Mel Brooks Collection, The (1970 - 1993) 
Blu-ray Comedy
Written by Noah Fleming   
Monday, 28 December 2009

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There are few names in the motion picture industry that are highly recognizable by the masses.  For more than 30 years Mel Brooks has been entertaining the world with classic parody films such as “Spaceballs,” “Blazing Saddles” and “History of the World: Part 1.”  And now, MGM/Fox has presented us with the chance to own the nine Mel Brooks masterpieces, and on Blu-ray no less.

This will primarily be about the films’ audio and video qualities, however, first a little about each film. (The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World - Part I, To Be Or Not To Be, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men In Tights.)

The Twelve Chairs (3/5)

After successfully writing for television, Mel Brooks made his first leap into features with “The Producers.”  (This is not included in the Blu-ray collection.)  MGM’s first Brooks release is “The Twelve Chairs from 1970.  When viewed today, after so many outrageously funny films from Brooks, “The Twelve Chairs” is fairly tame.  There are several instances in the film in which the viewers zone out.  This is likely to be due to the simplistic story of the film.  The film is based on a Russian novel about jewels that are hidden in one of twelve chairs.  The chairs used to be part of the family, but had since been scattered across the nation.  That is it.  This is definitely a funny film, but may be a bit dated for many.

Blazing Saddles (5/5)

Four years after his sophomore film, Brooks released his timeless classic, “Blazing Saddles.”  This is without a doubt his best known work and for good reason.  However, I fear that the film is slipping when it comes to viewers.  What made this film work was the time in which it was created.  Nearly all of the dialogue and action was risqué for the time.  Children that see the film now can’t find the humor in it as they have seen much worse things since the film’s inception.  In fact, some might find the film’s language offensive, due to the racial slurs.  Still, this film remains an important part of cinematic history.  Everyone should give it a chance.  It may not appeal to you all, but if it doesn’t then you probably won’t care about owning this Blu-ray collection anyway.

Young Frankenstein (5/5)

1974 was a huge year for Brooks.  Immediately following “Blazing Saddles” came Brooks’ second classic, “Young Frankenstein.”  When comedy and parody is thought of, it is “Young Frankenstein” that comes to mind for most.  However, once again, the film seems to be fading from viewers new generations.  Kids today need to view these films and understand their significance, instead of thinking that films like “The Hangover” are the end all be all of comedy.  There is one fact that should clear all this up.  The Library of Congress has declared this movie to be culturally and historically significant.  That must count for something.

Silent Movie (4/5)

1976 saw the first silent film in more than 40 years of cinema.  Fox finally gave into Brooks’ pleading to make the film.  Thankfully they did, because this film is slapstick comedy at it’s best.  Brooks pays tribute to all the silent film geniuses of the past, including Charlie Chaplin.  The antics in the film are hit and miss, but they will keep you laughing, even if they are really lame.

High Anxiety (3.5/5)

Next, in 1977 comes “High Anxiety.”  Brooks based this entire film on Hitchcock films.  Therefore, in order to get the most out of this film you will need to be familiar with Hitchcock’s creations.  If you are not, then I recommend at least becoming familiar with “North By Northwest,” “Vertigo” and “Psycho.”  The former has recently been released on Blu-ray if you are so inclined.  Still, Brooks delivers are great film, even if it is not as surprising as his previous works.

History of the World: Part I (4.5/5)

Four years after “High Anxiety” Brooks comes out with a film that has proven to stand the test of time.  This is largely due to the fact that we have moved into the 1980s, a decade which remains familiar to many generations.  One of the most memorable portions of this film is the opening, which parodies “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  As Brooks parodies Hollywood’s portrayal of different historical periods, the laughs keep on coming.

To Be Or Not To Be (3/5)

This 1983 Mel Brooks film is definitely the odd one out.  It is likely to be the film that is skipped over by the large majority of owners of the collection.  The film is a remake of a WWII film that focuses on the Polish and the Nazis.  This film suffers from an imbalance in tonality.  I would have to advise skipping this disc.

Spaceballs (4.5/5)

(For information on this title please visit the standalone Blu-ray release review of the film by clicking here .)

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (4.5/5)

This 1993 film is Brooks’ second to last film.  His last film to date, “Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” is not included in this collection.  “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” is probably the easiest film to share amongst several different generations.  The story of Robin Hood has been around for quite some time and it was only a matter of time before someone parodied the legend.  Mel Brooks is that man.  While many will find the humor to be sub par or generic, there are laughs abound that can be shared during family night.

Continue to Page 2 for Information on the Video Transfers…

The Twelve Chairs (3/5) [1.85:1]

As the oldest of the Mel Brooks films in the set it does have the worst video quality.  While most of the issues have to do with the original source rather than the transfer, this is not the definitive transfer of the film.  Black levels suffer from some crushing.  Colors are deep and relatively rich.  Details fluctuate over the course of the film.  Film grain is rampant but provides a nice texture.  It doesn’t appear that any noise reduction or edge enhancement has been applied.  Still, there are several instances of print damage that hinder the viewing experience.

Blazing Saddles (4.5/5) [2.40:1]

This may very well be the definitive transfer of this film.  It is far better than any standard DVD transfer that has come before it.  This is the same transfer as the 2006 standalone release of the film.  The black levels are stable throughout.  Film grain is even, except for one scene in which film grain spike enormously.  Edges are crisp and colors are deep and rich.  Again there is some print damage flecks that appear throughout.  I’m not sure if these will ever be remedied by the studio.  Blu-ray viewers and fans of the film will be impressed.

Young Frankenstein (4/5) [1.85:1]

Like “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” has a terrific transfer.  There is still some print damage that hasn’t been repaired.  As a black and white film, the black and grey gradation is smooth and even.  Contrast is spot on, never being overblown.  Depth is decent.  Details and sharpness is not the best, but it is a terrific improvement from the standard DVD presentations.

Silent Movie (4/5) [1.85:1]

“Silent Movie” has a satisfying video transfer.  Again, there are still some print damage specks that pop up here and there.  Black levels are above average.  Depth is lacking for the most part, however, there are instances in which the depth becomes incredible and completely surprising.  Colors are strong, but the image still looks like 70s film stock, which is cheesy.  Film grain fluctuates again.  This is a good transfer that will appease the masses.

High Anxiety (3.5/5) [1.85:1]

“High Anxiety” has much the same transfer as “Silent Movie.”  However, this video transfer suffers from several more soft shots.  Details are slightly underwhelming.  Aside from that, black levels, colors, brightness/contrast and shadows remain stable and smooth.  Still, given that this is one of the later movies, I expected a better visual.

History of the World: Part I (4.5/5) [2.35:1]

This is probably the most impressive transfer in the collection.  This may also be due to the fact that I have only ever seen this film on VHS.  So, this Blu-ray edition is simply stunning.  Details are strong and clear.  Textures are not eaten away by large amounts of film grain.  Black levels and brightness levels compliment each other providing above satisfying shadows.  Colors are probably the best in the collection.  They are even and go beyond the standard color palette.  I have to give my respect to Fox for this transfer.

To Be Or Not To Be (3.5/5) [1.85:1]

This film transfer falls back down on the ladder.  It is not just because I watched this after “History of The World’s” stunning transfer.  The image is soft throughout the film.  This is in part due to a production image filter.  Still, the smeared film grain and soft details is evident of noise reduction.  There is some minor crushing the black levels.  However, contrast and brightness levels remain strong, providing a nice depth to the image.  Colors are warm and saturated, but smeared by the noise reduction.  This is an above average transfer, but only just.

Spaceballs (4/5) [1.85:1]

(This is the same disc that has previously been released.  For information on this title please visit the standalone Blu-ray release review of the film by clicking here .)

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (3.5/5) [1.85:1]

I was somewhat disappointed at the transfer of this film.  While it bests its previous standard DVD release without question, it still lacks that “in your face” appeal.  The colors are stable and lush throughout the film, with a slight over saturation for portions of the spectrum.  Fleshtones can also become unstable at times.  Contrast and black levels are strong.  I believe what is lacking in this transfer is a clarity in the background details.  Many establishing shots lack definition, particularly in the trees and bushes.  While the image is sharp overall, this lack of clarity in the background makes the image appear soft.  Still, this is a pleasing transfer.

Continue to Page 3 for Information on the Audio Transfers…

The Twelve Chairs (2.5/5)

The original audio presentation of this film was in mono.  The Blu-ray is equipped with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, which is surely a joke.  The dynamic range is flatter than ever.  Stereo is spread is virtually nill.  This really should be a DTS-HD 1.0 track.  Speaking of which, the LFE channel is absent for 99 percent of the film, which is to be expected.  The frequency range remains anchored in the upper extremities.  This is a probably as the sounds and dialogue all sound tinny and harsh.  While work had to be done to remove the noise from the original audio track, this brightness from the noise reduction filters is too much.  A mono mix is also included in Dolby with a squashed bitrate.

Blazing Saddles (3/5)

Many viewers will be extremely disappointed that only a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is available on this disc.  There is no lossless audio track, which is beyond me.  That tells me that the studio did not revisit this release at all and simply pulled the original Blu-ray discs from their packaging and stuck them in this collection.  Again, this was an originally mono audio presentation.  No original English mono track is included on this disc so you are stuck with remix.  The LFE channel is again absent.  The attempt to fill out the surround channels leaves the dialogue somewhat unintelligible at times.  Dynamics are improved from the “The Twelve Chairs,” but ultimately, the original mono track is better and yet not included here.

Young Frankenstein (4/5)

This film contains the first impressive audio track in the collection.  It bests the previous two films without question.  The LFE channel is used for the thunder.  Music is nicely spread across the five audio channels.  Again, this is a mono audio track that has been remastered for 5.1 using the original audio stems.  Music is mainly bled into the surrounds.  Sound effects can be bled into the surrounds or discreet.  Dialogue remains intelligible throughout and well balanced.  Dynamics are also improved in this audio track.

Silent Movie (3.5/5)

“Silent Movie” contains the original stereo track in Dolby and a remastered 5.1 DTS-HD mix.  There isn’t much here given that this is a silent movie, in terms of dialogue.  There are a few sound effects, but mainly this is a music composition piece.  The music is nicely spread across the front channels.  The surround channels are hardly supporting.  The LFE channel receives a tiny bit of bass here and there, but mainly full-range front speakers will be handling the bass frequencies.  When there are silent moments in the film, the audio track does give off some noise.  Many will find this distracting and criticize the audio transfer for it.  However, one must realize that there is a need for this noise floor.  It the track were truly silent then it would be extremely jarring when the music comes back in.  The noise floor must remain constant throughout the film.  That is way noise always comes from the speakers.

High Anxiety (3/5)

“High Anxiety” comes with a compressed Dolby 2.0 track as well as a remastered DTS-HD 5.1 track.  The remastered track is very tame.  Dynamic range is limited.  Dialogue remains clean and clear.  The surround channels are virtually empty and LFE support is practically absent.  Not much effort was given by the studio to create an immersive 5.1 audio track.  However, it is worth listening to this lossless track over of the Dolby track.

History of the World: Part I (4/5)

The film’s audio track is not nearly as impressive as it’s video transfer.  Still, the audio has all the right stuff.  The surround channels are not utilized very well, but for some reason the original mix for this film was in mono.  The dialogue is well prioritized and clearly understandable.  The LFE channel receives some information here and there.  Dynamics are decent and frequency response is more extensive than the previous films.  The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is certainly better than the also included Dolby 1.0 track.

To Be Or Not To Be (3.5/5)

The disc comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 track as well as a compressed Dolby Surround encoded mix, which is useless by the way.  The surround channels contain a bit more than the previous films in terms of discreet and bled sound effects.  Panning is a bit stocky.  The dynamic range is not extensive.  Frequency response also seems to lack some low end.  The LFE channel is not greatly used in the film.  Dialogue tends to be mixed a bit low in the scheme of things.  This track won’t blow your socks off, but it is what it is.

Spaceballs (3.5/5)

(This is the same disc that has previously been released.  For information on this title please visit the standalone Blu-ray release review of the film by clicking here .)

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (4/5)

I was thoroughly impressed with the audio track of this film.  From the very first moment you know that the audio track is going to make good use of the surround channels.  Arrows fly in all directions.  This is probably one of the first audio tracks that I have heard in which I can actually pick out details.  There is a night and day difference between this lossless track and the standard DVD’s Dolby track.  The LFE channel has nice support.  Dialogue is clear and well balanced.  My biggest gripe with the track is the crispness of the effects and dialogue.  For much of the movie there is a thinness and brashness to the audio.

Continue to Page 4 for Information on the Bonus Materials…

First, the packaging.  The collection comes in a hard shell case that measures 11 inches in length and 8 inches in height.  Inside the case there is a 120-page hardback book.  The book contains production images and information about the making of the films.  In what seems like another book are the nine Blu-ray discs.  There are two discs per page and they are slipped into a cutout in the cardboard pages.  Opposite of the discs is a brief description of each movie.  The final page in the disc holder contains the specs for each of the movies.  So what does all this mean?  Well, if you put movies on a shelf like I do, you will need to buy nine Blu-ray cases and create custom Blu-ray covers in order to fit them on your shelf.  The package is too depth in used correctly and too high for a shelf when turned upright.  So there you have it.  For over a $100 you would think that the studio could provide individual Blu-ray shell cases or at least slim Blu-ray cases like most saga releases.

The Twelve Chairs (0.5/5)

This disc includes trailers for the other movies in the collection.

Blazing Saddles (2.5/5)

All of the bonus materials are presented in standard definition and are from the 30th anniversary edition of the film.  “Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn” is a snippet from an original television documentary.  Don’t believe what you read on the package.  “Back in the Saddle” is a retrospective look at the film.  “Black Bart: 1975 Pilot Episode” is the proposition for a TV series spinoff that was never accepted.  Finally, there is an audio commentary with Mel Brooks, which has nothing to do with the film.  It is just a bunch of rambling.  There are also some deleted scenes and a trailer.

Young Frankenstein (4.5/5)

This disc has the best supplemental package of all the discs.  Mel Brooks delivers an impressive commentary track that will make you love the film even more.  “Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas in the Making of ‘Young Frankenstein’” is a new feature.  This is a picture-in-picture feature with Brooks and film historians.  Without a bonusview-enabled player, the segments can be viewed as individual clips.  “It’s Alive! Creating a Monster Classic” is a new five-part making-of documentary.  There are two sections of deleted scenes.  There are seven standard definition sequences and more than 15 high-definition sequences.  “Transylvanian Lullaby: The Music of John Morris” is a new featurette about the team of Morris and Brooks.  There is a pop-up video trivia track that can be activated when watching the movie.  “Making Frankensense” is the original making-of featurette.  The disc also features some interviews, production stills, an isolated music score, outtakes and TV Spots/trailers.

Silent Movie (2/5)

“Silent Laughter: The Reel Inspirations of ‘Silent Movie’” is a new featurette that goes beyond the legends of silent movies.  “Speak Up!” is another trivia track.  There are also some trailers.  This film is deserving of more information.  At the very least a commentary track should be included.

High Anxiety (2.5/5)

“Hitchcock and Mel: Spoofing the Master of Suspense” is another new featurette that has interviews with Hitchcock’s granddaughter and Brooks. “The ‘Am I Very Very Nervous?’ Test” is another pop-up track with multiple-choice questions.  “Don’t Get Anxious!” is a trivia track.  Lastly there are some trailers and an isolated score audio track.

History of the World: Part I (2.5/5)

This disc contains two new featurettes: “Musical Mel: Inventing The Inquisition” and “Making History: Mel Brooks on Creating the World.”  Both are presented in high definition and offer a decent look at the film.  This disc is also equipped with a trivia track and is actually informative and will teach your children historical facts.  Again there are some trailers and an isolated music track.

To Be Or Not To Be (2/5)

“Brooks and Bancroft: A Perfect Pair” examines the relationship between the two actors.  “How Serious Can Mel Brooks Really Get?” contains some interviews and footage about Mel Brooks.  There are three interviews from each of the actors.  There is a trivia track.  Again there is also some trailers and an isolated music score.

Spaceballs (3.5/5)

(This is the same disc that has previously been released.  For information on this title please visit the standalone Blu-ray release review of the film by clicking here .)

Robin Hood: Men In Tights (3/5)

This disc contains a Mel Brooks commentary that is fairly engaging.  “Funny Men In Tights: Three Generations of Comedy” is a retrospective look at the film’s comedians.  “‘Robin Hood: Men In Tights’ The Legend Had It Coming” is the HBO special.  Finally there are some trailers and an isolated music score.

In conclusion this is a must own collection for fans of Mel Brooks and comedy film fans.  However, some may find it worthwhile to wait for individual Blu-ray releases of these films.  However, who knows when that will come.  I have to highly recommend this collection, especially if you can find it at a discounted price.
Studio 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating R
Starring Various
Director Mel Brooks et. al.
Film Release Year 1970, 1974, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1993
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements) • 1080i (supplements) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 • 2.35:1 • 1.85:1
Running Time 93 mins., 93 mins., 105 mins., 87 mins., 94 mins., 92 mins., 107 mins., 96 mins., 104 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby Digital 5.1 • English Dolby Digital 2.0 • English DTS-HD Master 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • French • Spanish
Special Features See Review
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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