Tag Archives: Cloris Leachman

The Set of 400: #135 – My Favorite Rolling Papyrus

Today! Because I asked ’em nicely! I said pretty please! They wouldn’t convert, so I’ll bang on their knees!

History of the World: Part I (1981)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x4)

Starring Mel Brooks (x4), Gregory Hines, Madeline Kahn (x5), Dom DeLuise (x5), Sid Caesar (x2), Harvey Korman (x2), John Hurt (x3), Cloris Leachman (x4), Ron Carey (x3), Pamela Stephenson, Mary-Margaret Humes, Rudy De Luca (x3), Orson Welles, Spike Milligan (x2), Shecky Greene, Bea Arthur, Charlie Callas (x2), Paul Mazursky, Jack Riley (x3), Art Metrano (x2), Henny Youngman, Jackie Mason (x3), Fritz Feld (x2), Barry Levinson (x3), John Hillerman

Almost certainly the movie I understood the least when I saw it dozens of times as a child, History of the World: Part I isn’t exactly the most beloved of Mel Brooks movies, is it? I mean, yeah, it’s all over the place – quite literally, what with scenes in the French Revolution, Prehistoric Times, first century Rome, and the Spanish Inquisition, never mind Hitler on Ice and Jews in Space. And while a lot of it is just a straight stream of gags, not bothering to try and hold together into anything meaningful, it’s still a really entertaining movie, with a load of great comedians.

But it does have a ton of jokes and puns that kids will not understand. Hell, they aren’t supposed to! This is an R-rated movie! “Don’t get saucy with me, Bearnaise!” “But the servant waits while the master baits.” “Do I have any openings that this man might fit?” Jeez! And really, there’s a lot more inappropriate sex gags littered throughout. And yet, I’ve seen this movie a hundred times, easily. What is the appeal here for kids?? I’ve asked this before, but what do you suppose gets children to latch on to movies and watch them endlessly? My guess is that my parents interspersed these movies that they liked in with the cartoons and whatnot, and we just took them all as films for us, and kept watching them. I’m not even sure if we watched a TV edit of this movie, or the full film. Cripes! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #157 – My Favorite Enlarged Photograph

Today! Because it’s very clear to me/I’ve got to give in/High Anxiety – you win!

High Anxiety (1977)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x3)

Starring Mel Brooks (x3), Madeline Kahn (x3), Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman (x3), Ron Carey (x2), Howard Morris, Dick Van Patten (x4), Jack Riley (x2), Rudy De Luca (x2), Barry Levinson (x2), Robert Ridgely (x4), Charlie Callas, Lee Delano

If Mel Brooks could be said to have a forgotten movie, well, it’s The Twelve Chairs. But if it could be conjectured that he has another forgotten film, more surprising due to the legion of classic Brooks players involved, it’s almost certainly High Anxiety. Perhaps because it’s the only of his films from the era to be set in the era itself, it doesn’t have the more timeless qualities of a Young Frankenstein or even a Spaceballs. The jokes aren’t necessarily dated to the ’70s either – they are just sorta dated in that Catskills Mel Brooks way many of his jokes feel now. However, the other main thing working against this movie might be its focus of parodying Hitchcock movies – a terrific idea that really comes off well in the film, but does forever land it squarely in the purview of cinema nerds who also might enjoy Borscht Belt comedy. It’s a group I fear dwindles by the day, to the point that I worry no one will watch this movie twenty or thirty years from now, except Brooks completionists and Hitchcock-o-philes.

It’s not the greatest pic of Hitch, but Brooks and Bancroft are thrilled by his presence!

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The Set of 400: #194 – My Favorite Pink Elephant

Today! Because your soul is dog shit. Every single fucking thing about you is ugly –

Bad Santa (2003)

Directed by Terry Zwigoff

Starring Billy Bob Thornton (x2), Tony Cox (x2), Lauren Graham (x2), Bernie Mac (x2), John Ritter, Cloris Leachman (x2), Brett Kelly, Ajay Naidu, Alex Borstein, Billy Gardell, Bryan Callen (x2), Tom McGowan, Octavia Spencer (x3), Matt Walsh (x6)

A bit of the shimmering, yuletide luster of Bad Santa has worn off over the years, I’ll admit. While Billy Bob Thornton was always a fair bet to effectively embody a comic asshole prior to this, he made it his stock in trade for some years to come afterward, knocking the novelty off this film ever so much. Bad News Bears, School for Scoundrels, Mr. Woodcock – it would take a bit for Thornton to get back to portraying wise, snide hillbillies again. And I’ll admit – I’ve never seen Bad Santa 2. I know! The original is in the top 200, and I just never got around to the sequel. How the hell does he team back up with Marcus, after what happened in the first movie? That idea alone put me off bothering to watch it. But hey, someday. Maybe by the time you’re reading this, who knows?

Seriously, just how does this happen?

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The Set of 400: #283 – My Favorite Game of Quarters

Today! Because that brewery makes 10,000 bottles of beer a day – I drink 45 of them and I’m the asshole!

Beerfest (2006)

Directed by Jay Chandrasekhar

Starring Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Jay Chandrasekhar (x2), Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Donald Sutherland (x4), M.C. Gainey, Cloris Leachman, Jurgen Prochnow, Will Forte (x2), Nat Faxon, Eric Christian Olsen, Mo’Nique, Willie Nelson, Blanchard Ryan

You know what? I wouldn’t even say this is a guilty pleasure. I’m proud of how much enjoyment the Broken Lizard guys have brought into my life over the years. Not surprisingly, this all stems from college – or right after college – when I’d go to parties that would almost exclusively be airing Super Troopers. I saw the comedy team live when they came to Chicago about ten years ago, not too long after I moved here. I contributed to the Kickstarter (or GoFundMe, or something) when they were making Super Troopers 2, and I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. I’m all in.

And while my proud love of drinking comedy has faded over the years – coinciding with my distinct intolerance for hangovers – Beerfest is still a thoroughly hilarious, exaggerated drunken epic, showcasing drinking games against the bones of a plot having something to do with spreading their grandfather’s ashes at Oktoberfest. But like their other films – Club Dread, The Slammin’ Salmon, Puddle Cruiser – this is primarily a compilation of wacky characters and goofy one-liners, a thinly structured improv show of a movie by expert improvisers. But add in virtually non-stop drinking, and 2006 Joe was all about it. Continue reading

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