“A long time ago in a land far, far away, way East of Chicago, in a place called Brooklyn, actually, a great man named Mel Brooks was born. And, that man begat this and that, and then some, and then he did this…”
This, was Spaceballs. Brooks had tackled pretty much every genre of film before Spaceballs. He took on horror films with Young Frankenstein. He tore up the old West and the Western with Blazing Saddles. He was bold enough to offer us a take up on the Silent Movie. On television he took on James Bond by giving us Agent 86 in Get Smart. With the success of Star Wars and the consistent top box office performance of the science fiction films, it was only a matter of time before he turned his trademark Jewish wit towards the space opera. While Spaceballs aims primarily at the first Star Wars franchise, there is plenty of fun poked at everything from Star Trek to Alien. Certainly there have been quite a few such spoofs since then, but most of them have been the standard dry slapstick in the Airplane mold. With Brooks there’s always a certain amount of class to go with your comedy. He always gives you a little meat to go with all of that cheese.
“The evil leaders of Planet Spaceball, having foolishly squandered their precious atmosphere, have devised a secret plan to take every breath of air away from their peace-loving neighbor, Planet Druidia. Today is Princess Vespa’s wedding day. Unbeknownst to the princess, but beknownst to us, danger lurks in the stars above.”
The film pretty much follows the original Star Wars story rather faithfully. Of course, Brooks puts his own spin on the plot and characters. In Mel’s parsec of the universe things have changed. We find the spoiled Princess Vespa from Druida (Zuniga) fleeing her planet, and in particular her arranged marriage, only to be relentlessly pursued by the evil Dark Helmet (Moranis). Her knight in a shiny Winnebago is the space ace Lone Starr (Pullman) and his faithful companion Barf (Candy). Brooks, as usual, joins the cast, this time in the dual roles of The Galactic President and the wise master of The Swartz, Yogurt. You’ll relive some of your favorite Star Wars memories, but from a slightly warped perspective.
“In a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away, there lived a ruthless race of beings known as Spaceballs.”
The cast is a mixed bag. I’ve never really been a big fan of the choices of Bill Pullman as the Han Solo character, Lone Star, or of Daphne Zuniga in the Carrie Fisher Princess role of Vespa. They play it far too corny and are overshadowed by the tremendous performances around them. You get the sense that Rick Moranis is pretty much being himself as Dark Helmet, and you get a great supporting role from Hill Street Blues alum George Wyner as his assistant Colonel Sanders. John Candy steals the show as the Wookie character, Barf, the man/dog. Of course, Brooks himself has two parts. He plays the galactic president and more effectively Yogurt, the wise champion of The Swartz. Joan Rivers supplies the voice of the golden robot, Dot Matrix. Honestly her voice just grates.
Spaceballs is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4. This film has a lot of flaws, and the high definition clarity here doesn’t do a whole lot to hide them. It is what it is, and I’m not really looking to pan the results. There is the expected level of detail here, but the film itself isn’t one of the most crisp examples of a high definition film. There are evident print defects here which lead me to conclude that the transfer is likely the same source as the DVD was. Black levels show the most remarked improvement here. The “Black Helmet” has a nice sheen and texture to it that I didn’t really get in the DVD release. The colors remain soft, however.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track does a fairly solid job. Surrounds are used to good effect. Without really messing too much with the original recordings, the film manages to exhibit a little more depth and dynamic range. I wanted more out of the subs, but it’s still an overall good presentation. Dialog is clean, and that pretty much is what we’re looking for here.
Audio Commentary with Mel Brooks: Brooks provided this commentary for the laser disc version of the film, so I’d already heard it. He rambles somewhat. It was nice to hear the kind words he had for Gene Wilder, who couldn’t do this film and had set off on his own. He only mentions about 1000 times how much he loved Rick Moranis. I was a little disturbed even back when to hear Brooks call this a film aimed at children. Many of the jokes are a bit risqué, and there is definitely some child-unfriendly language.
You get the two-sided DVD of the film as an extra disc. One side is the widescreen, while the other is a full frame version of the film. The rest of the features are all standard definition and ported from a DVD version of the film.
Spaceballs: The Documentary: (30:04) Cast and crew mostly respond to text questions or statements. It’s very much a promo bit, particularly for Mel Brooks. I was a little disappointed to hear that Brooks submitted an advance copy of the script to make sure he didn’t find any of it offensive.
In Conversation – Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan: (20:30) The two gentlemen engage in a very informal sit down and reminisce about the film. It offers some nice moments and is worth watching if you haven’t seen it before.
John Candy – Comic Spirit: (10:02) This is a rather nice tribute to the late actor, looking at his entire career and not merely Spaceballs.
Watch The Movie At Ludicrous Speed: (:29) Watch the film in under a half minute. Ludicrous!
The crazy spoof finally lands on Blu-ray. In spite of the careful aim, no one is going to confuse this film with any of the f/x pioneering films it attempts to spoof. The high definition release is going to be more about exposing the film’s faults than providing a spectacular movie watching experience. It’s treated here like a catalog title, and I guess that’s really what it is. But you likely already have this same DVD from a previous release. So, enjoy that one, and “May the Swartz be with you”.