His movies (“Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Producers,” etc. etc. etc.) have long been available on DVD. Ditto for all the episodes of his ‘60s TV comedy series “Get Smart.”
But the Shout Factory’s new five-DVD, one-CD collection “The Incredible Mel Brooks” employs a different approach. This massive undertaking is mostly about Mel Brooks the raconteur…and taken as such it is flat-out wonderful.
Oh, three’s lots of other stuff here, including Brooks’ Oscar-winning animated short “The Critic” and single episodes of his TV shows “Get Smart” and “When Things We Rotten” (not to mention the “Mad About You” episode in which he was guest star). There are short films and brief TV appearances on various variety shows (Sid Caesar).
But the real joy of “The Incredible Mel Brooks” comes when the man just sits down and talks.
Amassed here are all of Brooks’ TV appearances on the Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett talk shows, as well as an extended recent conversation (before a live audience) between Brooks and Cavett (and, out in the house, Carl Reiner). These are screamingly, hilariously, off-the-wall riotious.
In a recurring series of featurettes Brooks discusses his filmography…these segments aren’t always terribly funny, but they’re full on insights about a moviemaker who sometimes seems to be winging it. Turns out Brooks gives his projects a lot of thought.
And a good chunk of one of the discs is turned over to Brooks’ most lingering creation, the 2000 Year Old Man.
In addition to 11 hours of viewing, this collection provides a 60-page booklet with essays by the likes of Gene Wilder, Bruce Jay Friedman and Robert Brustein.
So, if you have a Mel Brooks fanatic in the family, this is the perfect holiday gift. Or, you can buy it for someone close and then watch it yourself.
| Robert W. Butler