Mel Brooks Tom Allen, S.C. - Essay

Tom Allen, S.C.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mel Brooks, along with Woody Allen, has progressed as a prolific, one-man source of American screen comedy. Both comedians have picked up where Jerry Jewis died off and have actively participated in the writing, acting, producing and directing of their films. Neither has settled for a personal, distinctive style yet, but they are giving the previous, well-defined comic personae, such as W. C. Fields and the Marx Brothers, stiff competition. They work in safe ranges well below the level of the great silent comedians; but their comic, sometimes cosmic, daring is far superior to the steady diet of Bob Hope, Red Skelton and other postwar schlemiels.

Mel Brooks's Silent Movie, a consistently funny grab bag of routines, is perched in style somewhere between the boorish excesses of Blazing Saddles and the disciplined mimicry of Young Frankenstein. It has the feel of a throwaway lark, which, in its way, is a healthy symptom of survival under the pressure of the rarefied field of creative comedy….

He has not made a movie for theoreticians who are still puzzling over why the giants of American screen comedy died out in the talkie era. He has, it appears, handicapped himself with a silent film only to turn on the creative juices for other outlets: to write more puns in the title frames, to tinker with the type of sound effects that no truly silent movie ever had and to sharpen his sense of timing in the visual gags of slapstick. (p. 100)

Tom Allen, S. C., in America (© America Press, 1976; all rights reserved), September 4, 1976.