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The Waco Kid Rides into the Sunset: Rest in Peace Gene Wilder


http://www.movieclips.com/videos/blazing-saddles-official-clip-applause-for-the-waco-kid-409395779531
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday night lost a comic genius and great human being. Gene Wilder passed away with his family surrounding him at the age of 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. While many remember him most for his role as the quirky candy genius Willy Wonka, I will always remember him most for his roles in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers. Of course I will never forget him in Stir Crazy or The Silver Streak, but for me it was his roles in the Mel Brooks comedies that I will never forget. 


http://nyti.ms/1xh2yeM 
The first time I saw him was in The Producers where he played the neurotic accountant Leo Blum who helped Max Bialystok (Zero Mostel) figure out that he could make more money producing a Broadway flop than a hit. I saw that film on television when I was about 12 years old, well before I ever saw him in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein, and I never forgot him. Then in 1974 I was able to convince the box office attendants and ushers that I was old enough to be admitted to the latter two films. Actually, it wasn’t that hard back then to fake it, no one ever asked for I.D., and I’m sure that some of them were stoned before they even showed up for work but I digress… 


https://www.yahoo.com/movies/video/blazing-saddles-clip-waco-kid-192608486.html
There are few people who could play neurotic people with the comic sensitivity that Gene Wilder did, the man was brilliant.  The next film that I saw him appear was Brooks’s classic Western spoof, Blazing Saddles where he played the washed up alcoholic gunfighter, the Waco Kid, whose name was Jim, though most people called him Jim. Wilder was a last minute replacement for Gig Young who actually did have an alcohol problem and collapsed on set forcing Brooks to shut down production for a day and bring Gene Wilder in relief. Wilder was perfect for the role and complimented Clevon Little who play the Black sheriff Bart to a tee. I think my favorite scene is where Sheriff Bart wishes a little old lady a “good day” and is told by her “up yours nigger.” Almost inconsolable Bart comes back to the office where the Waco Kid gives him some great advice. 

https://youtu.be/KHJbSvidohg

https://youtu.be/IpiHCZHGbF8


Then there was Young Frankenstein where Wilder played the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein opposite Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Peter Boyle. This was followed by Willy Wonka and so many others. I loved Wilder when he was paired with Richard Pryor as well. 

https://youtu.be/MySGAaB0A9k
I could go on and on about Gene Wilder, by I will stop for now. He and so many of his fellow cast members from these films are gone. Zero Mostel, Kenneth Mars, Clevon Little, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Richard Pryor, Alex Karras, and Peter Boyle to name but a few. He never announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s because he didn’t want to upset kids who saw him and said “look there’s Willy Wonka.” He was a joyful spirit who loved life, and now joins the love of his life, the late Gilda Radner, and now he goes into that final sunset. 


Rest in peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Halloween Horror

love-at-first-bite

“Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday night.” Count Dracula (George Hamilton) on being banished from his castle by Romanian Communists in Love at First Bite

Yes it is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve and time for me to share my favorite Halloween horror films with you. Horror movies can be scary, but they can also be funny and even kind of klitschy. I think that is why they have such an enduring fascination to so many people, including me. I love horror, suspense, science fiction and the paranormal. They tend to be less scary than driving to work on the local interstate highways in the Hampton Roads area or going to a Mall or Wal-Mart.

Horror films have always fascinated me, especially the ones that are not simply built around a bunch of slashing and mindless killing and brutality.

Some of the films I like are more dramatic and suspenseful while others are more on the funny side of the horror genre. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are hundreds of not thousands of horror films out there and many are variations on a theme and many are so bad I will not watch them. That being said there are some that I cannot miss.

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I love the whole vampire and Dracula genre. The Bela Lugosi Dracula was interesting but the klitchshy Hammer Dracula films with Christopher Lee were always my favorites. It was always fun for me to watch how some idiot managed to find a way to spill some blood on Dracula’s ashes and re-animate the Prince of Darkness. Of course the fact that Lee’s Dracula was always going after some really good looking girl made the series predicable and enjoyable.

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The female versions of the Dracula films produced by Hammer Productions were even more enjoyable for a teen age boy. Ingrid Pitt played a great Carmilla Karnstein, a seductive female vampire who preyed on great looking women in The Vampire Lovers.  In the vampire genre Quentin Tarintino’s Dusk ‘Til Dawn was pretty good and Wesley Snipes Blade series was enjoyable too.

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I think that the horror film that still gives me the creeps is another vampire film, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I saw it the first time while visiting my wife’s cousin who lived in the Netherlands back in 1985. It was on Dutch television in English and subtitled in Dutch.

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Now I admit these are not the best Dracula movies, but they are entertaining. I liked Interview with a Vampire, Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Donald Pleasance, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) starring Gary Oldham and Winona Ryder were all actually better films.  Other films in the vampire genre that I like included Fright Night and The Lost Boys.

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There were parodies as well, my favorites being Love at First Bite starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn and Arte Johnson, Mel Brooks’ Dracula Dead and Loving it starring Leslie Nielsen and Blackula, a blacksploitation parody starring William Marshall.

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Frankenstein was okay but I love Mel Brooks’ parody Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle.

William Friedkin_The Exorcist_1973

Then there are the Satanic or Demonic possession and oppression films based on actual events. There is the classic The Exorcist and more recently The Conjuring. Both kept me on the edge of my seat and were scarier at home than they were in the theater. Another film which I like but which might better fit into the Science Fiction or loosely based on real events category is The Mothman Prophecies. 

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Zombie films have never been that interesting to me but the original Night of the Living Dead is a classic that I will watch and I did enjoy the parody Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg.

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In a different class is the cult classic Army of Darkness a sequel to the Evil Dead films.  In this Bruce Campbell plays a hardware store employee who gets transported through time to a medieval castle being attacked by a ghoulish army. It really is a classic full of great one liners and action. I think one of my favorite lines is where Campbell’s character “Ash” answers the leader of the dead army when he is asked who he is: “Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things, right now: Jack and shit… and Jack left town.”

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When I was in junior high school, high school and college a lot of different horror films came out which became cult classics which spawned sequel after sequel. There was the original Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I never got into the sequels because none of them were as good as the originals.

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Another film that I found positively frightening was Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. It was a remake of an earlier film but the whole concept of falling asleep and being replaced with a pod person freaked me out.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, there are thousands of horror films out there. I could go on and mention more but to do so would be to repeat variations on similar themes or to stretch the genre to include various murder mysteries with horror or demonic elements such as Silence of the Lambs or films which are more appropriately classed as Science Fiction such as Alien.

Ghostbusters

In a totally different category are the Ghostbusters comedies and Scrooged. Both comedies with classic horror twists. I love those movies.

So as Halloween winds down and the trick or treaters go home, while you are snuggled in your bed with your love, turn on the television and find something scary to watch. After all, tomorrow is Friday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Horrific Humor: Young Frankenstein

Horror and comedy, like peanut butter cups they are two great tastes that go great together. I think that the funniest of this genre are those based on the classics such as Frankenstein and Dracula. There are other films that fit this category such as Love at First Bite a Dracula film set in the late 1970s staring George Hamilton, Jill St. John and Arte Johnson.  Other twists on the Dracula story is Mel Brooks Dracula Dead and Loving It which starred Leslie Nielsen, Peter McNichol, Harvey Korman and Amy Yasbeck and Once Bitten starring Lauren Hutton.  I also like some that are new creations in their own right such as Ghostbusters.  However, for me the film that is the real classic among all of them is Young Frankenstein. So in the spirit of Halloween I submit to you Padre Steve’s favorite all-time Horror Comedy Young Frankenstein.

Of course the first on my list is Mel Brooks classic Young Frankenstein which came out in 1974, the same year as Brooks’ other classic of Western filmography Brazing Saddles. Young Frankenstein is the classic humorous take on the Mary Beth Shelley Frankenstein novel and subsequent films.  It starred Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Terry Garr, Cloris Leachman and the late Peter Boyle as the Monster Brooks. Brooks used the original set from the original Frankenstein and brought the Frankenstein saga a hilarious twist. It is hard to forget some of the great scenes such as when Dr. Frankenstein discovers that he has implanted an abnormal brain in the monster, and the subsequent game of charades as Inga and Igor try to guess what the Doctor wants as he struggles in the grasp of the Monster “give him a sedagive.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP5Gcuwp2Sg Of course after a “sedative” has been administered the conversation between the Dr. Frankenstein and Igor is classic.  The Doctor sits down and questions Igor about the brain about the brain and Igor tells the Doctor that the brain belonged to “Abby someone, Abby Normal.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ_pKqiB5Rg

There is the scene where the Monster escapes and comes to a small house where a blind monk played by Gene Hackman awaits.  The monk offers the Monster hospitality which turns into a horror story with the Monster as the victim.  The Monster has hot soup spilled on his lap, his mug of wine shattered and finger set afire by the well meaning monk and runs out in terror.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cw2IIU0a9qw&feature=related

Of course there all of the one-liners and gags interspersed through the film at a cyclic rate which leave the audience laughing.  I remember seeing the film for the first time when it came out in 1974 in Stockton California.  The opening scene where someone opens the crypt of the elder Dr. Frankenstein to retrieve his diary and has to fight the skeleton is just the beginning of the fun.  The fun continues with the young Dr. Frankenstein, a neurosurgeon saying that his name was pronounced “Fronkensteen” rather than Frankenstein when questioned by a medical student about his grandfather’s experiments.  One can’t forget the scene in the graveyard when the Doctor and Igor are digging up the body of the monster.  When the Doctor complains Igor utters the immortal line “it could be worse it could be raining” which of course was followed by a thunderclap and downpour.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHb7DJDCptA&feature=related

Of course we cannot leave out Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher and every time that her name was said that the horses would “whiney.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-wTbNIsopg&feature=related

Then there is the sequence after Doctor Frankenstein’s arrival in Transylvania and rides to his castle with Igor and Inga.  The Doctor hears a wolf howling in the distance and asks “Werewolf” and Igor answers “there wolf.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQQtgx4iG8E&feature=related This sequence of course includes the part where Inga asks Doctor Frankenstein about having a “roll in the hay” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqClWdOcWog&feature=related and their arrival at the castle.  Dr. Frankenstein sees a large set of door knockers as he is lifting Inga off the wagon saying “what knockers” and Inga answering “well thank you Doctor.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9K9wiH2Lko

Likewise there is the segment where Madeline Kahn playing Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancé Elizabeth is abducted by the Monster. The Monster has fallen in love with her as he takes her she discovers something that leaves her singing “oh sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9K9wiH2Lko

Of course this is followed at the end of the film when the newlywed Doctor and Inga are in their bedroom and she asks him what he received from the Monster and then begins to sing “oh sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you” when she discovers exactly what her husband received from the Monster.

This has to be one of the greatest horror-comedies of all time if not the very best.  Everything from the sets to the gags and great interactions among the characters makes this one of the greatest if not the greatest film of its genre ever made. The film is so stocked with great lines and scenes that there are too many to mention here, so if you never have seen this comedy classic go get it.

So Happy Halloween my friends and in the midst of all the blood and gore films, have a good laugh with Young Frankenstein.

Peace.

Padre Steve+

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Laughing to the Music: The Musical Genius of Mel Brooks

The Zany Mel Brooks as the Governor in Blazing Saddles

When most people think of legendary comedian Mel Brooks they are likely to think of the hilarious shtick of such movies as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, the Movie, DVD or Video. Brooks is a comic genius but mixed in with the comedic side of Brooks he has a musical side that captures some of the most popular genres of yesteryear and overlays them with incredibly witty lyrics and catchy music.  Whether the music is Broadway musical, crooning, or even something out of the old west brooks brings a comedic edginess that can offend and delight at the same time. Today I will share a bit about the songs and soundtracks from the various Brooks films interspersed with the songs from the films.

Teri Garr, Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein

Now I know that some people will say and rightly so that I am just a bit warped in my worldview.  I’m okay with that, in fact I would hate not to be as I think that life would be boring.  Maybe that is why I like Brooks so much.  He demonstrates that rare form of being able to entertain and even provide social commentary on issues like racism and discrimination in Blazing Saddles.  Part of how he did this so successfully was in the music that he often wrote for his movies.  It is one of those unusual things that most people, even Brooks aficionados have no idea that Brooks was the genius behind the music in his movies.

As for me I love Brooks’ music as well as his comedy.  I can practically sing from memory the major songs of each of his movies and frequently will find that I am inadvertently singing them going down a hallway at work or in the car. Some Priests sing hymns or praise and worship songs, I sing Mel Brooks songs. C’est la vie.

Springtime for Hitler 1968

The first film that Brooks music featured prominently was the original The Producers starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder and Dick Shawn which was reprised on Broadway and later on the big screen with Nathan Lane, Matthew Modine and Will Ferrell. The original Producers involved a Broadway producer who has seen better days (Mostel) and his new tax accountant (Wilder) trying to find the “world’s worst play” to produce as a flop which they would then keep the money raised for the play.  They find their play written by former German Soldier Franz Liebkind the author of Springtime for Hitler “a gay romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchesgarten.”  They hire the world’s worst director “Roger DeBris” to direct the play and raise a huge amount of money to produce it by selling well far more than 100% of the profits.  Expecting the play to offend everyone they begin an early celebration before finding out that people love the play. The play becomes a critically acclaimed hit leading them to try to blow up the theater.  The music of Brooks is prominently featured in all three. The irony of producers producing a guaranteed flop which becomes a hot on the big screen and then a real hit on Broadway is not to be lost.  The theme song from the play Springtime for Hitler both in 1968 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGp0hCxSg98 and the later version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCUfkMkVbwo also found its way into Blazing Saddles.

Springtime for Hitler 2005

As an interesting side note Brooks has a cameo during the song in both versions where as a member of the cast he sings “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty come and join the Nazi Party.” The Producers also featured more Brooks’ songs including Love Power sung by Dick Shawn playing Lorenzo St. Dubois or LSD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkYBJId7WZs Prisoners of Love featured in both the 1968 and the 2005 versions and When You Got it Flaunt it, I Want to Be a Producer and Keep it Gay all from the 2005 version are classic show tunes.

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles

The Producer’s netted Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  Brooks’ next two hit films Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featured interesting musical arrangements, The most memorable coming from Blazing Saddles which starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn.  The songs Blazing Saddles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tyhpt6_pwc the Ballad of Rock Ridge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiTKIbR69ss

Madeline Kahn as Lilly Von Schtupp singing “I’m Tired”

I’m Tired http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQU0_PHUB2E and the French Mistake featuring Dom DeLuise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMK6lzmSk2o are all Brooks’ work.

The French Mistake Musical Scene from Blazing Saddles

He even managed to take an old tune into Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle as Dr Frankenstein and the monster perform Puttin’ on the Ritz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH2nQHPs4aA.

Dr Frankenstein and the Monster (Wilder and Peter Boyle) singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Brook’s next film’s High Anxiety, a takeoff on Hitchcock movies starring Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman feature Brooks’ songs High Anxiety http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_UcRmELvs and If You Love Me Tell Me Loud. History of the World Part I which starred Brooks, Kahn, Korman and a host of comic greats would incorporate music is ways undreamed of by those who viewed these films.

The Inquisition from History of the World Part One

In fact the musical segment The Spanish Inquisition featured the song The Inquisition http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oppHeMlaLVM where Brooks plays the Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada in a spoof of the 1930s musical featuring dancing monks in wink tips, nuns who perform a synchronized swimming number as well as banter between Brooks and the various Jews and heretics that he is trying to convert. The irony of course being that Brooks is Jewish.  The closing song Jews in Space http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_jLnrUXJNM is the trailer for a sequel which was never produced. In Spaceballs Brooks collaborated with others to produce the title song Spaceballs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezyoKr0v-HQ which was performed by The Spinners.

Men in Tights

Brooks would continue making movies which though not as popular brilliant as his earlier works would feature some funny songs written by Brooks.  Robin Hood: Men in Tights featured Men in Tights http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc1am3KyYgA , Marian and the Sherwood Forrest Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APTXBm5Zp-Y The 1983 film To Be or Not to Be in which Brooks starred with his wife Anne Bancroft was about the Nazi invasion of Poland featured the Brooks songs A Little Peace and Ladies. A music video for this film entitled The Hitler Rap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu2NqfISm9k was released as part of the promotion for the film.

Hitler as a polish Jew playing Hitler in a Parody in pre-War Warsaw in To Be or Not to Be

I don’t know that we will ever see a comedic genius who is able to also incorporate music, especially classic Broadway style show tunes in about every movie that they make.  Brooks in my mind is one of those once in a blue moon kind of entertainers whose creativity is not bound by words or gags but crafted through a diverse experience of live performance, film, writing and producing taking comedy to places where his edginess and occasional social commentary was heard and appreciated by middle America.  That is the genius of Mel Brooks.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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