'The Mel Brooks Collection'
A thorough, if uneven, look at the comedy legend's movie work
Both sides of the equation are represented in "The Mel Brooks Collection," a DVD box set that hits shelves this week. It collects seven of the 11 films the comedy legend has directed, plus the remake of "To Be or Not to Be" which he produced and starred in opposite wife Anne Bancroft.
The set contains a couple of bona fide classics in "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein," both of which earned Oscar nominations in 1975. The set also includes the affectionate Hitchcock spoof "High Anxiety," the scattershot "History of the World: Part 1," "Silent Movie," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and the relatively obscure "The Twelve Chairs," Brooks' 1970 comedy about a former Russian aristocrat searching for his family fortune in the Soviet Union.
As it turns out, the best movies in the collection also have the best extras. There's a trove of additional material on "Young Frankenstein, including commentary by Brooks and outtakes that highlight just how hard it was at times for the cast to keep a straight face.
"Blazing Saddles" includes a 55-minute discussion by Brooks -- not a commentary, exactly, as it's not synched up to the action on screen -- about the making of the picture, including his long-shot effort to have John Wayne play the Waco Kid (eventually brought to life by Gene Wilder). Wayne loved the script, Brooks relates, but figured he couldn't do the movie because it was "too dirty."
The other films feature scant extras, if they have any at all. And if you already own any of the individual titles, you won't be seeing anything new on the discs in the box set. (I would also argue that anything called "The Mel Brooks Collection" should include "Spaceballs" before "Men in Tights.") Some of the movies in the set, though, are pretty hard to find on DVD, so for Brooks completists, the collection might not be a bad buy.
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: April 4
RATING: Ranges from G to R.
TIME: 12 hours, 52 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Varies by film.