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Film / Silent Movie

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Silent Movie is a 1976 comedy directed by Mel Brooks. Advertised as "the first silent film in forty years", its All-Star Cast includes Brooks himself (the first of several leads he'd write for himself), Dom De Luise, Marty Feldman, Sid Caesar, Anne Bancroft, Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Marcel Marceau and Paul Newman.

It tells the story of director Mel Funn, attempting, with the help of his friends Dom Bell and Marty Eggs, to direct the first silent film in forty years, by hiring stars Anne Bancroft, Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Marcel Marceau and Paul Newman to play in it, in order to prevent a hostile takeover on his producer's company, Big Pictures Studio, by the evil conglomerate Engulf & Devour. Hilarity and over the top Slapstick ensue.

The movie officially holds the Guinness World Record as the sound film with the least spoken dialogue— a single one-syllable word, produced at the funniest possible moment from the least likely person. Let's just say, the whole movie may or may not be just an elaborate and clever setup to the funniest verbal joke involving a famous French mime ever.

Unrelated to Scary Movie or the Seltzer and Friedberg "Movie Movies", although the naming convention is broadly similar. For the medium this film tips its hat to, see Silent Movie.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: Most of the celebrities portray over-the-top versions of themselves. Burt Reynolds is a complete narcissist who has a mirror he stares at in the shower and winks at. Paul Newman is ready to race against anyone despite being in a wheelchair.
  • The Alcoholic: Mel was a brilliant filmmaker until his drinking problem caused his career to crash and burn. Now sobered up, he's trying to pitch his silent movie idea to get back in the business again. At one point in the film he falls Off the Wagon.
  • Aside Glance: Burt Reynolds does this when confronted by Funn, Bell, and Eggs in the old Totem Pole Trench guise.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: For a gag—"This was a true story." (Well, at some point Mel Brooks did recruit Burt Reynolds, Paul Newman, et. al. for the first silent movie in forty years...)
  • Bilingual Bonus: If you can lip read.
  • Big Eater: The fact that people are buying the giant chocolate bars and trash cans full of popcorn at the theater.
  • Big "NO!": The only spoken line of the film. Also silently given by Marty when Mel is reaching for a bottle of liquor. Mel responds with a Big "YES!".
  • Cake Toppers: The fantasy-segue into a gown-and-tails dance number atop a wedding cake.
  • The Cameo: Besides the big movie star cameos, other parts are filled with old comedians like Harry Ritz, Charlie Callas, and legendary Borscht Belt standup Henny Youngman (the "there's a fly in my soup" guy).
  • Casting Gag: The only spoken word of dialogue in the entire movie comes from Marcel Marceau, the world's most famous mime.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • The movie theater has a poster for Young Frankenstein, starring Marty Feldman and directed by Mel Brooks.
    • Anne Bancroft stars as herself, but doesn't seem to comment on how much Mel Funn looks like her husband.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A faulty Coca-Cola vending machine which is later used as an improvised grenade launcher.
    • Showing the steam roller before the Totem Pole Trench guise.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Marty. Unusual because he's also a Casanova Wannabe.
  • Clown Car: In the hospital Marty is swept away by about 60 doctors and nurse getting off a small elevator.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Over the phone, Mel Funn pitches his silent movie to Marcel Marceau and asks if he'll be in it. Marceau gives an emphatic "Non!" and immediately hangs up. The others ask Funn what Marceau said, and Funn replies, "I don't speak French."
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Vilma buys time for Mel and his friends to recover the stolen movie by doing her sexy dance routine in front of the people who had come for the screening. They initially give her immediate applause, but by the time she's swinging on a rope in front of the curtain, they're getting restless.
  • Droste Image: When the newspaper vendor is wiped out by a bundle, a headline says "Newspaper Vendor Struck Down By Bundle Of Papers Again", and the picture shows...that same paper, with that same headline.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • Femme Fatale: Vilma Kaplan was hired by Engulf & Devour to seduce Mel. She gets a Sex–Face Turn and falls in love with him, though.
  • Funny Background Event
  • Fun with Subtitles:
    • The DVD has separate audio tracks for English, French and Spanish, and subtitles.
      [No Audible Dialog]
      [No Audible Dialog Continues]
    • The text dialogue shown on-screen doesn't always match what the actor is mouthing. Most notably, after Marty gets attacked by a woman outside a maternity hospital for making a sleazy comment to her, he gets back in the car with Mel and Dom, and Mel can clearly be seen mouthing "You sick son of a bitch!" The intertitle changes this to "You bad boy!"
  • Gigantic Gulp: Mel Funn at one point drinks from a bottle of whiskey almost as big as he is.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Marcel Marceau delivers his (and the film's) only line of dialogue in his native French, even though he is also fluent in English, reportedly at his own insistence. This, of course, technically means that all of the film's dialogue is in a foreign language.
  • Groin Attack: When Dom Bell tries to stop the soda can from exiting out either side of the vending machine.
    "It is the real thing!" note 
  • Heart Beats out of Chest: Spoofed when Mel sees his girlfriend perform on stage, because it's actually some kind of frog in his jacket.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After being driven off the wagon, Funn is actually able to lift Eggs into the air when the latter tries to stop him.
    • Although we later see the bottles he drinks from, which contain dozens of gallons and must weigh hundreds of pounds, so he might just have Addiction-Powered super-strength.
  • Idea Bulb: With a real light bulb.
  • In Love with the Mark: Vilma was hired by Engulf and Devour to sabotage Mel's project. She ends up falling for him for real and quits working for the villains.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: Mr Devour jumps on an unexploded can of Coca-Cola to protect Mr Engulf.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When meditating on how it will be difficult to get the studio to approve a silent movie.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: Over a still photo of New York City, the orchestra plays "San Francisco," only to have the conductor (famous movie maestro Lionel Newman) cue them out, instruments trailing off in the process. With a tap of his baton, the orchestra switches to "We'll Have Manhattan."
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo only appears a few minutes into the movie, in a billboard.
  • MacGuffin: The movie. The whole film is about the pre-production and first screening of the titular Silent Movie, but at no point is any actual scene from the movie shown, either in shooting or in screening, so the only thing the audience ever learns about the movie is that it's silent. Unless one believes that the reason the film claims to be a true story is because we're watching a movie about the making of the very movie we're watching.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Funn, Eggs, and Bell are subjected to this twice by the same duo of women. That said, they were essentially dry humping each other in public the first time.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Bernadette Peters as Vilma Kaplan.
  • Murphy's Bed: Various gags during the motel scene; the trope is also lampshaded by a sign at the motel itself.
    Featuring Murphy Beds: Charming to the unsophisticated.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted; not only do the various celebrities in the movie cameo as themselves, but they are portrayed in a caustically self-parodying way; Burt Reynolds in particular is presented as an immense Narcissist, who stops before mirrors to strike poses and has a giant billboard with his name and photo on his house.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The only copy of the movie is the one which is to be shown at the preview, so when the Big Bad steals it, it leads to The Chase and the Final Battle.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Bernadette Peters again.
  • Off the Chart: The line tracking Big Picture's profits has dropped off the chart and onto the couch below. This is why they were in danger of a hostile takeover from Engulf & Devour.
  • Off the Wagon: Mel does a spectacular plunge off the wagon after finding out that Vilma is a spy.
  • Overly Prepared Gag: The entire movie can be read as a set up for "only word spoken is from a mime" gag. If this was intentional, it may have the single longest set up for a punchline ever.
  • Parody Name: Engulf & Devour is named for Gulf + Western, which had bought Paramount Pictures a decade prior.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Mel uses this on a can of Coke during the Coke Machine Mortar section of the finale. The soda can actually functions like a grenade instead of just spraying soda all over Mel's face.
  • Punny Name: Dom DeLuise's character is named "Dom Bell" ("dumbell").
  • Running Gag: That poor newspaper vendor.
  • Shower Scene: Mel and his friends first attempt to recruit Burt Reynolds for the film by sneaking into his house, walking in on him while he's showering, and helping him lather up. This unsurprisingly causes Burt to freak out.
  • Silence Is Golden: Of course. The first major Silent Movie release since Modern Times in 1936, and the last until The Artist in 2011.
  • Silent Movie: Not only is it named that, it (almost) is onenote .
  • Something Else Also Rises: When the Engulf & Devour boardmembers are shown a photograph of Bernadette Peters (again, Yummy), as the woman who would be sent to seduce Funn, the table they're sitting at rises several inches.
  • Squashed Flat: The steamroller outside Burt Reynolds' house runs over the Totem Pole Trench, but the middle guy had already escaped. This causes the driver to faint.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Marcel Marceau played a character who talks a lot in 1968's Barbarella but still, yeah, in this one he's doing his more usual mime act. Supposedly, Mel Brooks asked him to say "NO!", but Marceau insisted on saying "NON!" because, well, he is French.
  • Take Our Word for It: We never actually see the silent movie being produced, despite the fact that saving the film canister from being destroyed is a major plot point.
  • Take That!: The company "Engulf and Devour" is a jab at Gulf+Western, a conglomerate which at the time owned Paramount. (Unsurprisingly, Paramount didn't do Silent Movie.)
  • Tempting Fate: The Studio Chief, when he initially rejects Funn's movie idea.
    Studio Chief: Don't you know that slapstick is DEAD?!
    [The chief immediately slips, falls under his desk, and is propelled by his chair into an object on the other side of the room]
  • Title Drop: All over the place. After all, it is about Mel Broo.. I mean, Mel Funn, trying to make a silent movie.
  • Toilet Humor: While riding a carousel, Vilma's horse takes a crap. It poops out toy wooden blocks.
  • Undercrank: Frequently used as a facet of the silent-movie style, with sped-up exaggerated motion.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Inverted, as not only the characters do notice the numerous Funny Background Events, but they clearly show signs of being surprised and bemused by what they see.
  • Vanity License Plate: Mel's simply says "FUNN".
  • Vengeful Vending Machine: The three protagonists encounter a Coca Cola vending machine that fires out cans of soda like grenades. They later use it as a weapon against the villains.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: A rather disturbing male version of this trope when Marty pulls a wad of cash out of his underwear.
    Mel Funn: You need to get a wallet.
  • Video Credits: For the celebrity cameos only.
  • Visual Pun: The prime source of most of the humor outside of pure Slapstick. Of note are the "they're gonna flip!" and sneak preview scenes.
  • Wacky Racing: With electric wheelchairs, in a hospital.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Eggs and Bell are clearly part of Funn's Production Posse, but since the actual filming of the movie is never shown, they are never depicted doing their jobs, whatever they are.
  • Wheelchair Antics: Mel and his boys are pursuing Paul Newman through a hospital Newman's in. All chairs are motorized, but only Newman actually needs his.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Banner headlines whenever Funn signs an actor for his movie. With secondary headlines over the newspaper saleman getting hit with the paper bundles... again.
  • Zany Scheme: Parodied; the absurd strategies Mel and his friends use to contact the stars and get them to play in the movie always work. When they use a straight approach, it always fails. Though it appears that Burt Reynolds at least only agrees to do the film so they'll stop bugging him.