Months have passed since the release of mega-boxset The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection Of Unhinged Comedy. After spending hours with Mel, it was a bit of a shock when it ended. The writer-director had become a true TV friend. There was a little bit of sadness when the last disc was ejected. It was like my favorite dinner guest had finally left the house. But thankfully he’s back with Mel Brooks: Make A Noise. This is his episodes of PBS’s American Masters series. He has plenty of new stories to tell recount his life’s journey from Melvin Kaminsky to the comedy icon. He also brings a long a few famous friends to add to the “let me tell you” tales.
The chronological coverage of Mel’s life starts with his time in the military during World War II and serving under Sid Caesar in the early days of TV. Mel gets quite candid about his massive depression when Sid’s show was canceled. He still hates Lawrence Welk for topping them in the ratings. But he emerged from this down time with his 2,000 Year Old Man routine with Carl Reiner (director of The Jerk). The comedic act has lasted nearly 2,000 years for the duo. Mel and Buck Henry discuss their time creating Get Smart. Mel talks about his big cinematic break out with The Producers. Oddly enough, he had developed it as a Broadway play before making it a film script. Years later when it hit the Great White Way as a musical, it would be a massive hit. In case you’re curious, the Blu-ray of The Producers is finally coming out July 2 from Shout! Factory. Mel would strike movie gold with Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Star of these two films (and The Producers) Gene Wilder discusses how he and Mel collaborated in vintage footage.
Along with Mel’s time at the interview table, we get Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers and Richard Benjamin remembering their time with him. None of them know what to expect when Mel shows up. He’s a man who can break into a Hitler impersonation without much prompting. The interviewer asks Mel about the first time he heard of Hitler. What’s amazing about Mel is that he’s been properly honored during his lifetime and not with mere lifetime achievement awards. He’s won Emmys, Tonys, Grammys and an Oscar. He married Anne Bancroft (The Graduate). His son Max Brooks wrote the novel that’s the basis of Brad Pitt’s World War Z. Mel is such a fun interview that even with elements of overlap, Mel Brooks: Make A Noise begs to be slid next to The Incredible Mel Brook. It’s good to have Mel back in the TV room for another visit. I miss him already. Perhaps the next installment will just be a Skype session?
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer looks fine although image quality will vary depending on the source. The audio is Dolby Digital stereo. Most of the documentary is Mel talking and you’ll notice his voice change when intercut with vintage interviews.
Deleted Segments (16:53) are interviews that were snipped toward the end of post production.
Mel Brooks: Make A Noise is another chance to spend time with legend of comedy. For those who aren’t sure about getting the large boxset, this American Masters episode is the perfect way to appreciate the life of a man who figured out how to make “Springtime For Hitler” a great Broadway song.
Shout! Factory presents Mel Brooks: Make A Noise. Directed by: Robert Trachtenberg. Starring: Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Richard Benjamin, Cloris Leachman and Joan Rivers. Running Time: 84 minutes. Released: May 21, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.