(director/writer: Mel Brooks; screenwriters: Ron Clark/Rudy DeLuca/Barry Levinson/based on a story by Mr. Clark; cinematographer: Paul Lohmann; editors: John C. Howard/Stanford C. Allen; music: John Morris; cast: Mel Brooks (Mel Funn), Marty Feldman (Marty Eggs), Dom DeLuise (Dom Bell), Sid Caesar (Studio Head), Bernadette Peters (Vilma Kaplan), Charlie Callas (blind man), Liam Dunn (News vendor), Fritz Feld (Maitre d’), Yvonne Wilder (Studio chief’s secretary), Chuck McCann (Studio Gate Guard), Carol Arthur (Pregnant Lady), Harold Gould (Engulf), Ron Carey (Devour), Henny Youngman (Man with a fly in his soup), Harry Ritz (Man in a Tailor Shop), Marcel Marceau, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, James Caan, Anne Bancroft; Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Michael Hertzberg; 20th Century-Fox; 1976)


Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mel Brooks (“Blazing Saddles”/”Young Frankenstein”/”High Anxiety”) writes and directs this novelty silent movie with ‘No!’ as the only word said aloud, ironically said by the French mime Marcel Marceau. There is also a flood of loud background music, that swallows the silence.

Silent Movie has a slight plot of making the silent movie against all odds. It’s filled with sight gags. But only a few work, as laughter is not abundant in this very silly strained comedy. Brooks’s co-writers are Rudy DeLuca, Ron Clark and Barry Levinson. The story is by Ron Clark.

A washed-up movie producer from the silents, whose career died because he was a drunk but now has reformed, Mel Funn (Mel Brooks), and his two wacky assistants, Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), want to make a silent movie in contemporary times to launch a comeback for Mel as director. Mel presents the idea to the harried and ailing studio boss of Big Pictures (Sid Caesar). He initially turns it down, but when Mel mentions he will cast it with big name Hollywood stars the studio boss reconsiders. The studio needs a hit because the greedy NY conglomerate of Engulf (Harold Gould) and Devour (Ron Carey), who brag that they have a finger in everything, is threatening to take over the struggling studio. The film’s Engulf and Devour satires Gulf and Western, a conglomerate that took over Paramount.

The gist of the film has Mel and his cohorts, riding around in a minuscule yellow sports car convertible, tracking down stars like Marcel Marceau, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minelli, Paul Newman, James Caan, and Anne Bancroft (Mel’s wife) on the streets of LA to be in his movie.

Bernadette Peters has a sexy role as nightclub singer Vilma Kaplan, billed as “a bundle of lust”. She is hired by Engulf and Devour to make Mel fall in love with her so she can stop him from doing the film by getting him to drink again.

REVIEWED ON 12/26/2014 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”