A teaser for a forthcoming American Masters special, Mel Brooks: Make a Noise (PBS, 5.20), arrived this morning. A Shout! Factory DVD is available the next day, but no VOD/online rentals? The clips indicate that Matthew Broderick, Richard Lewis, Nathan Lane and Carl Reiner see Brooks as an egoistic handful and no day at the beach. Like every driven artist-performer who’s ever lived. What else is new?
May I be blunt? In an 11.13 N.Y. Times interview with Frank Bruni, Alexander Payne remarked that all good directors have a magic decade. “They say you can do honest, sincere work for decades, but you’re given in general a 10-year period when what you do touches the zeitgeist — when you’re relevant,” he said. Due respect but Brooks’ movie-lightning period lasted only six years — The Producers (’68), The Twelve Chairs (’70), Blazing Saddles (’74) and Young Frankenstein (’74).
But if you count Brooks’ peak years as writer-performer on TV in the ’50s and ’60s (with Sid Ceasar on Your Show of Shows/Ceasar’s Hour and later Get Smart) and his 2000 Year-Old Man recordings with Carl Reiner, his hot-and-relevant period lasted a little over 20 years. Which is fairly extraordinary.
Silent Movie (’76) wasn’t all that amusing when you get right down to it. (I saw it exactly once, and I tittered but never laughed.) High Anxiety (’78)…Hitchcock tribute stuff, in and out. The Spanish Inquisition musical number in History of the World, Part I (’81) was hilarious and provocative, but otherwise the film was just mezzo-mezzo. Spaceballs (’87) was a downturn, I felt — a wallow. Life Stinks (’91) was actually a kind of resurgence — a character-driven movie that wasn’t a genre spoof. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (’93) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (’95) were weak tea.