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Harvey Korman: Number 1 Second Banana

Harvey Korman was one of the funniest supporting comedy actors of all time, brightening up the big and small screen with his memorable performances. On this episode of “The Online Movie Show,” the funnyman’s son and biographer Chris Korman discusses his father’s career and off-camera life.

The episode can be heard here.

Spaceballs (1987)

It makes me laugh quite a lot that modern Hollywood are planning to spoof “Star Wars” when Mel Brooks pretty much supplied the definitive “Star Wars” spoof thirty years ago. You can argue maybe there’s more to offer, but no, Mel Brooks did it first and best. He mocked the characters, he mocked the plot holes, and he even mocked the rampant consumerism that George Lucas partook in when “Star Wars” became a cash cow. “Spaceballs” involves the evil President Skroob kidnaps Vespa during an arranged marriage, in an effort to steal planet Druidia’s fresh air. The evil Lord Dark Helmet is assigned to complete the task of sucking Druidia’s air, and hires Lonestarr and his pal “Barft” (The mog, a half man and half dog) to find Princess Vespa when she escapes the arranged marriage.

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Norman Lear: Another Version of You

norman_learPart of the “American Masters” documentary series, “Norman Lear” is a very bittersweet look in to a man who changed culture and television as we know it. Before Norman Lear, not many television shows and mainstream television networks were willing to step forward and address issues that confronted social and economic problems. Norman Lear is a man who grew up in a troubled family and spent a lot of his life remolding television in to a medium that could change how we think and ask us to reflect on our lives. Mr. Lear used a lot of his own experiences to help create some of the most important television series of all time. From “All in the Family” which brought important issues to our homes through comedy, “The Jeffersons” about changing the racial dynamic in a higher class setting. There was “Maude” which explored a very strong sitcom heroine of the feminist ilk, and “Good Times” which explored the life of a family in poverty.

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Young Frankenstein (1974): 40th Anniversary Edition [Blu-Ray]

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It’s tough to imagine a better horror comedy for fans of golden age horror. Director Mel Brooks concocts a formula that’s almost impossible to duplicate, playing brilliant comedy with deadpan dramatic sincerity, and implements a wide cast of amazing comedy actors to perform what is a demented twist on “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.” One of my favorite memories about “Young Frankenstein” was when I was a kid and my mom brought home the VHS to watch for the night. For all intents and purposes, the movie looked like a horror film, and I went in to it convinced of the idea. Mid-way I was laughing so hard, it was impossible to hear the dialogue.

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Blazing Saddles (1974)

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You have to give credit to Mel Brooks for being so ballsy. In today’s day and age, a movie like “Blazing Saddles” would never get off the ground and become a mainstream comedy. Even with its material, Brooks runs the risk of becoming low brow, but thankfully manages to create the best comedy of all time. It’s my favorite from Brooks, edging out “Young Frankenstein” if only for the lead performance by Cleavon Little. “Blazing Saddles” satirizes the Western sub-genre, while also mocking its inherent racism, setting it in the middle of the slave era. Though the film is biting in its social commentary, it still manages to be incredibly funny, sidestepping the mockery of the slavery, and instead poking fun at the Caucasian characters.

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Young Frankenstein (1974)

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Mel Brooks’ horror comedy classic completely and utterly challenged any and all norms and perceptions of formula comedy that I had when I was a kid. It was a black and white movie that was a comedy and though the film bordered on absolutely insane in the comedy meter, the cast in the film played everything with a straight face. Particularly Gene Wilder whose entire performance is deadpan and dramatic in spite of the fact he’s probably the funniest character in the film.

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Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

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Many people insist that Mel Brooks pretty much lost it once the nineties introduced itself. His comedy was somewhat outdated and he’d run out of material. I say thee nay! Sure, Mr. Brooks didn’t deliver any films in the level of “Blazing Saddles” in the nineties, but damn it I think his later efforts were entertaining in their own right. I think “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is wacky fun, and you know what? I happen to find “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” to be hilarious on more than one occasion.

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F Troop: Season Two (DVD)

I don’t have a lot of experience with the series “F Troop” except knowing that it’s a classic, and I recall catching it a few times when I was a kid. This was before cable, when network television kept classic shows in syndication, and not recent ones. They were better times.

“F Troop” is very much in the vein of Mel Brooks, and if you’re a fan of the man, this series may be right up your alley. “F Troop,” for the uninitiated, sets down on a Civil War camp out in the woods of Fort Courage, and a group of hapless soldiers who get into wacky misadventures with visitors, and assorted guest stars.

Along the way, they also run into the Hekawi’s, a band of equally zany Native Americans, who hide out in the woods, and secretly team with a few of the soldiers in the camp.

Much like “Hogan’s Heroes,” the group manage to get away with a lot of gags under their superior’s noses, and use the Hekawi’s as instruments in their plans. In the first episode, much of the soldiers are being relocated, and in an attempt to thwart the plans, enlist the Hekawi’s to threaten war on them if the soldiers go, with hilarious results.

There’s also the appearances of Paul Lynde as a singing mounty who keeps the camp under tight watch for a French fur trader, who is being hidden by the Hekawi’s, and Harvey Korman who plays a domineering German balloonist who interrupts the affairs in the fort.

“F Troop” has a lively energy, and some truly sharp one-liners that will keep you in hysterics for most of the time. The origin of the Hekawi’s, and their name, is especially funny, but “F Troop” season two marks the debut of the color format for the series, which sadly only ran two seasons, and experienced new life in syndication, much like “Star Trek” and “The Honeymooners.”

All the episodes are present, politically incorrect Native American gags and all, and it’s a quality release that’s sadly very slim on extras. There’s only a brief retrospective on the entire series. But beyond that, fans of the genuine Mel Brooks comedies would be well advised to seek this out at their nearest convenience. It’s a treat.