Director Mel Brooks’ 1987 film, Spaceballs, stands as one of the filmmaker’s most beloved and timeless comedies. In my mind, only The Producers (1968), Young Frankenstein (1974), and Blazing Saddles (1978) precede this star-studded send-up of the science fiction genre. And while that only places it fourth among Brooks’ eleven theatrical releases, I assure you that to be ranked alongside those three classic comedies constitutes high praise for any picture. Now, 25 years after the film’s release, Spaceballs receives its second Blu-ray treatment in this special feature-packed 25th Anniversary Edition from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
If you haven’t seen Spaceballs, you’ve honestly missed out on one of the single greatest comic spoofs of the 1980’s, nest to Airplane! (1980). The film lampoons a wide range of science fiction movies along the way, making specific jabs at Alien, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and, of course, Star Wars, the film’s #1 target. Indeed, Spaceballs draws the majority of its narrative from George Lucas’ landmark 1977 film, and ultimately throws in a dash of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night for good measure.
Brooks’ surprisingly complex meta-narrative makes the film’s characters fully aware of the money-making potential of any such highly-stylized, family-friendly picture as Star Trek, making for some strikingly potent satirical moments throughout the film. In particular, Spaceballs takes up arms against the widespread merchandising of a film product in other markets to the extent that even the toilet paper within Spaceballs is mockingly branded with the film’s title. What’s more, Brooks’ characters sleep under Spaceballs sheets, play with Spaceballs action figures, and even wield a Spaceballs flamethrower. Curiously, however, some of the merchandise touted by the film’s Yoda knock-off, Yogurt, actually features images from the equally-merchandising-centric animated series Transformers rather than characters from Spaceballs.
This particular detail never entered my consciousness until I viewed the film on this Blu-ray release, my first encounter with the film in HD. This serves as a testament to the clarity of the image offered not only by this particular release, but by the Blu-ray format in general. It’s not uncommon when watching a film for the first time in an HD, Blu-ray transfer to pick up on details such as this or to suddenly become aware of the ways in which many of the film’s practical effects were accomplished. For example, the wires used to hoist Darth Helmet when their ship reaches Ludicrous Speed are wholly apparent in HD. And this added definition sets Blu-ray above and apart from previous home video formats not only in its image clarity, but in the ways in which it allows viewers to understand filmmakers as technicians on a far grander scale than ever before. Indeed, the tricks of their trade no longer remain hidden from viewers as they watch the film. Their methods are kept in plain sight. And now that the layman has access to the same equipment used by filmmakers to create major motion pictures (hell, major theatrical releases have been shot on camcorders and even iPhones), what a boon this format is for the modern day produser.
The wealth of special features on the 25th Anniversary Edition of Spaceballs include:
-“Force Yourself: Spaceballs and the Skroobing of Sci-fi,” a 16-minute interview with Mel Brooks;
-feature-length commentary with Mel Brooks as well as commentaries in Mawgese and Dinkese;
-“Spaceballs: The Documentary,” included on previous DVD releases;
-a conversation between Mel Brooks and co-writer Thomas Meehan;
-“John Candy: Comic Spirit,” an all-too-brief, 10-minute tribute to the late actor;
-three photo galleries;
-film flubs, which are not bloopers per se, but instead continuity and effects errors that are actually in the film;
-and the ability to watch the movie in Ludicrous Speed, which takes all of 30 seconds.