Funnyman Mel Brooks is a comedy juggernaut, evidenced by his rare feat of winning an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy, and by his slate of uproarious farces and parodies that were at their strongest in the ’70s, but continued into the next two decades. Making a comedy isn’t easy, and The Mel Brooks Collection, which collects eight Brooks-directed films and one that he starred in on Blu-ray, is a clear testament to that fact. Among the inspired musical numbers and delightfully silly bits, there are plenty of jokes that just don’t work, but rather than diminish Brooks’ reputation, it just goes to show that when he hit the mark, he really hit the mark.
Packaged in an 11x8 inch rectangular case that’s sure to wreak havoc on your media shelf, The Mel Brooks Collection includes a nicely detailed 120-page hardcover book about Brooks and his films along with a fairly flimsy cardboard book that holds the discs. The discs are held in cutout slots, but slide out easily — this set shouldn’t be prone to problems of scratched discs that similar packaging has had in the past.
Unfortunately, Brooks’ first film — and one of his best — The Producers, is not included, but there are plenty of other Brooks hits, most of which are being presented in high definition for the first time.
The Twelve Chairs (1970)
Brooks’ follow-up to The Producers, The Twelve Chairs is a gentle comedy about a Russian man (Ron Moody) who discovers his family jewels were hidden in a chair from a set of twelve. He embarks on a mission to find the jewels with a con artist (Frank Langella), and the two find themselves in competition with a priest (Dom DeLuise) who also knows about the secret.
The Twelve Chairs doesn’t bear much resemblance to Brooks’ later work. It’s slapstick-y, but devoid of much of the winningly lowbrow humor that Brooks employed in later films. Based on a Russian novel, The Twelve Chairs is an early sign of Brooks adapting existing works for his own comedic purposes, but it’s hardly as memorable as some of his later films.
The film is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. While clarity and color remain decently consistent for a film of this age, there are plenty of instances of damage to the print that distract from the high def upgrade. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is essentially pointless here with little but front channel sound. Music is also much louder than dialogue in many cases.