Princess Vespa: I am Princess Vespa, daughter of Roland, King of the Druids.
Lone Starr: Oh great. That’s all we needed. A Druish princess.
Barf: Funny, she doesn’t look Druish.
In Hollywood, parody is perhaps one of the more sincere forms of admiration. Every major film genre has inspired at least one well-intentioned parody, and for many years writer-director Mel Brooks was the undisputed King of Hollywood Spoofs.
Brooks’ best films in this category are “Blazing Saddles” (a spoof of Westerns) and “Young Frankenstein,” his hilarious black-and-white take on Universal’s 1930s Frankenstein franchise.
Both of these films launched frequent Brooks’ collaborator Gene Wilder into comic-leading man stardom for a while, and no other Brooks film since has been as successful or laugh-till-your-sides-ache funny, although a few of his later parody-driven films still amusing and worth a look.
One of the latter is 1987’s “Spaceballs,” which takes on the sci-fi/space opera genre – specifically the “Star Wars” saga – and takes every cliché and plot device used in those films.
Beginning with a “Star Wars”-inspired title crawl, “Spaceballs” crams references from the original “Star Wars” Trilogy and tosses in bits of “Star Trek,” “Alien” and everything in between.
Bill Pullman (Lone Starr) fares well as a cross between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, who flies across the stars on his Space Winnebago. His copilot and pal Barf (the late, great John Candy) is a “mawg” – half man, half dog – who’s his “own best friend.”
Together, this odd duo is caught up in the slight plot pitting the evil Spaceballs against the peaceful (if rather bland) inhabitants of Planet Druidia. The Spaceballs want to steal the Druids’ air, and under the command of Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), they send a huge starship to carry out their dastardly plan.
But when they abduct Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) as she flees her own wedding, the Spaceballs get more than what they bargained for. Feisty and bratty, she proves to be more than a match for Dark Helmet, and when she is rescued by Lone Starr and Barf, all kinds of fireworks explode.
The cast is rounded out by Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (as the voice of Vespa’s droid Dot Matrix) and Mel Brooks in a double role, the Spaceballs’ incompetent President Skroob and the wise sage Yogurt.
As in all Mel Brooks’ films of this vein, the gags are fast, furious and are a mixture of salacious humor, ridiculous one-liners, in-jokes and visual puns. Some are ho-hum, but there are enough funny bits in this movie to make it watchable.
Spaceballs: The DVD (and Blu-ray)!
MGM Home Entertainment and its successor, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, have released several editions of “Spaceballs” on digital video formats since 2000.
The original DVD edition comes in a dual-format disc with both the widescreen version and a “standard” full screen version. This was MGM’s attempt to please two constituencies: purists who like seeing movies in theatrical release format and viewers who preferred pan-and-scan editions modified to fit standard analog TVs.
This version, which is still available at Amazon and other venues, has only a few extras for viewers to enjoy:
· Audio Commentary by Mel Brooks
· Special Behind-the-Scenes Footage
· Original Theatrical Trailer
In 2009, MGM’s corporate owner 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment reissued “Spaceballs” in a Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo under its MGM label. This version eschewed the dual-side DVD and did not include any extra features.
The latest version of “Spaceballs” is 2012’s 25th Anniversary Blu-ray-only edition. As is often the case with Special Edirions or Anniversary Editions, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment loaded the one-disc set with an improved set of extras.
Spaceballs: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray) Special Features
· “Force Yourself! Spaceballs and the Skroobing of Sci-Fi” featurette
· Commentary by Mel Brooks
· Additional Commentary Tracks (Mawgese and Dinkese)
· “Spaceballs: The Documentary” featurette
· “In Conversation: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan” featurette
· “John Candy: Comic Spirit” featurette
· “Watch the Movie in Ludicrous Speed” featurette
· Still Galleries
· Film Flubs