You can see Mel Brooks collecting his Kennedy Center Honor from the president on television Tuesday night, but only right here on the Internet can you see the first ever film by one of the funniest men in movie history.
In this 1963 Oscar winning animated short subject, a cantankerous old Jewish man (voiced by Brooks, of course) watches an abstract/experimental short in the style of Canada’s Norman McLaren. It’s called, “The Critic.”
Brooks wrote this, of course, but the actual director and producer who handled the animation was Ernest Pintoff. Nevertheless, I think we can agree that it’s really Mel’s movie.
Just for fun, just a few years later, Mel shows off his mimicry skills to chat-show host Dick Cavett and then-celebrity critic Rex Reed. This clip gets gradually funnier as it goes, and the Frank Sinatra bit is kind of a gas.
After her A-list film career died with the decline of the movie musical in the late 50s, lively dancer-actress-singer Mitzi Gaynor reinvented herself as a hot ticket in Las Vegas and then as the star of a series of eight elaborate television specials that ran between 1968 and 1978. This standard issue video documentary focuses on those specials, consisting entirely of interviews with an assortment of Ms. Gaynor’s friends and admirers cut together with numerous, but very brief, clips.
Sadly, the balance is just plain off. Costume designer Bob Mackie was a crucial collaborator and has plenty of insights to share about the shows’ creation, and it’s nice to hear that she’s an inspiration to contemporary musical comedy star Kristin Chenowith. Moreover, I wouldn’t dare disagree with comedy multi-hyphenate Carl Reiner about her talent as a comic actress (though it’s clear the quality of the gag writing on the shows was weak, at best), and some gushing from ex-critical superstar Rex Reed is to be expected. Unfortunately all this talk about how great the shows were is pretty repetitive and kind of pointless since director David Stern only allows us to see minimal evidence thereof – presenting us with not much more than tantalizing glimpses and some unexpected guest turns from stars of the day, including Michael Landon and Ed Asner, as well as future “Law & Order” cop Jerry Orbach in his song-and-dance man incarnation. Fortunately, a few of the complete numbers are included on the DVD extras, but a simple compilation of much longer highlights, with perhaps some very brief explanations, would have been a lot more fun and just as informative.