Although the quality of his movies can vary wildly, there are few directors out there with the resilience of Mel Brooks. His films have spanned generations and spanned nearly three decades worth of entertainment with some of the best, brightest, and funniest talent in Hollywood. Although you don’t see much of him anymore (aside from the rather disastrous attempt at a Spaceballs animated series), his catalog speaks for itself and this recent wave of his classics on Blu-ray is fantastic representation of his works (if you didn’t already pick up that box set from around Christmas at least…in which case if you did, you can ignore these individual releases) if you aren’t already well-versed in the world of Mel Brooks.
Brooks pulls off another serious spoof on a classic with Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The one-of-a-kind cast includes Cary Elwes as the head of the merry men, Roger Rees as the evil dyslexic Sheriff of “Rottingham,” Richard Lewis as the seriously neurotic Prince John, Amy Yasbeck as the put-upon Maid Marian, Patrick Stewart as ultrrrra-Scottish King Richard, Tracey Ullman as a much-sought-after soothsayer named Latrine and Dave Chappelle and Isaac Hayes as hilarious characters named Achchoo and Asneeze.
How does one tackle what is essentially the life’s work of Mel Brooks? Well I guess you could point out that they left out one of his more prolific works (The Producers) and one of his worst works (Dracula Dead and Loving It) from the set for whatever reason, but instead we’ll focus on the absolutely groundbreaking and hilarious films that are included here. While I grew up with Mel Brooks films getting a lot of playtime in my house, I hadn’t seen all of them (notably History of the World – Part I) until recently. This recent wave of Mel Brooks re-releases includes all of those from the previous Blu-ray box set except for The Twelve Chairs, so if you don’t own any of the Blu’s from that set, then you’re better off picking it up rather than these individuals (assuming you want to own all of them anyway).
Honestly it was nothing short of a delight to go through each of these films again (or for the first time). I’d seen most of them all on worn out VHS or bad cable signal TV airings before, so the Blu-ray renditions were rather eye-opening (although they all aren’t impeccable). At the same time some of these films I’d only seen once or twice and watching a Mel Brooks film only once is to it a great disservice; I watched Robin Hood – Men in Tights recently for the eleventh or twelfth time and I still pick up on jokes or looks on characters faces that I’d never seen before.
To me Men in Tights is one of Brooks most underrated films. It’s not quite the classic humor that you’re accustomed to and it may in fact be even more low-brow and dimwitted than what we got from Spaceballs, but the casting and comedic acting in the film is really some of my favorite. It doesn’t hurt that I grew up with this film of course, but truth be told I’d probably still laugh at it anyway even if I was seeing it for the first time today. It’s a pretty varied film and while some of it may seem a bit dated (the air pump shoes come to mind), there’s still plenty of medieval Robin Hood-style jokes that work. Plus Tracey Ullman as the witch and Richard Lewis with this ever-changing mole are just flat out hilarious, as was Dom DeLuise as Don Giovanni—that bit with his lizard still makes me laugh just thinking about it.
Overall Men in Tights may not be one of Brook’s best, but it is one of my favorites. And for that reason alone I must Highly Recommend it. An incredibly biased recommendation to be sure, but Ahchoo and Blinkin make me laugh like the eight year old me who first saw this film.
Would you look at that cover—something new! Fox has been great about sprucing up their Blu-ray releases with unseen or brand new cover art and while the classic shot of Elwes drawing a bow may be what adorns my copy of this film on DVD, the new Blu-ray art is pretty good too (and decidedly Monty Python-ish). Nothing else is too exciting about this release though, as the interior of the case is just a standard Elite Eco Blu-ray with the disc inside and nothing else.
Video is a solid effort and is quite a bit better than I expected from this film. The AVC encoded transfer brings the 1995 film to decent life, albeit with a bit of weathered video on occasion. It should be noted, however, that the audio and video for this release (and, truthfully, the whole disc) is identical to the previously released Blu-ray from the big Mel Brooks Collection. The DTS-HD 5.1 MA track is surprisingly strong, but since this film has more action that most Brooks films that’s not entirely surprising. For a fifteen year old film it does show its age, but not nearly as much as one might think. Fox either did a solid job of storing the original print of this film or did a wonderful job of restoring it (it can go either way, really).
Extras are, again, identical to the Mel Brooks Collection. Included:
• Funny Men In Tights: Three Generations of Comedy
• HBO Special: Robin Hood: Men In Tights – “The Legend Had It Coming”
• LaserDisc Commentary by Mel Brooks
• Isolated Score Track (DTS MA)
I have to applaud Fox for porting over that old LaserDisc commentary track. The DVD edition was sorely lacking anything in the extras department (just an old HBO special…which is brought over again for this release) and to see this film get a boost is nice.
Overall a solid release and one that’s Recommended as the bonus extras may warrant dumping the old DVD release for some (depending on how much you enjoy the film, I suppose).
Robin Hood: Men in Tights is now available on Blu-ray.