An alcoholic film director attempts a Hollywood comeback by producing a modern day silent movie.
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You have to hand it to Mel Brooks. This man has balls. Probably everyone in Hollywood told him to not make this movie. And probably everyone in Hollywood saw it.
Channeling Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and the great Marcel Marceau (who himself is featured in the film. Mr. Brooks had the wonderful sense of irony to give the famous French mime the movie’s only spoken line), Mel Brooks defies every contemporary Hollywood convention by releasing a twentieth century silent picture about . . .
Well, it’s about a famous film director who wants to make a modern day silent movie.
Who better than the talented Mel Brooks to break the standards of comic cinema, and in fact revert back to where the origins of it began? With classic style, impeccable timing, and a talented cast that goes beyond explanation, Mr. Brooks proves a critical and historical fact to his audiences and stereotypical skeptical Hollywood distributors: Simple is smart.
Mel Brooks plays Mel Funn, an alcoholic director struggling to make a comeback with a bold and fresh idea. His two sidekicks, Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell ( Dom DeLuise), accompany him as he dodges slapstick harm from villainous rival producers in order to achieve his goal.
When Funn pitches his idea to the studio chief Sid Caeser, Brooks’ longtime associate in comedy, the producer blinks and pantomimes that the idea is crazy. Within a few seconds, the producer’s spoken onslaught is parlayed to the audience: “Don’t you know that slapstick is DEAD?”
In traditional Brooks fashion, his body slams into a chair that suddenly glides across the office on its way to crash into the opposite wall.
But let’s take a minute aside from Mel Brooks to reflect on the genius of this apocalyptic story. Let’s think for a minute about the man named Dom DeLuise.
Brooks once claimed that whenever he hired Mr. DeLuise to perform in one of his films, he would instinctively add a few days to the production schedule because of Mr. DeLuise’s impressive and unpredictable talent.
In addition to playing Julius Ceaser, Buddy Bizarre, Dom Bell, and Pizza the Hutt, the actor Dom DeLuise made his reputation as a lovable and obvious butt of all fat jokes. He used his own insecurity as a device to make others laugh. His vocal quality may be missing in a film like “Silent Movie”, but his talent as a qualified vocal persona should not be ignored. Just watch any of the animated classics like “An American Tail” or “All Dogs Go to Heaven” to catch an earful of this gentleman’s inspiring comic delivery.
And if you want the visual, please check out the early installments of Mel Brooks. “Silent Movie” may be somewhat shallow in story development and character arc, but it is still visually pleasing and therefore sensational. It is the type of comedy that responds to the comic mo-jo inherent in the veins of Moe, Larry, and Curly.
Mr. DeLuise died at the age of 75 on May 4, 2009. His wife, three children, and three grandchildren survive him.