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DVD Review

DVD cover

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
(2017 Reissue)


Starring: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chappelle, Isaac Hayes and Tracey Ullman
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £9.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 08 April 2019

At this writing Mel Brooks is 92 and still working. Laughter must be the best medicine because he’s been at it for almost seven decades. The idea for this movie began, not in Brooks’s fertile noggin but in a dentist’s chair in Beverly Hills, California when Evan Chandler D.D.S., informed his screenwriter patient, J. D. Shapiro, his eleven year old son, Jordan, told him that the just debuted Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) was hokey all the way down to Costner’s laughable British accent and, ‘hey Dad,’ the whole superstar vehicle deserved to be pooped on.

With or without painkillers, Shapiro saw the merit of this and thus began one of the most unusual pitches in Hollywood history. A screenplay was hatched which made the rounds until Brooks snapped it up. The Chandler/Shapiro script got a heavy rewrite from the maestro of mirth and ended up with a troika credit. Son Jordan went on to tell his dad that Michael Jackson had sexually abused him at Neverland Ranch and ultimately settled out of court for a reputed $22 million without criminal charges. Young Jordan probably didn’t have to get a loan for his college education, banking more than the international consortium put up to produce the whole movie he had suggested, with big Mel helming a superlative cast. Such is Hollywood irony.

Brooks is working with a cast of supremely talented unknowns (then), rookies and old favourites. His eye for talent is unerring. Cary Elwes, who actually was born in England, never misses the comedy mark for timing, straight face delivery and out and out silliness, always celebrated with a twinkle in the eye. At on point, he breaks the fourth wall, a time-honoured Brooksian tradition, and tells us, his English accent is authentic too.

Jokes come hurling every minute and students of the art are advised to keep count of exactly how many jokes Brooks packs into every minute. Three? Five? Eight? At the lowest estimate this is over three hundred for the whole movie, a lot of bang for your Euro, pound or bitcoin.

From the inestimably valuable book Mel Brooks: FAQ by Dale Sherman (Applause Press) we learn that Brooks tired of hoisting the Costner opus on its own petard (ouch!) at 49 minutes in and started parodying all movie Robin Hoods from Flynn to Fairbanks and anthologizing his own jokes in a shameless comedic redux. Why should he be ashamed anyway? When you’re a classic comedy icon, your own material is worthy of reverent reference.

Does it all work? Hell yes. Without apology or charitable donation. Brooks gives us the full spectrum of laugh psychology. There is the smile, the groan, the wha…? the chuckle, the medium laugh, the big laugh and the hoot. The ‘making of feature’ shows it was a fun set and a funny set. The cup runneth over and the toilet too.

The movie performed modestly at the box-office, making only $36 million dollars, doing better in the world at large than in humour- constipated USA, which is an indicator of how anally compulsive and self righteously serious American audiences can be about their fantasy heroes in tights. Since then, post theatrically, it has legged its way handsomely.

This Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises presentation is pristine, happy colours, razor sharp resolution, perfect contrast between shadow and light, accompanied by a soundtrack that is never muddy and always coherent.

It’s a rewatchable film. In a day when laughter is an endangered species of life, that is something.


John Huff

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