The Mel Brooks Collection Mel Brooks

Nine films of Mel Brooks’s kooky, schmaltzy film-referencing satire might seem like a titanic ride for those only passively familiar with the short, broad comedy star and director, but enclosed in this box set are some of the most envelope-pushing film farces of all time. Brooks’s 1970s period is his golden decade. Hot off the success of his 1968 debut, The Producers (which, along with his ’90s flops, Life Stinks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, isn’t included in this set due to publishing rights), Brooks’s first real foray into the language of film was 1970s classic The Twelve Chairs, a scathing attack on greed and religion set in communist Russia that features a side-splitting performance by Dom DeLuise as a corrupt priest. Next up were Brooks’s two most memorable spoofs and a definite career highlights for lead actor Gene Wilder, Blazing Saddles, which sends up Westerns with assurance to spare, and Young Frankenstein, which turns its silly sights to the famous monster tale. Both are as side-splitting as ever, even if some of the gags come off a bit cheap and cheesy when you consider how far along comedy has come since 1974 (the year both were released). Next up, Brooks brought together a killer team to bring the house down in an incredibly unique way; 1976’s Silent Movie follows the slapstick action as Brooks, DeLuise and Marty Feldman (unforgettable as Eyegor in Young Frankenstein) traipse about Hollywood to convince star talent (Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli, James Caan and Anne Bancroft as themselves) to appear in the silent film they’re trying to convince a faltering studio to produce. Silent Movie is a masterwork of scripting, directing and imagination (not to mention comedy), but it proved to be Brooks’s creative peak, as High Anxiety (1977) swam mostly lukewarm waters to send up Alfred Hitchcock’s suspenseful currents. History of the World: Part 1 (1981) has a few amusing moments (like Brooks playing the King of France) but mostly flaunts its historical ignorance and wastes viewers’ time with groan-worthy jokes and inconsistencies. Though he produced and stars in To Be or Not To Be (1983), Brooks did not direct this light-hearted return to form, which focuses on the lives of stage actors amidst the Nazi annex of Poland. And you can bet Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) still sucks pretty hard, even if it does feature Dave Chappelle in an early role. (Fox)