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Spaceballs: May the juice be with you

Thirty-three years ago, Spaceballs came into theaters. An anniversary as crooked and weird as the film itself, which not only Star Wars, but also dragged the whole genre through the cocoa.

from
Peter Osteried
9. November 2020, 9:04 am But now quickly
(Picture: Screenshot from the trailer at Youtube)

The source is not clear. Either Mel Brooks himself had the idea to try a parody of Star Wars, or 20th Century Fox boss Alan Ladd jr. put it on him.

Whatever it was, in 1986 the shooting of Brooks’ most expensive film to date began. 22.7 million US dollars were at his disposal, five of which were earmarked for effects and post-production alone. George Lucas’ company Industrial Light & Magic was responsible for the special effects.

Whether Brooks secured the blessings of the Star Wars maestro in this way? Not at all, but money always helps

Brooks is also a Star Wars fan and so he talked to George Lucas in the run-up to the production, who paid very close attention to what was happening around his Star Wars empire.

Lucas was impressed by the project. After seeing the film, he said to Brooks: “If you take out all the humor, the film also works as an adventure.” Which I guess was basically a self-praise, because the story of Spaceballs is very much inspired by the story of the first Star Wars movie.

Spaceballs – The T-shirt. Spaceballs – The lunchbox. Spaceballs – The Flamethrower …

There was one thing, however, that Brooks had to make a concession. Lucas liked the idea of a parody, but he insisted that there should be no merchandise to the movie. The only exception allowed was Spaceballs: The Book, written by author R.L. Stine, who later became successful with his scary novels of the Goosebumps series for kids.

At that time Lucas was making millions selling Star Wars merchandise. There shouldn’t be similarly stocked characters and junk. But the concern was unfounded. Because in the cinema Spaceballs wasn’t the big hit, it only became a hit later through home cinema and television.

Spaceballs [Blu-ray]

Brooks, however, used merchandise in his own way: namely, to make fun of the principle of total marketing of a film. In one scene, the yogurt played by Brooks introduces the merchandising for the film and exaggerates across the board. Even a sequel is announced: Spaceballs 2 – In search of even more money.

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Spaceballs tells about how the evil Spaceballs under the command of President Skroob want to suck the good air from the peaceful planet where Princess Vespa is at home. Because the Spaceballs’ planet is a barren pile of filth and bad air. The best seller there: Perriair – horny air from cans!

But there is a protective shield that cannot be bypassed. The King has to release the code for it, which is why the Spaceballs are after the Vespa that escaped from their wedding. She gets help from space thug Lone Starr and his buddy Barf

The two are now on the road with Vespa and her loyal droid maid Dotti Matrix, while Lord Helmet is after them with his troops. The little Lord not only likes to play with dolls, he would also like to play with Princess Vespa!

The script was written by Mel Brooks together with Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham. They did themselves amicably on Star Wars. For almost all the great characters of the saga there is a counterpart here.

Princess with headphones

Lone Starr and Barf are the replacements for Han Solo and Chewbacca, Vespa even has headphones that look like Princess Leia’s rolled-up hair, Dotti Matrix is C-3PO (with a pinch of Maria from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis), President Skroob is the Emperor, Lord Helmet Darth Vader is the Emperor, Yogurth is almost as small as Yoda and Pizza Fight is the more appetizing version of Jabba the Hutt. He’s so good, he even eats himself!

What is missing is a counterpart to R2-D2, but especially to Luke Skywalker. Brooks decided to include elements of Tatooine’s farm boy in Lone Starr. Anyway, he had the biggest problems with the heroic figure, because he is the straight guy in this comedy Spaceballs [Blu-ray]

Lone Starr reacts to the funny, but he himself is never really funny. How intangible the character was for Brooks is also shown by the fact that he didn’t really know how he wanted to cast her. Two candidates who had been offered a job turned him down. Both are very different in acting and type: Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.

In the end it was Bill Pullman who was practically unknown at the time. Pullman told the Hollywood reporter: “I think Mel had trouble writing Lone Starr. This was the character he liked least, because she had no voice of her own and nothing unique. So we worked very hard on it and I had to get better at it because I’d never been in a movie like that before.” .formatted { position: relative; }
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} Most of the roles were occupied with newcomers, John Candy as a mog was already an experienced comedian. For the role of Pizzamampf they got Dom DeLuise, but he only lent him the voice. In the costume, which was doused with real melted cheese and which stuntman taught second and third degree burns , he didn’t want to be stuck.

In Dotti Matrix was Lorene Yarnell, but she ended up like Dave Prowse as Darth Vader: someone else spoke the role – in this case Joan Rivers.

The biggest star of the film was probably Rick Moranis, who became famous through Ghostbusters and The Little Shop of Horrors. He played Lord Helmet. The idea to lower his voice when he wears the mask came from him – he anticipated what Adam Driver would do as Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars movies.

Moranis liked to improvise. Brooks supported this, because he was always ready to turn a scene upside down when comedy gold came along. For example in the scene where Lord Helmet plays with the action figures.

More than 30 years later Moranis remembers: “I remember that I didn’t feel so good that day. I think I had a fever and wasn’t fully up to speed, but somehow I got the idea to improvise my text with the characters.”

Spaceballs [Blu-ray] The fourth wall

Brooks took every gag – no matter how weird, childish or meta he was. In fact, he wasn’t too sorry to break through the fourth wall again and again.

The viewer thus becomes part of the film – for example when a cameraman is knocked down in the fight between Lone Starr and Lord Helmet. But more than that, when Lord Helmchen inserts the VHS tape of Spaceballs to find out what happens next. Cameraman Nick McLean meaning only: “He was willing to do anything.”

“What is this weird scene? When is she even in the movie?” “Right now. You’re looking at it right now, sir. Everything that’s going on right now is happening right now.” “Yes, and the past?” “It’s over.” “Since when?” “Since now. We are now in the now.” “Back in time.” “And when?” “Now.” “Now?” “Now.” “No can do.” “Why not?” “It’s over.” “Since when?” “Since now.” “When is that going to happen now?” “Soon enough.”

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When Spaceballs came to the cinemas in 1987, international critics weren’t too happy with it, the audience didn’t care – if it came at all. In this country, at least Der Spiegel was gracious: “Lovable slapstick, peppered with persiflages of popular science fiction offsets.”

In the USA the film made only 38 million US dollars. But when it came out on VHS, it became a huge success. As late as 1993, Brooks said that he was still getting the most royalties on Spaceballs.

Science fiction fans fell in love with this wonderful persiflage, which not only picks out Star Wars, but also Planet of the Apes, Alien (even with a guest appearance by John Hurt, who once again has the monster jumping out of his chest), Star Trek and some other movies.

Over the years, there have been repeated attempts to make a sequel. Mel Brooks even thought about avoiding the second part and finishing the trilogy with Spaceballs 3 – In Search of Part 2. In the end, however, such a project would have become more and more expensive due to the required effects.

In 2008, there were only Spaceballs – The Animated Series, which takes the prequel saga for a ride, but suffers from the fact that the animation is meagre and the only person from the original cast is Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa.

Spaceballs [Blu-ray]

33 years later, Spaceballs is still the best science fiction comedy of all time, which has also found new audiences in the course of new Star Wars movies over the years.

And one thing you should never forget:

if you can read that, you don’t need a BRILL.

Further reading: Patrick McGilligan: Funny Man Mel Brooks and
James Robert Parish: It’s Good to Be King – The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks

Read the original article here.