Brooks, Mel: Spoofs and Pastiches (Blazzing Saddles, Young Frankenstein)

If Mel Brooks is not a major director, it’s because his movie are structured as pastiches–they are light satires or spoofs of established Hollywood genres.

The late great Canadian critic, Robin Wood, once summed up the essence of Mel Brooks’ talent as: “In Brooks, you have the cornball vaudeville with inspired lunacy.”

Born in 1926 as Melvin Kaminsky, the Jewish Mel Brooks is a product of live-audience TV, hired to write gags for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in 1950.  For over a decade, he was a script doctor for TV, radio and stage musicals.

In 1964, he did the voice of Ernest Pintoff’s cartoon, The Critic.

From 1968 to 1977, Brooks made six films, reaching his climax as a director in 1974 with two entries: “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.”

“Young Frankenstein” is Brooks most successful feature because he really cared about and really loved the genre that it spoofed.  The movie shows more respect for the dignity and coherence of the horror genre. In an effort to please young audiences, Brooks collaborated on the screenplay with younger writers.

In “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993), Brooks’ point of reference is not the lavish swashbuckling adventure “Robin Hood” of Errol Flynn, but the more recent one, Kevin Costner’s version, which is an easier target.