“The Twelve Chairs” (1970)

IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH MEL BROOKS REVIEW: “The Twelve Chairs” stars Ron Moody (Oliver!, Murder Most Foul), Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, Captain Fantastic), Dom DeLuise (All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Secret of NIMH), Andreas Voutsinas (The Producers [1967], The Big Blue), and Mel Brooks (Silent Movie, The Muppets Movie). It is directed by Mel Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay. Based on a novel, this story follows a former aristocrat (Moody) who seeks after one specific chair in a set of twelve from his old mansion, after being told that it holds what is left of his riches inside. He is forced to enlist the help of a thief (Langella), and together they race for the chair in a wild adventure.

What to say about “The Twelve Chairs”…well, it sure is an original feature; that much I can tell you. Sophomore slumps are a common term in many jobs and forms of entertainment, and while Mel Brooks’ “Twelve Chairs” sports a few laughs, it definitely shows it’s crudeness. Many parts are dry, leaving behind an often sluggish adventure of three men trying to find one specific chair in a twelve piece set that contains treasure inside. It’s a road trip movie, but without the cars and slapstick humor (though there are some instances of physical comedy). Although I found it to be mediocre, I would probably respect “Twelve Chairs” more than the average moviegoer. Why? For a few reasons. First, the acting is really good. Say what you will about these performers, but I thought they did great, especially in their chemistry. The connection between Ron Moody and Frank Langella is what made this film. I enjoyed their bickering and comradery, and without them this film wouldn’t shine. Dom DeLuise and Mel Brooks also had clever roles, with both being the more comedic of all the actors; I found myself laughing at Brooks the most, especially when he fell down stairs. Secondly, the story is original. This is based on a novel, so Brooks didn’t come up with it himself, though it does fit his comedy. I’ve never seen a movie where a former rich guy, a beggar, and a bad priest go on the hunt for twelve chairs before, and I give props to the writers for making something fresh (even though this is coming from the 70s). The details in-between can be predictable, but most times it is not primarily because of how silly it can get. Anything can happen in this picture and I’m sure Brooks had fun making it. Lastly, I enjoyed the direction and location. Sure, there isn’t much to study when it comes to this movie’s directorial aesthetics, but Brooks did add some flavor to a few dull moments to make them comedic. One that I noticed was a vast amount of zoom-in shots. Brooks loved to keep the camera far away in this film, only to zoom into an actor’s face to get their expression on the matter. It’s a zany effect and often creates comedy without the script even being funny. Other stuff Brooks utilized was fast-motion and mid-shots to ensure that two actors would be equally in frame to get their points across. I can sense his style, even though it isn’t popping off the page. As with the locations, I really liked seeing the culture of Soviet Union owned countries. The way people looked, talked, and carried out their day-to-day activities was interesting, and Brooks highlighted this in his introduction credits. There are certainly some things to take from this feature, however these reasons may not be enough for everyone to enjoy it. I found myself becoming bored at times throughout the course of the flick because of how dry it can get. I’m a fan of dry humor, though often than not scenes weren’t funny. This left everything up to the story which, while original, didn’t hold enough weight to keep me consistently engaged. There are specific scenes I enjoyed as well as aesthetics that brought this production together, but overall it was a rather weak first entry. I’m sure that some people out there will find this to be cinema gold, and I respect that. I can see where someone finds this brilliant, but for me, I think it could’ve been done better. FINAL SCORE: 69%= Burnt Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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One response to ““The Twelve Chairs” (1970)

  1. Pingback: July Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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