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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “Silent Movie” (1976)

January 8, 2012

Apologies for the two-week absence, but the wait is over! Blast from the Past Movie Review is back for the year 2012. I’m still taking in requests of movies to review for you; good, bad, or shitty, it can be whatever you want. It can be from 1911 or 2011 (chances are I’ve already reviewed the ’11 ones). So, lets kick it off with the first Blast from the Past Movie Review of the year!

Last week I finally saw Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist”, the critically acclaimed drama paying homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, done in the form of a traditional silent film. After see the film, I said to a friend of mine who saw it with me, ‘I feel like watching Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie”!’ And so I did! I haven’t seen “Silent Movie” in ages, seven years to be more accurate, I remember it being a classic Mel Brooks spoof-comedy, spoofing silent movies, but I felt the need to revisit the movie before actually reviewing it.

The film follows three filmmakers wanting to produce the first modern take of the silent movie, in present day 1976. Mel Funn (Brooks), Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman), and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise) are the leads. They convince the Studio Chief (Sid Caesar), but only if they can get big named celebrities on board for the production. Mel accepts the challenge, he and Marty & Dom set off into the jungles of Hollywood in search for stars. Meanwhile, a sleazy duo named Engulf (Harold Gould) & Devour (Ron Carey) plan to sabotage the production so they can…engulf & devour the studio for every penny it has. When you think about it, that’s the only part of the movie that doesn’t make sense.

There’s a bus full of celebrity cameos including the likes of Burt Reynolds & James Caan to name just a few, if you haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil the entire celeb list. But, there’s one in particular who gets the only line of dialogue in the entire film, and only Mel Brooks could be the one guy on this planet to make it happen. The movie truly embraces slapstick comedy. This is the most intensely fueled slapstick comedy Brooks has ever produced. Look back at his other films; this one doesn’t even come close to the others. Its chalk full of crafty stunts, Brooks seemed to borrow a lot of Three Stooges-esq humor here.

Being a spoof on silent films, it does the genre justice, but this really isn’t the most traditional silent film satire. “The Artist” was more of traditional silent film, with the exception of two scenes, but “Silent Movie” does something different. It’s in color for one, which is fine; it does have title cards for dialogue, and the use of music to emphasize the characters physical expressions is quite apparent, but it’s the other use of found which makes this film unconventional. Brooks incorporates sound effects to express the characters on a greater level; animal roars, screeches, dominos falling, etc. This film embraced more of the Looney Tunes aspect than a conventional silent film of the 1920s.

The story maybe too simple at times, but everything around is surly far from it, and that’s what makes this movie so fun to watch. Mel Brooks is classic, he’s the human form of what comedy should be. Comedies of today rely too much on pop-culture references or gross out humor, but Mel was never really about that, at least before the end of his film career. “Silent Movie” is a film I think is overlooked and should be given a second chance by younger viewers of today. C’mon, if you like cartoons that are off the wall bonkers, you can sit through this.

GRADE: A-

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