Mel Brooks' blackout sketches, mostly involving cave men, ancient Rome, the Inquisition, and the French Revolution, with a lot of other stuff thrown in. The various shreds are so impulsively but personally patched together that one wonders how he could have gotten such a cast, mostly familiar old timers.
The style of the humor isn't what anyone would call fresh. A shot of a street in ancient Rome has a black guy walking along with a boombox against his ear. Ha ha. Facing the guillotine, Brooks is asked if he has any last requests. "Yes -- NOVACAINE!" "It hasn't been invented yet." "I'll wait!" And Brooks from time to time glances at the camera and makes comments on the shenanigans.
A lot of the humor is Jewish. During a parody of Esther Williams' movies we not only see seven girls in bathing suits (and caps) slowly emerge from the pool wearing sparklers on their heads, but as they go up and up we see that they're standing on a menorah. A drowning man shouts and the underwater bubble of his breath rises to the surface and pops and it says, "Oy, gewalt!" Maybe I should quit because otherwise I'll give away all the gags and some of them depend on the principle of fundamental surprise. Many of them also depend on vulgarity, in more than one language. It's about as politically correct as you can get. I don't know that even in a good-natured comedy that skewers politicians, racism, Judaism, Hollywood, and Holy Mother Church you could get away with calling someone a "fag" today. Or how about this. Gregory Hines' intact heterosexuality is revealed and someone shouts, "The jig is up!" "And gone," exclaims Hines, diving out the window.
For me the scene that works best is the one in which Brooks is Louis XVI, shooting down peasants as they are flung through the air like clay pigeons. He's in a ridiculous "King" costume and wears a villainous black mustache and a beauty spot. Strolling through the garden, he gooses Marie Antoinette, winks at the camera and says, "It's good to be da king." And when he's forcing a beautiful blond virgin to meet him later that night, in order to save her imprisoned father, he adopts this smug, conspiratorial tone as he tells her, "You do it. You KNOW you do it. You WANNA do it. We all do it." And he smiles wickedly at us and reminds us again that, "It's good to be da king." I said this was a good-natured comedy and what I mean is that it doesn't depend in any way on anger. There isn't even an undertone of nastiness. We see a sketch from what we used to call "coming attractions" -- "Hitler on Ice" -- and Hitler performs gracefully. The humor lies in the absurdity of the concept. Any value judgments about the subject are taken for granted.
Some of it looks quite a bit like Woody Allen, but it may be a case of independent invention. What it reminds me of at times are the "Road" films of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Now THAT'S good-natured comedy, although Brooks idea of fun is of course more urban, if not more urbane.
The bloated pompous baritone of Orson Welles introduces each new segment with portentous comments -- "The first weapon was the spear." Welles, like Brooks, is obviously kidding around too. Everybody is kidding around and the result is quite a lot of fun, despite the occasional wince.
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