The Spoof, or Parody, movie has long been a mainstay of the comedy genre. Though it offers writers and directors the chance to transcend the formula they are imitating there is a very fine line between success and failure. An understanding of the form is as important as a healthy disregard for it, and many of the examples below do push the genres they spoof to ridiculous extremes. As we usher in the release of The Starving Games on DVD and VOD this week we wanted to look back at past efforts of this enduring genre.
There’s a case to be made that some of the films gathered under the umbrella of the Parody Movie are so successful they become notable examples of the genre they spoofing. Edgar Wright’s films in particular are loving tributes to a their particular genre but in each case they become far more than a mockery. Shaun of the Dead was arguably the most interesting zombie film of the early days of the recent rebirth of the undead, while Hot Fuzz and The World’s End plunder the Buddy cop and Sci-fi genres with more than a little Britishness as well as being very funny; the importance is the Wicker Man comes with the wit.
We’ve taken a look back through the popular spoof movies of recent years, there are a few obvious choices omitted here- Airplane! is still a very, very good movie and survives though the targets of its loving ribaldry have long fallen out of fashion, however there are others which are not as well-known and so took its place. It was a toss-up between the Holy Grail and Life of Brian when it came to including a Python film – Holy Grail was our choice as it was a far more faithful rip-off than Brian whose central idea was more a parody of religious belief than of a Biblical saga.
Murder by Death ran out ahead of Clue as it is much more of a traditional spoof of a Whodunnit but if you’ve yet to discover Tim Curry’s definitive (non-terrifying clown) turn in Jonathan Lynn’s film then redress the state of affairs instantly. That the Murder-Mystery film was long overdue a ribbing, even in 1976, as the conventions of the form were so were set down that Neil Simon’s smart and surreal screenplay is still a lot of fun, and Maggie Smith, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk and Truman Capote himself is a formidable cast.
The films of Mel Brooks are also included here, and we’ve taken our choices from the good old days before the malaise of mockery set in (Blazing Saddles beat out Young Frankenstein but both are essential) and we found ourselves on the road to Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
So here are our favourite spoof movies, what did we miss?
Tim Burton’s cheeky foray into the sci-fi genre made for a very fun film, with dual roles for Jack Nicholson, a delightfully batty turn from Rod Steiger as a war-hungry military man and Tom Jones running through civilisation in a rapid state of collapse. That the twangy, sonorous tones of Slim Whitman is the key to the Aliens’ demise is just the short of nonsense which works so well here. Pierce Brosnan’s pipe-smoking Professor (in a foreshadowing of his time at another alien invasion in Edgar Wright’s The World’s End) is great fun, doing much to ruffle his very serious Bondian feathers at the time.
Who could forget the worrying menace of the Martian girl’s assault on Martin Short’s White House adviser? How strange is it that Martin Amis was involved in doing some script work? This is a welcome response to the slew of po-faced disaster films of the time, and at a time when global love for the shenanigans of Mulder and Scully was at an all time high Mars Attacks! is a great example of the timely parody film.
Favourite Scene: The intro is a pitch perfect evocation of the 50s rural America paranoia and the burning cattle is a Burtonesque flourish which the rest of the film could have done with. Danny Elfman’s theremin-induced score is also a work of parodic genius.