Tag Archives: Madeline Kahn

The Set of 400: #70 – My Favorite Horse Punch

Today! Because I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille –

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x5)

Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder (x3), Harvey Korman (x3), Madeline Kahn (x6), Mel Brooks (x5), Slim Pickens (x2), Alex Karras, David Huddleston (x2), Dom DeLuise (x6), Burton Gilliam, John Hillerman (x2), Jack Starrett, Carol Arthur, Liam Dunn, Robyn Hilton, Count Basie, Robert Ridgely (x5), Charles McGregor

When people say “They wouldn’t make a movie like this today,” I find that they are normally talking about major studio output. Oh, they’d need a bigger star, they wouldn’t tackle this topic, it doesn’t have blockbuster potential. But in reality, someone somewhere would probably still make whatever movie they’re talking about, if they were able. Quality trumps a lot of financial obstacles, for just the right producer. All that being said, no one anywhere would make Blazing Saddles today.

It’s still funny, ballsy, and wonderful, but I can’t think of a movie aging more uncomfortably than this film. Case in point – you might watch this in your house and think “Oh, some of these jokes are a little rough, but overall it comes out okay.” However, a few years ago I saw this movie in a fairly crowded theater, and no one knew how to react. Was laughing at this wrong? But then why were we all there? It’s not an inherently racist movie, but my God, it goes to some dicey lengths. Richard Pryor’s work on the screenplay is pretty evident, but even at the time the studio was uneasy enough to vote against him also playing Sheriff Bart.

Cleavon Little does make a terrific Bart, though

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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: #154 – My Favorite Singing Telegram

Today! Because communism was just a red herring –

Clue (1985)

Directed by Jonathan Lynn

Starring Tim Curry (x3), Lesley Ann Warren, Eileen Brennan (x3), Christopher Lloyd (x5), Madeline Kahn (x4), Michael McKean (x4), Martin Mull, Colleen Camp (x3), Lee Ving, Bill Henderson, Jeffrey Kramer (x2), Howard Hesseman

In the very limited realm of Movies Based on Board Games, Clue is far and away the king. It’s not a genre that should’ve necessarily been encouraged to expand, and thankfully it hasn’t managed to in the three plus decades hence. On the other hand, why not? While most board games don’t present enough characters or plot to facilitate a real story to emerge, I’m sure they could come up with something halfway decent for, say, Candyland. Who do you see playing Plumpy in that one? Someone get a treatment together!

Yikes – I didn’t make this graphic – this was actually in development at some point. Gah.

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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: #214 – My Favorite Big Screen Tuberculosis

Today! Because there’s a cancer in the presidency and it’s growing –

Nixon (1995)

Directed by Oliver Stone (x2)

Starring Anthony Hopkins (x5), Joan Allen (x2), James Woods (x2), Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Powers Boothe (x3), Bob Hoskins, E.G. Marshall, David Hyde Pierce, David Paymer (x3), J.T. Walsh (x3), Mary Steenburgen (x2), Kevin Dunn (x3), Brian Bedford, Fyvush Finkel (x2), Annabeth Gish, Tony Goldwyn (x2), Larry Hagman (x2), Edward Herrman, Madeline Kahn (x2), Dan Hedaya (x3), Tom Bower, Tony Lo Bianco, Saul Rubinek, John C. McGinley, Michael Chiklis, George Plimpton, Marley Shelton (x2), James Karen (x2), Donna Dixon (x2), Sam Waterston, John Diehl, Robert Beltran

The last good-to-great movie Oliver Stone has made, Nixon is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of the beleaguered 37th president, even while taking him to task for his many shortcomings as a politician and as a person in general. Throw in a bit of wild Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy speculation and a run time so bloated it manages to encompass decades of Tricky Dick’s life rather effortlessly, and you get a bombastic, overblown, sorta wonderful, sorta insane biopic unlike any other.

The performances carry through some of the more gymnastic directing – it’s a movie drowning in technique and style – with Hopkins’ amazing transformation into Nixon at its center. Many others have taken on this idiosyncratic role – Langella is fine in Frost/Nixon, Spacey a little less so in Elvis & Nixon, Dan Aykroyd’s terrific SNL take – but none were able to capture the manic nuance of the man, while also attempting to physically resemble him, the way Hopkins did. It’s magnificent. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #273 – My Favorite Cabbie Bias

Today! Because I’m using rented bullets for my gun. We’ve all got problems –

The Cheap Detective (1978)

Directed by Robert Moore

Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, John Houseman, Stockard Channing, James Coco (x2), Eileen Brennan, Dom DeLuise (x3), Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Abe Vigoda, Vic Tayback, David Ogden Stiers, Scatman Crothers (x2), Nicol Williamson, Paul Williams, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Sid Caesar, Ann-Margret, James Cromwell, Jonathan Banks (x2)

A spiritual sequel to the zany Neil Simon comedy Murder By Death, The Cheap Detective is a more direct parody than its predecessor, taking Peter Falk’s twisted Bogart impression and slamming Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep together into one silly 1940’s San Francisco mystery, replete with Nazis, secret identities, Romanians, stolen treasure, and an acronymed pseudo-villain named Vladimir Tserijemiwtz, which works out to Ezra C.V. Mildew Dezire Jr.!

Many members of the large cast appeared in Murder By Death as well, including Coco, Brennan, and Cromwell, but Falk’s is the only character transplanted over more or less intact, even with a different name (Lou Peckinpaugh here, Sam Diamond in Murder). These movies are in the rare group of Neil Simon screenplays that weren’t adapted from his stage plays, which includes The Out-of-Towners, The Goodbye Girl, and Seems Like Old Times. They do, however, have that indefinable Neil Simon-ness about their jokes, which mostly land, even if they can verge into mild racism here and there. Ah, the 1970s!

And some vintage Sid Caesar shtick!

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