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4.0 out of 5 stars
The Twelve Chairs [DVD] [1970]
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2011
Not a typical Mel Brooks film, this was his second film as a director (after The Producers) and much more of a character and plot driven project than his later broad parodies. Based on a classic Russian novel and filmed in Yugoslavia, the look and feel of the film is wonderful (much better than Woody Allen's Love And Death). It would have been interesting if Brooks had carried on making films in this vein but, since this movie undeservably failed to find an audience, that was obviously not a commercially viable option. But it remains, in my opinion, one of Mel Brooks' best efforts with its dark humour and cynical edge and complete lack of coarse jokes.

The script is also by Brooks and is tight and keeps the plot moving at a good pace, mixing funny lines with bits of slapstick and occasional pathos. Brooks has given the film a happier ending than the original novel but since this is a comedy, that is no bad thing. The cast are a wild mixture of styles but, for the most part, seem to work well together. Ron Moody's obsessed aristocrat in a post-revolutionary world has flashes of his Fagin from Oliver but runs through a wealth of emotions like a pro. Frank Langella is handsome and looks every inch a typical movie hero even though he plays an amazingly unsympathetic character. Dom DeLuise mugs shamelessly which threatens to throw the film off-balance, but he mostly gets away with it. And Mel himself puts in a hilarious cameo near the beginning of the film just to prove that what follows is not to be taken too seriously.

I first saw this film in a nearly empty cinema when it was first released and loved it. So I am delighted that it is available on DVD and looking so good. In some ways, it has stood the test of time better than some other Mel Brooks film. It is not what used to be described as a "laff riot" but it is a funny and entertaining film which might just have a thoughtful subtext or two. Highly recommended.
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on 22 February 2015
Occasionally, clear failures generate more interest than modest successes. Mel Brooks's second movie as director is a terrible mess - did he ever direct an unmessy film? - but one has, throughout, glimpses of a potential classic comedy, although Brooks clearly was undecided as to what sort of comedy he wanted to make. Based on the famous satire by Ilf and Petrov (that rarest of literary sports, a funny Russian novel written in the Stalinist era), it presents us with a study in greed and degradation in which laughter is consistently wrung from pain, humiliation and misery and from the lowest human motives. To find the fortune in jewels hidden in the seat of one of the eponymous chairs. the two appalling heroes go through every kind of trial and any show of dignity is destroyed again and again. The potential of the storyline is enormous; but Brooks's script is, for too much of the time, a tame one, going for the obvious joke instead of the one that might draw blood as well as laughter. Against a background of genuine Eastern European locations, actors act out ridiculous jokes based on antique Hollywood notions of "foreignness", and too often the idea that there should be an undertow of real pain behind the laughter (a notion of which Brooks is obviously aware) is lost. The most eloquent aspect of the film is the acting of Ron Moody as the smug, hypocritical bourgeois who must turn himself into the most shameless of vagabond con men in order to survive in post-revolutionary Russia. His sad eyes, filled with self-disgust, tell us so much more than the screenplay does about the sort of film this should be. Unfortunately, Moody is partnered by the charmless, narcissistic Frank Langella, whose witless performance really drags the movie down. But the supporting cast is good, and here and there one gets glimpses of the much better film that might have been made.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2013
Good film, but not I think one of his best. The plot stretches a bit thin. Still manic though.
Quick delivery. Well packaged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2013
Fantastic dvd. Watched it when i was much younger, loved it then & still love it now. Have a laugh & watch it.
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An absolute wonderful tragi-comic story of 3 individuals hunt for 12 chairs in post-revolution Russia. Mel Brooks is absolutely a genius. A must for every Comrad!
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on 18 August 2014
I think this is not one of Mel Brooks best films. There are a few funny bits, but the story line is quite week. Steve
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on 14 June 2015
Probably Brooks worst film that is just poor beyond belief.
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on 30 August 2014
Fast and perfect trade. :-)
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on 15 March 2014
a great film
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2007
having eventually secured this film on ebay in VHS video some years ago I am delighted to be able to get this on DVD...I have seen many times the original Russian versions (two of them) with Mironov; rather longer than this one of the satirical Ilf and Petrov novel that I laboured through when studying Russian.

Nevertheless this version is very authentic, (according to my Russian wife) possibly helped by the fact that it was filmed in what was then Yugoslavia...
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