“Silent Movie” (1976)
Mel Brooks’ misplaced ascension as one of the giants of film comedy is brazenly exampled in this woefully constructed comedy of conceptual errors in which the brave artistic instincts of the director-writer-actor is accredited with a boldness of vision in summoning yet another movie parody after the phenomenal box-office success of ” Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”. In Hollywood, nothing proffers an excuse to grant a rapid rise to the pantheon of industry adulation like a keen eye on past successes and the balance sheet.
Alcoholic has-been movie director Mel Funn (Mel Brooks) attempts to persuade the Big Studio Pictures’ Big Studio Chief (Sid Caesar) to produce his latest project: a silent movie. (The novelty of “Silent Movie” being that it is also presented as a narrative told through intertitle cards.) Despite his initial hesitancy, the studio chief green lights the project, unleashing Funn and his sidekicks, Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman), Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), on an unsuspecting Hollywood to attract big star talent to assure the project’s box-office success (a formula only Hollywood insiders irreversibly removed from reality would believe the popular audience is foolhardy enough to fall prey); all of whom enthusiastically agree to participate despite the cloddish behavior distinguishing Funn’s entreaties, and the fact that not one actor is given a clue as to the nature of the project. This prolonged casting of actors is laborious and without any comedic payoff; an exercise in wilting expectations, especially when not one of the “stars” commands a demonstrable talent for the type of physical eloquence required of a silent movie performer. Consuming the bulk of the film’s running time, this needlessly extended star search is merely a strange form of incestuous industry valentine in which the antiquated Hollywood notions of blind public adulation of movie celebrity is enough justification to excuse a series of blatant extended cameos in which the featured actors (Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Paul Newman, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft) play themselves and are meant to be admired, not for any accomplishment within the context of the film, but simply for being movie stars.
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