Mel Brooks, 1968
This is definitely the most character-based comedy I’ve seen from Brooks. This still has all the trademarks of Brooks, gay jokes, goy jokes, slapstick, curvy young foxes, and silly songs. It doesn’t go outside the realm of it narrative, its not parody or at least obvious parody like the rest of Brooks output so it doesn’t have to homage or poke fun at convention, the movie has an internal consistency that none of his other movies have. Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom are probably the most well-defined characters Brooks has ever had. Their personalities and motivations are set-up and well-defined and they seem to have had a life before the beginning of the movie. Bloom is a depressed, neurotic nothing itching for the chance at excitement and Bialystock is a failure and a swindler and the look in his eyes when he hears Bloom’s idea to steal the budget is incredible. This new level of greed he’s never thought of before. These guys are so likable though that it’s easy to go along on their moral slip-n-slide with them. It’s just too damn fun. These are characters that want something(money), go after it, and if they fail they’re fucked and all the comedy comes from that rather than gag upon gag till the movie stops. Not that I don’t like those movies, I love those movies, but it’s a shame Brooks didn’t try more like this. A great movie about greedy jerks.
Murder by Decree
Bob Clark, 1979
A movie with the premise of “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” starring Christopher Plummer and James Mason should be one awesome flick. “Murder by Decree” has its moments but never quite gels. Plummer’s enthusiastic Holmes is interesting to watch even when he slips out of his minimal British accent. Though Holmes here is really emotional. This is like Bob Haney Sherlock Holmes. He has a social conscience, slaps authority figures, and tears up at injustice. I’m a Holmes fan and this was just odd for me. Better than Downey Jr. and his sexy Holmes but not quite right either (Jeremy Brett and Peter Cushing.) James Mason who is usually pretty awesome at everything he ever does including crap seems very under utilized here and at times can’t seem to hide his boredom with the material. This borrows a lot from “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution” and so if you’ve seen “From Hell” (I haven’t read the book so I’m a bad comic book fan fuck me) you know how this is gonna turn out.
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011