a series of the biggest stars of the time playing themselves as the actors Mel is scouting for for his movie – Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft and Paul Newman, each of whom grants an unforgettable scene filled with slapstick and good-natured self parody; the film's most memorable moment, and only spoken word, is granted by pantomime legend Marcel Marceau.

My only complaint for Mr. Brooks is this – as long as he had the balls to make a film as bold as this, one that was almost certainly doomed to be a financial and critical failure, he might as well have gone all the way and made it in black and white – that was, after all, one of Young Frankenstein's most striking features. Other than this, Silent Movie is a very funny movie and an essential to fans of Mel Brooks' early material. It's not his best and it's not perfect, but it's one of a kind.
3 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Underrated Mel Brooks classic
ajlposh13 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Whenever I hear people praising Mel Brooks film, I hear mentions of the likes of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein, but I rarely hear this one mentioned, and huge Mel Brooks fans like myself need to watch it. It needs more respect. It has a few stars from Mel Brooks' regular band of actors, but it also has a bunch of cameos from rather huge stars of the day, like Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, and Mel Brooks' own wife Anne Bancroft. Also, there's the great mime Marcel Marceau, who delivers the only line in the entire film. And there's a cameo from stand-up comedy genius Henny Youngman as a man with a fly in his soup. If you are a Mel Brooks fan and you haven't seen it, what can I say, but go see it.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Comment on Brandt Sponseller's review
alcox31-114 January 2007
You apparently weren't alive in 1976 or at least of an age that this movie would have meant much to you. I was 17 when this movie came out and it was a MUCH ANTICIPATED event! I have just watched this movie again on Cinemax and loved again the entire movie. In 1976, Marcel Marceau was on TV frequently and I loved him then as I was very fascinated by him. Additionally, Mel Brooks movies were coming out frequently and each were very hot commodities. I can understand with all of the technology that has evolved since 1976 why you would not appreciate this movie but in my opinion, it is a Mel Brooks classic although certainly not as much as Young Frankenstein was and is.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An Interesting Idea
CHARLIE-897 November 1999
Of course, only Mel Brooks could have the idea to make a silent movie in today's Hollywood. And silent it is-this isn't one of those films like "City Lights","Modern Times","Bean" or "Playtime" that uses background noises and dialogue. No, aside from the brilliant John Morris score, the film is completely silent. Being that this is a Mel Brooks comedy, this COULD be considered a downside. It is filled with sight gags, from a pregnant woman upsetting the balance of the back of the car; the reaction of the executives to Vilma Kaplan, the sultry spy; the video pong-game on the life support machine; and of course, the fly in the soup. Unfortunately, there are stretches where the action moves very slowly, without sufficient explanation. Also, the music score occasionally has very unpleasant, loud drum crashes to indicate when there is action, and these can be an unpleasant contrast to the surprisingly quietly recorded music score. If you want to hear the music score, you'd best buy the soundtrack, where it is clear of the drum/cymbal crashes. The soundtrack mixes bits and pieces of "The Emperor's Waltz"(Strauss) and "Jalousie"(Bloom-Gade) as well as "Babalu"(Lecuona-Russell). The cast includes six main guest stars, as well as character actors like Chuck McCann, Jack Riley, Howard Hesseman and Fritz Feld. On top of this, Harry Ritz of the Ritz Brothers, Henny Youngman, and even Barry Levinson (DINER,HOMICIDE:LIFE ON THE STREETS) as a movie executive. All in all, it makes for genial entertainment and if nothing else should be seen to gain an appreciation of silent comedy. As a movie, it gets a 8/10. For a Mel Brooks film, it gets 7/10 on the Laff scale.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed