Tag Archives: Cloris Leachman

The Set of 400: #5 – My Favorite Sadly Temporary Side Effect

Today! Because it’s not often you see a guy that green have the blues that bad –

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Directed by James Frawley

Starring Jim Henson (x3), Frank Oz (x10), Dave Goelz (x7), Richard Hunt (x3), Jerry Nelson (x6), Charles Durning (x4), Austin Pendleton (x2), Orson Welles (x5), Cloris Leachman (x6), Dom DeLuise (x8), Steve Martin (x7), Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, Milton Berle (x3), Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Elliott Gould (x5), James Coburn (x4), Carol Kane (x6), Madeline Kahn (x9), Mel Brooks (x6), Telly Savalas, Paul Williams (x3), Bruce Kirby (x2), Caroll Spinney (x2), Scott Walker

The gold standard of Muppet productions. The zenith of the entire franchise. The culmination of nearly 25 years of Mr. the Frog’s place in the cultural landscape, beginning way back with Sam & Friends in 1955. After this, and the subsequent completion of The Muppet Show’s dynamite five year run, the felt gang would achieve superstardom few puppets have entertained before or since. A groundbreaking, world-altering comedy/musical motion picture unduplicated in success or popularity through the entire course of human history. The Muppet Movie is the greatest thing ever produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Kermit, for one, is stunned by this adulation

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The Set of 400: #30 – My Favorite Brain Depositary (After 5:00 Slip Brains Through Slot in Door)

Today! Because my grandfather’s work was doo doo!

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x7)

Starring Gene Wilder (x6), Marty Feldman (x3), Peter Boyle (x3), Teri Garr (x3), Cloris Leachman (x5), Madeline Kahn (x8), Kenneth Mars (x2), Gene Hackman (x4), Richard Haydn, Liam Dunn (x2), Oscar Beregi Jr., Danny Goldman

No one can be dead certain about what movie they’ve seen the most times in their life. How could they be? Unless you’ve undertaken some quest to make a film your most watched – like the stories of people watching Pirates of the Caribbean on Netflix every day for a year, or my wife with the first X-Files movie – how could you possibly know? And while I believe I’ve thrown out contenders for this title in this list so far – and am still fairly confident I haven’t seen anything more than the original Star Wars – quite possibly second or third is this, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s crowning achievement. I can’t even say for sure why or how this happened – sure, my parents really liked this movie, that helped to get it on the television a lot growing up, but why did we want to watch this black and white horror film parody, when we couldn’t possibly understand the references, and the jokes were likely over our heads as well?

Well, being a Mel Brooks movie, there is a bunch of kid-appealing stuff in this send-up of the old Universal Frankstein pictures, most directly the often overlooked third movie, Son of Frankenstein. Lots of funny accents, lots of throwaway sight gags and sound cues (The cat getting hit by the dart!), some pretty zany characters who are funny no matter what they say (pretty much everyone in this movie, but especially Marty Feldman’s Igor and Kenneth Mars’ one-armed Inspector Kemp), plus the generally cool design. Even if there’s a fair amount of shtupping going on – even in the edited TV version, apparently! – and some old timey references (“Pardon me, boy – is this the Transylvania station?”), we still liked it well enough. Like Blazing Saddles, this strikes me as something that was kind of forced on us until we grew to enjoy it.

Everything Mars does in this movie is amazing

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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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