Working name of US film-maker, writer (initially for Television) and actor Melvin James Kaminsky (1926- ), who as an improvisational stand-up comedian in 1953 created the ongoing character of the 2000 Year Old Man, an Immortal who attended Christ's crucifixion and offers a skewed perspective on the modern world ("I have over forty-two thousand children, and not one comes to visit me."). A 1961 LP of these routines sold over a million copies; Brooks voiced the title role in the later television movie The 2000 Year Old Man (1975). Also for the small screen, he co-created the semi-sf spy comedy series Get Smart! (1965-1970). His first major success was his Cinema-directing debut The Producers (1967), a caper film about the making of an outrageously bad musical intended to lose money: the production-within-a-production, Springtime for Hitler, verges on Fantastika with its Absurdist portrayal of the Führer and such grotesqueries as a Busby Berkley-style dance formation in the shape of a revolving swastika. The story and screenplay, by Brooks himself, won an Oscar.
Films of specific sf interest directed by Brooks include Young Frankenstein (1974), a brilliantly comic Parody of the Frankenstein (which see) tradition, shot in black and white and using laboratory sets from the 1931 James Whale film, that won both the Hugo and the Nebula as best dramatic presentation; High Anxiety (1977), which spoofs many films by Alfred Hitchcock, including the Psycho (1960) shower scene with Brooks himself as victim, plus a particularly excremental take on the avian menace of The Birds (1963); Spaceballs (1987), which similarly combines broad parody of many sf movies including the original Star Wars trio (whose echoes begin in the opening credits), Alien (1979) and the Planet of the Apes franchise; History of the World: Part I (1981), comprising comic skits strung together on a loose historical or Evolutionary theme that begins in a Prehistoric SF milieu; and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), another multi-parody dealing with the copious Vampire film tradition spawned by Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897; rev with cuts 1901). Brooks's best productions still evoke genuine hilarity. [DRL]
see also: Robots [film].
Melvin James Kaminsky
born New York: 28 June 1926
about the filmmaker
- Kenneth Tynan. "Frolics and Detours of a Short Hebrew Man" (23 October 1978 The New Yorker) [vt "Frolics and Detours of a Short Little Hebrew Man – Mel Brooks" in Tynan's Show People: Profiles in Entertainment (coll 1979): mag/]
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