Silent Movie (1976)

“Mel Funn — once Hollywood’s greatest director, until drinking destroyed his career — is trying to make a comeback.”

A has-been director (Mel Brooks) and his friends (Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise) convince the ailing head (Sid Caesar) of a major movie company to take a chance on their latest project — a silent film featuring several big-name stars — as a last-ditch attempt to prevent a take-over by the greedy corporation Engulf & Devour.


Film fanatics will likely get a kick out of Mel Brooks’ affectionate homage to silent movies, given how cleverly he recreates so many of the era’s classic tropes while keeping his film’s storyline (and actors) squarely grounded in modern times. Indeed, a surprising number of Brooks’ sight gags remain enjoyably humorous, with only a few representing Brooks’ more traditionally low-brow humor (i.e., a running joke in which Brooks, DeLuise, and Feldman repeatedly find themselves huddled together in a compromising position, and jeered at by passers-by as “fags”). Examples of effective scenes include Brooks and Bernadette Peters (as vampish singer “Vilma Kaplan”) running through a field and stripping off their clothes in wild abandon, only to find themselves leaping over hurdles as unexpected rivals in a race (a sequence that reminds me of something Woody Allen would attempt); Feldman playing around with Caesar’s life support machine at the hospital; and Brooks et al.’s visit to James Caan’s teetering trailer, where they find that even the sprinkling of pepper on a bun puts everything off balance. Speaking of Caan, all the “big name” stars elicited to participate in the film through cameo roles (Caan, Burt Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, and Marcel Marceau) seem to be having a great time, which adds to the overall festive mood.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Numerous enjoyable sight gags

  • Amusing cameos by game film stars

Must See?
Yes, as an enjoyable homage to the silent film era.



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