• Spaceballs (Kino Lorber) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 13th, 2021.
    Director: Mel Brooks
    Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, Joan Rivers, John Hurt
    Year: 1987
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    Spaceballs – Movie Review:

    Mel Brooks’ 1987 send up of the Star Wars films (and quite a few other science fiction movie properties!) tells us of the planet Spaceball, where the evil Spaceballs live. They have a problem in that the populace of the planet is very quickly running out of clean air to breath. The Spaceballs’ leader, President Skroob (played by Mel Brooks himself ) has decided to steal the air from a nearby planet called Druidia, but they’ve got a fancy shield surrounding their planet that is going to make it tough for the Spaceballs to steal much of anything. As luck would have it, Druidia's King Roland (Dick Van Patten) is preparing for the wedding of his daughter Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), who wants nothing to do with the arranged marriage.

    The lovely Princess Vespa and her droid Dot Matrix (Joan Rivers) flee their home planet to avoid marrying Prince Valium (Jim J. Bullock) – can you blame her? Sadly, they are soon captured by the leader of the Spaceball fleet, the sinister Dark Helmet (Rock Moranis). Helmet is intent on holding her hostage in order to get the air from Druidia that they need to survive. Thankfully, a pilot named Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half man/half dog companion , Barf (a scene stealing John Candy, may he rest in peace), with some help from strange Jewish magician named Yogurt (who teaches Lone Starr in the ways of The Schwarz), are on the case and out to save the day…. If they can avoid getting into hot water with Pizza The Hut (Dom Deluise).

    While earlier Brooks spoofs like Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety showed an obvious love for the films they were skewering, that type of affection is missing from Spaceballs. That’s not to say that the movie isn’t often times hilarious – because it is frequently very funny indeed - it’s just that the picture isn’t quite on the same level of parody. The jokes are quite frequently predictable and even sometimes blatantly obvious, which does take away from the picture a bit, but there are so many of them here that you can’t help but have a good time with the movie. If it’s a case of quantity over quality, so be it.

    Thankfully the cast here is quite good, with Pullman making a great substitute for Han Solo and Candy’s Barf (that just sounds funny) making a good replacement for Chewbacca. Zuniga is good as the Princess Leia character and Brooks is funny as Yogurt. Rick Moranis is flat out fantastic as the diminutive Dark Helmet, and the movie is worth seeing just for his work alone. Joan Rivers is also pretty great as the C-3PO-styled Dot Matrix (there’s a reference that hasn’t aged well).

    Brooks’ well-placed Jabs at the Star Wars films are plentiful, but digs at Alien, Planet Of The Apes and a few others are often times funnier, simply because they’re not as expected. The film’s got a pretty sizeable cult following, likely because of what it lampoons rather than how it does it, but it’s a fun and genuinely funny watch even if it’s not quite in the same league as his better films.

    Spaceballs – Blu-ray Review:

    Spaceballs arrives on UHD from Kino Lorber in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with HDR and it looks quite strong in 4k. Colors are frequently very impressive and detail is noticeably stronger than past home video released on DVD and Blu-ray. There are some small white specks noticeable here and there if you’re looking for them but most sane viewers won’t be, and as such they’ll probably mostly go unnoticed. There’s nice depth to the image from start to finish and the disc is free of any noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction related issues. Expect to see a fair bit of natural film grain throughout. Overall, this looks very good, picture quality is quite strong across the board.

    Audio chores are handled by your choice of a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track or a 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Again, we get a nice upgrade from the old DVD release. Dialogue is clean, clear and easily discernable throughout the movie while the score sounds nice and punchy. There’s a lot of power behind some of the sound effects, especially once that train starts barreling down the tracks, but at the same time the levels stay properly balanced and the track remains free of any audible hiss or distortion. The 5.1 mix spreads out the score and effects well enough while keeping the dialogue upfront.

    This fan favorite carries over all of the extras from the previous Blu-ray release, starting with a genuinely amusing commentary by Mel Brooks. This covers all of the basics that you’d hope it would – where a lot of the ideas came from, casting the picture, working with the different cast and crew members, thoughts on what works and what doesn’t and plenty more. Brooks is always worth listening to, this track is no exception to that rule. This commentary track is the only supplement on the UHD disc.

    The reset of the extras are on the included Blu-ray disc, starting with Force Yourself! Spaceballs And The Skroobing Of Sci-Fi. This seventeen-minute piece is essentially an interview with Brooks. It covers the obvious influence of Star Wars but also some of the other Sci-Fi movies that get skewered in the film. We get a quick overview of Brooks' career and his thoughts on the film overall, what it was like working with the different cast members on the production and quite a bit more.

    Up next is the half-hour Spaceballs: The Documentary, which is, as you could probably guess on your own, a documentary that takes a look at the making of the feature. It’s made up primarily of cast and crew interviews and it’s a nice look back at the film’s origins and its legacy. In Conversation: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan is a twenty-minute piece with writer/director Brooks and co-writer Meehan that covers the making of the picture. John Candy: Comic Spirit is a nice ten-minute tribute to the man who played Barf. The disc also includes the two-minute Film Flubs (essentially a blooper reel) and the thirty-second Watch Spaceballs In Ludicrous Speed featurette, which is a really, really fast version of the movie.

    Rounding out the extras are a storyboard to film comparison, an exhibitor trailer with an introduction from Brooks, a few image galleries, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, a few bonus trailers (The Producers, Life Stinks, Delirious and Once Upon A Crime), menus and chapter selection options. Kino also provides a collectible slipcover with this release as well as some nice reversible cover artwork.

    Spaceballs - The Final Word:

    Spaceballs is a notch or two below Brooks’ best work but it’s still a pretty funny movie. Kino’s UHD release doesn’t add anything new in terms of extra features but it does give the feature a really nice 4k transfers that looks quite a bit nicer than versions we’ve had before. All in all, it’s quite a strong package and is easily recommended to 4k-capable Brooks fans.

    Click on the images below for full sized Spaceballs Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      The Jon Voigt scene cracks me up just looking at the captures.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      I think you mean John Hurt, Mark.

      Unless the chestburster was played by an uncredited Jon Voight...
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      The John Hurt scene is brilliant.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I definitely meant John Hurt hahaha. Thanks, guys.

      Also, my sister worked with him and said he was lovely. Shame he was still smoking like a fiend right before he died.