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20th Century Fox presents
Silent Movie (1976)

"Hi, I have a terrible glandular condition. May I use your phone?"
- Mel Funn (Mel Brooks)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 14, 2006

Stars: Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Sid Caesar, Harold Gould, Ron Carey, Bernadette Peters
Other Stars: Paul Newman, Liza Minelli, Burt Reynolds, Anne Bancroft, James Caan, Marcel Marceau, Charlie Callas, Henny Youngman, Howard Hesseman, Harry Ritz, Barry Levinson
Director: Mel Brooks

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language, sexual humor)
Run Time: 01h:27m:18s
Release Date: April 04, 2006
UPC: 024543167495
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-A+B+ D+

DVD Review

After the runaway success of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks stumbled a bit with his next project, Silent Movie. Perhaps part of the problem is that silent movies were far enough away in time as a point of reference that Brooks wasn't able to do as much parodying as he had with those two pictures. On the other hand, slapstick humor is fairly timeless and Brooks pushes it to the limit here, skewering Hollywood in general in the process. The high concept is that the film about the making of a silent movie is itself made as a silent movie, with but a single word of dialogue.

Legendary director Mel Funn (Brooks) is attempting to make a comeback after falling victim to the bottle. With the help of sidekicks Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), he tries to get back on his feet by making a silent movie. He at first is unable to convince Big Pictures Studio chief (Sid Caesar), but when the conglomerate Engulf & Devour makes a bid to seize Big Pictures and shut it down, all hopes for the studio's future rest on Mel, Marty and Dom. In order to get his funding, however, Mel has to convince the biggest stars in Hollywood to agree to appear in his picture. But Engulf & Devour will stop at nothing to prevent the movie from being made, including use of the seductive powers of "bundle of lust" Vilma Kaplan (Bernadette Peters) to distract Funn from the task at hand.

The guest stars (Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli, Anne Bancroft, Marcel Marceau and James Caan) are pretty game about sending up their own images, with Burt reveling in his own egomania, while Paul Newman's fondness for racing cars culminates in a madcap wheelchair pursuit. But the best segment goes to Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft, who shows a flair of her own for silliness in a flamenco dance number with the three guys. Caesar is of course a master of physical comedy and he helps the humor factor significantly. Peters has never been sexier than in this role as the vampish Vilma. Her contribution to the humor is limited to spending much of her brief running time in a Peter Cottontail costume, however.

The gags come fast and furious, though not that many are really all that funny, such as a bland bit about exchanging a seeing eye dog of a blind man (Charlie Callas) with someone else's dog. This, as is the case with so many of the gags here, is just a detour from the very thin skeleton of a plot. There's a definite over-reliance on sound effects to try to wring some humor out of bits that go nowhere. On the other hand, when Brooks hits on a good idea, it is well executed, such as a running gag involving a Newsvendor (Liam Dunn) being assaulted with bundles of newspapers. Feldman is always hilarious, but DeLuise has to fall back on rather obvious food and drink gags much of the time. These include some truly egregious product placements for Coca-Cola, though it should be noted one of these ends up actually being important to the plot. Which I guess is a meta-joke of its own.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The image generally looks fine, with mildly subdued colors. Ringing and moiré are fairly prevalent, but no significant damage is apparent.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Maybe this is another joke, but Fox has seen fit to include three audio tracks, labelled English, French and Spanish, which are, unsurprisingly, all exactly the same. Mild surround activity is noted, and the tracks are very clean and have reasonably good range.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring High Anxiety, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, To Be or Not to Be, Young Frankenstein
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:56m:57s

Extras Review: The only extras are three trailers in English, Spanish and Portuguese, all identical except for the voiceovers. The foreign version is interestingly titled La Ultima locura de Mel Brooks, or The Final Madness of Mel Brooks, which hardly seems descriptive. Four other trailers for Brooks pictures are also included.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

One of Brooks' less successful efforts, but it's nicely transferred to DVD.


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