Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Video review: "The Mel Brooks Collection"

If you've got a Mel Brooks fanatic among your friends or family, this new Blu-ray collection is prime holiday gift material.

"The Mel Brooks Collection" contains practically the entire oeuvre of the comedy legend, including eight of the 11 films he directed: "Blazing Saddles," "Spaceballs," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "History of the World Part I," "Young Frankenstein," "High Anxiety," "The Twelve Chairs" and "Silent Movie." It also has "To Be or Not To Be," which Brooks merely starred in.

The nine-disc collection doesn't include his first (and perhaps funniest) movie, "The Producers," which hurts its value. But let's face it, the omission of "Life Stinks" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" probably isn't going to disappoint anyone.

At a suggested retail of $140, the collection is pricey, though you shouldn't have to search too far to find it substantially discounted (it's listing on Amazon.com under a hundred smackers).

A similar collection (minus "Spaceballs") is already available on DVD (for around $75), but where else but Blu-ray could you see the president's oversized posterior from "Spaceballs" in hi-def, or hear the infamous farts from "Blazing Saddles" in crystal-clear audio?

The extras alone might make the asking price worth it for the die-hard Brooks fan.

The Blu-ray version comes with a special book celebrating his life and films.

"Spaceballs," "Frankenstein" and "Robin Hood" each boast feature-length commentary tracks by Brooks, and " Blazing Saddles" has some scene-specific commentary totaling nearly an hour.

Every movie -- with the exception of "Twelve Chairs" -- comes with some kind of additional material, such as documentaries, deleted scenes or trivia games.

For example, "Blazing Saddles" includes "Black Bart," a 1975 pilot episode of a television spin-off that never happened. "History of the World" has a featurette on the creation of the show-stopping musical number, "The Inquisition."

All together, "The Mel Brooks Collection" is a nice tribute to the 83-year-old comedy icon, who is set to receive a Kennedy Center Honor award on Dec. 29.

Movies: 3 stars (aggregate)
Extras: 3.5 stars

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