Spaceballs

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Spaceballs
Spaceballs.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks
Thomas Meehan
Ronny Graham
Starring Bill Pullman
John Candy
Rick Moranis
Mel Brooks
Daphne Zuniga
Dick Van Patten
Joan Rivers
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Nick McLean
Editing by Conrad Buff
Studio Brooksfilms
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • June 24, 1987 (1987-06-24)
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22.7 million[1]
Box office $38,119,483[2]

Spaceballs is a 1987 American comic science fiction parody film co-written and directed by Mel Brooks and starring Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy and Rick Moranis. It also features Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, and the voice of Joan Rivers. It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 24, 1987, and was met with a mixed reception. It later became a cult classic[3] on video and one of Brooks's most popular films. Its plot and characters parody the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as other sci-fi franchises including Star Trek, Alien, and the Planet of the Apes films.

Plot[edit]

Planet Spaceball, led by the incompetent President Skroob (Brooks), has wasted all of its air. Skroob schemes to steal air from the planet Druidia by kidnapping the daughter of King Roland (Van Patten), Princess Vespa (Zuniga), on the day of her pre-arranged wedding to the narcoleptic Prince Valium. Skroob sends Dark Helmet (Moranis) to complete this task with Spaceball One, an impossibly huge ship helmed by Colonel Sandurz. Before they can arrive, Vespa herself abandons her marriage and flees the planet in her personal Mercedes spaceship along with her Droid of Honor, Dot Matrix (Rivers).

King Roland contacts mercenary Lone Starr (Pullman) and his mawg (half-man, half-dog) sidekick, Barf (Candy), offering a lucrative reward to retrieve Vespa before she is captured. Lone Starr readily accepts, as he is in major debt with the space gangster Pizza the Hutt. Lone Starr and Barf, in their Winnebago space ship (Eagle 5), reach Vespa before Spaceball One, rescue both her and Dot, and escape into hyperspace. Running out of fuel, they crash on the nearby "desert moon of Vega", and find their way to a cave occupied by the wise and old Yogurt (Brooks). Yogurt introduces Lone Starr to the power of "The Schwartz". Yogurt also introduces the audience to the film's merchandising campaign, which becomes prevalent throughout the rest of the film. During their respite on the moon, Lone Starr and Vespa begin to flirt, but Vespa insists she can only be married to a prince.

Spaceball One, by breaking the fourth wall (by obtaining a VHS copy of the film and fast-forwarding to the part where the heroes crash-land), tracks down Lone Starr, captures Vespa, and returns with her to planet Spaceball. The Spaceballs threaten to reverse Vespa's nose job, forcing Roland to give over the code to the shield that protects Druidia. Dark Helmet takes Spaceball One to Druidia, and transforms the ship into Mega Maid, a giant robotic maid with a vacuum cleaner that begins sucking the air from the planet. Lone Starr, after repairing his ship and training in the Schwartz with Yogurt's help, races to planet Spaceball to rescue Vespa, and then returns to Druidia, using the Schwartz to reverse the robot's sucking action and returning the air to the planet. Lone Starr and his allies enter the Mega Maid to attempt to destroy the robot. Lone Starr is forced to fight against Dark Helmet near the ship's self-destruct button, and manages to best him, causing Dark Helmet to accidentally strike it himself. Lone Starr and his friends escape the ship, while Skroob, Dark Helmet, and Colonel Sandurz fail to reach any escape pods in time, and are left stranded aboard the robot's head as it explodes. They land on a nearby planet, much to the regret of its ape population.

His debt to Pizza nullified after the gangster's untimely death, Lone Starr returns Vespa to Roland and leaves, taking only enough money to cover his expenses. After a lunch break at a diner, he finds a final message from Yogurt informing him that he is a prince and thus eligible to marry Vespa. Lone Starr reaches Druidia in time to stop her wedding to Valium, announces his royal lineage, and marries Vespa himself.

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

When Mel Brooks developed Spaceballs, he wanted his parody to be as close to the original as possible. Ironically, however, even though Yogurt mentioned merchandising during the movie, Brooks's deal with George Lucas on parodying Star Wars was that no Spaceballs action figures be made. According to Brooks, "[Lucas] said, 'Your [action figures] are going to look like mine.' I said OK."[4][5]

Brooks also had Lucas's company handle the post-production of Spaceballs, saying, "I was playing ball with the people who could have said no." Lucas later sent Brooks a note saying how much he loved Spaceballs and that he "was afraid [he] would bust something from laughing."[5]

Bill Pullman got the part of Lone Starr when Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft saw a play that he was in. Brooks had been unsuccessfully trying to sign on big-name actors such as Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks for the film. Pullman said, "I think [Mel] was hurt that they didn't take him up on it... but then it attract[ed] two of the big comics at that time: John Candy and Rick Moranis. Once that was secured, then he said, 'heck, I'll get somebody nobody knows!' And I got a chance to do it."[6]

Daphne Zuniga initially found Brooks's movie parodies "too crass and not too funny," but after working with Brooks, she said, "I have this image of Mel as totally wacko and out to lunch. And he is. But he's also really perceptive, real sensitive in ways that make actors respond."[7]

Music[edit]

When the film was released, Spaceballs: The Soundtrack was also released on Atlantic Records, featuring many of the songs heard in the film, as well as three score cues by composer John Morris.

For the "19th Anniversary", La-La Land Records released a "limited edition" CD presenting the score in its entirety for the first time, with bonus tracks featuring alternate takes and tracks composed for, but not used in the film.[8]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Spaceballs Main Title Theme" by John Morris
  2. "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" by Jeffrey Osborne and Kim Carnes
  3. "Heartstrings" by Berlin
  4. "Spaceballs Love Theme" (Instrumental) by John Morris
  5. "The Winnebago Crashes"/"The Spaceballs Build Mega-Maid" by John Morris
  6. "Spaceballs" by The Spinners
  7. "Hot Together" by The Pointer Sisters
  8. "Good Enough" by Van Halen
  9. "Wanna Be Loved by You" by Ladyfire
  10. "Raise Your Hands" by Bon Jovi (Hidden track)

Characters and parodies[edit]

Heroes[edit]

  • Captain Lone Starr combines traits from Star Wars's two male heroes, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), as well as Indiana Jones (also Ford). His name is derived from Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series and the "Lone Star State" of Texas, as well as being a parody on the last names of the two heroes of Star Wars, Solo (Lone) and Skywalker (Star). He hails from the Ford Galaxy, in reference to Harrison Ford (who played Han Solo), and also a play on the Ford Galaxie, a car made by the Ford Motor Company. Lone Starr's costume is intentionally misplaced, resembling a Colonial Warrior from Battlestar Galactica and Ford's Indiana Jones costume (he is seen wearing a cowboy hat in his first scene, which is set aside and not seen for the remainder of the film) rather than that of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker.
  • Barf (Barfolomew) is an obvious parody of Star Wars's Wookiees and more specifically Chewbacca. He is a "mog" - half man, half dog. The Russian translation was rendered as "chelobakka", a portmanteau of words "chelovek" (a man) and "sobaka" (a dog) also spoofing the name Chewbacca.
  • Their ship Eagle 5 is a modified Winnebago RV. Its shabby state resembles the Millennium Falcon. The seal for the Eagle 5 is a parody of the Apollo 11 patch. The bumper sticker says I ♥ Uranus. "Eagle 5" is also a reference to Space: 1999, as the spacecraft used in that series were called "Eagles".
  • Yogurt, a parody of Frank Oz’s Jedi master Yoda, is a sage with deep knowledge of the mysterious power called the Schwartz. He speaks with an exaggerated Yiddish accent and his bombastic entrance resembles that of the wizard in The Wizard of Oz.
  • The Dinks, a group of red-clad little people who resemble the Jawas from Star Wars, assist Yogurt in his work, particularly merchandising, where the "real money from the movie is made". When first seen, they are singing a version of the "Colonel Bogey March" from The Bridge on the River Kwai as a reference to Sir Alec Guinness who played the main character in The Bridge on the River Kwai as well as the role of Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV.

Druidians[edit]

  • Princess Vespa resembles Princess Leia in her noble heritage and her love/hate relationship with Lone Starr/Han Solo. Her name references the motor scooter Vespa, which is Italian for "wasp." She is a Druish princess (a play on Jewish princess), a caricature of a spoiled young Jewish-American woman. She was spoiled by her father and is used to a life of luxury, which includes a Mercedes-Benz spaceship. Her hooked nose was changed by rhinoplasty as a 16th birthday present. In one scene, she appears to have a hairstyle similar to Princess Leia in Star Wars, but it is revealed that she is actually wearing a pair of earphones.
  • King Roland, Vespa's father, dotes on his beloved daughter, but nonetheless requires her to marry the "last prince in the galaxy". Upon the Spaceballs' attack on Vespa's Mercedes spaceship, King Roland hires Lone Starr and Barf and requests that "if at all possible, try to save the car".
  • Dot Matrix, Vespa's droid-of-honor, resembles C-3PO, whose placid nature is only broken by her dedication to keeping Vespa safe, and maintaining Vespa's virginity. Her name is a reference to the old dot matrix-style printers.
  • Prince Valium, takes his name from the title character in the comic strip Prince Valiant, but combines it with the sedative, Valium, to explain his narcolepsy. He is referred to as "a pill" by Dot and "Sleeping Beauty" by Yogurt.

Spaceballs[edit]

  • President Skroob appears to be a parody of a modern American president, in the scene where he is caught in bed with the twins by Commanderette Zircon he pretends to be reading a book about Richard Nixon. His name is an anagram of "Brooks", but also resembles the verb to screw (to cheat) and Ebenezer Scrooge, and is also a play on screwball comedy. According to Brooks, he initially wanted the character's name to be "Brooks" spelled backward (Skoorb); however, that name was not well-liked by him, leading to Skroob.
  • Dark Helmet is an obvious parody of Darth Vader. He resembles Darth Vader in appearance, but is shorter and has a much larger helmet (he changes into a khaki uniform and an equally oversized pith helmet during the desert scene). Similar to his namesake, Dark Helmet serves as the main antagonist of the film, speaks in a deep bass voice, and breathes audibly - until he lifts his helmet to reveal his bespectacled face and normal voice. He is the commander of the Spaceballs' "Imperious Forces" and uses "the Schwartz" to discipline his subordinates, not by using force grip to strangle them (as with Darth Vader), but by crushing their testicles. Vader's relationship to Luke Skywalker is parodied by Helmet declaring himself Lone Starr's "father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate". He frequently breaks the fourth wall and in one scene refers to the actual VHS tape of Spaceballs (which is pulled off a shelf filled with other Mel Brooks films, like Blazing Saddles and Silent Movie).
  • Colonel Sandurz[9] is a parody of the leading Imperial Officers from Star Wars, such as General Veers and Admiral Piett or Moff Jerjerrod. Most likely, he could be the parody of Grand Moff Tarkin since he was partnered with Darth Vader in the first Star Wars film, as Colonel Sandurz is with Dark Helmet. 'Colonel' is his rank. 'Kernel' is his real name, however. His name is a pun on KFC's founder Colonel Sanders. At one point, Dark Helmet taunts him into action by saying, "What's the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?"
  • Snotty, who operates the transporter in planet Spaceball's capital city, is a reference to Star Trek's engineer Scotty. His thick Scottish accent, stereotypical Scottish attire (kilt and Tam o' Shanter) and his referring to "Loch Lomond" also point to their common Scottish background.
  • Major Asshole and Gunner's Mate First Class Philip Asshole are two cross-eyed Spaceballs serving aboard the Spaceball One, both being generic parodies of Imperial personnel from the Star Wars films. Their family name is a reference to their apparent lack of intelligence, and their cross-eyed appearance may be a parody of generic soldiers being unable to shoot a hero in various franchises. When asked how many Assholes are on the ship, nearly everyone on the bridge (except one, who turns and looks around at the crew of Assholes, apparently confused about what is going on) raises their hands, stands up and shouts "Yo!", leading Dark Helmet to exclaim, "I knew it! I'm surrounded by Assholes!" followed by "keep firing, Assholes!" (In the edited-for-T.V. version, the word "asshole" is either replaced with "moron" or cut out completely.)
  • Commanderette Zircon is a dominating female Spaceball officer and the head of Central Control in Spaceball City. She perpetually keeps in touch with President Skroob via videophones on various walls, surprising him when he is in bed with twin young women, and even when he is in the bathroom. (President Skroob had told her never to call him on that wall, as it was an "unlisted wall.") Like Sandurz, she appears to be a parody of various Imperial officers.
  • The Captain of the Guard is an effeminate officer who appears briefly as the Head of Security of Spaceball City, and accidentally captures the stunt-doubles of the heroes.
  • Radar Operator: The man who operates the radar is able to mimic realistic sound effects with his voice, much like many other Winslow characters, in particular the character Larvell Jones in the Police Academy franchise.
  • Spaceballs: The grunt soldiers under Dark Helmet's command. They are similar to Stormtroopers, but have cue ball-shaped helmets. Their name is likely a portmanteau of space and the slang term for testicles, as the Spaceballs cover their nether regions with their hands (as if Dark Helmet was threatening any one of them) repeatedly during the film. "Spaceballs" is also used as an expletive during the film, much as "balls" would be used. Colonel Sandurz also briefly uses the term as a euphemism of unknown origin when he tells one of the soldiers who tells him that planet Druida is in sight (after telling Sandurz that the reason he was there was in fact, to tell him just that and proceeded to do so), "You're really a Spaceball."

Spaceball One[edit]

The Spaceballs' weapon of conquest, Spaceball One, is a powerful spaceship and the equivalent of the Death Star in the movie, although in appearance it much more closely resembles an Imperial Star Destroyer. The opening scene with the ridiculously long, wide angle continuous shot of Spaceball One is an homage to the opening scene of Star Wars—which itself is an homage to the first shot of the Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The length of the ship may also be an homage to the Nostromo of Alien, or the Sador's ship in the Roger Corman film Battle Beyond The Stars. Its shape resembles the battlestar Galactica and the Super Star Destroyers, while its name is a pun on Air Force One, the U.S. president's airplane. The Spaceballs' attitude toward others is expressed by the ship's large bumper sticker: "We brake for nobody." In the DVD commentary, Mel Brooks mentions that he wanted the introductory 'spaceship' scene to be much longer, but changed his mind when it was pointed out that at the length he wanted, that one scene would become the entire movie.

The ship's absurd size is a frequent point of reference:

  • The ship is so large that it contains a shopping mall, a zoo, and a three-ring circus (complete with a freak show).
  • When shown on a radar, it takes up almost half the screen, while other spaceships appear as only dots.
  • The ship takes about 1 minute and 38 seconds to cross the screen at the beginning of the film. This is emphasized by the music theme (based on the musical theme from Jaws) which stops and resumes again several times, each time growing louder and louder (implying the orchestra is getting frustrated with the ship's endless length).
  • President Skroob is once forced to jog to the bridge in order to arrive before the end of the film. He references this by saying "The ship is too big. If I walk, the movie'll be over."

Spaceball One is capable of traveling at four different speeds: When a situation requires it to travel faster than its normal "sub-light" speed, it can accelerate to light speed, "ridiculous speed", and "Ludicrous Speed". When going to Ludicrous Speed, all crew members must use a seat belt for their own safety. Ludicrous Speed results in the ship leaving a trail of plaid, parodying the "warp trail" seen in the first few Star Trek films and 2001.

Spaceball One's secret weapon is its ability to transform, in parody of various transforming robot toys (Barf describes it as "a Transformer"), into Mega Maid, a colossal cleaning woman holding a gigantic vacuum cleaner used to extract air from other planets and take it back to planet Spaceball. It can also reverse that process, expelling air (thus changing modes from "suck" to "blow"). When Spaceball One begins to undergo its transformation into "Mega Maid," Dark Helmet exclaims "Ready, Kafka?", an allusion to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

The ship's destruction mixes-and-mashes the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi with that of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. Lone Starr's ship flies through a small hole in Mega Maid's ear to reach the self-destruct button, then escapes out the other ear only seconds before the ship explodes. Mega Maid's head, and the hand holding the vacuum-cleaner handle, crash on a nearby planet's sandy ocean beach with Sandurz, Skroob and Helmet still aboard (but escaping shortly after the landing), with the pieces resembling the Statue of Liberty as seen in the final scene of Planet of the Apes.

Other villains[edit]

  • Pizza the Hutt, named after the pizza restaurant chain, is a half-man, half-Pizza Mafioso and a parody of Jabba the Hutt. He forces Lone Starr to pay one million "space bucks" to him. By the end of the film, however, a "news segment" watched by Lone Starr and Barf reveals that Pizza got locked in his limousine and ate himself to death.
  • Hutt's Android companion Vinnie takes the place of the various courtiers and associates of Jabba, such as Bib Fortuna, but is metallic and likely references Boba Fett: the bounty hunter in the Star Wars films. He resembles a stereotypical gangster with an outlandish costume, and exhibits stuttering speech patterns and mannerisms similar to Max Headroom.

Other parodies[edit]

  • John Hurt appears in a restaurant scene where a small alien bursts out of his stomach, parodying his role as Kane in Alien. After the alien bursts out of his stomach, Hurt's character mutters despairingly "Oh no, not again!". The alien then dons a straw boater hat and does a vaudeville-style performance of "Hello! Ma Baby" down the length of the diner's bar, in a reference to Michigan J. Frog in the Warner Brothers Looney Tune "One Froggy Evening" (including using the audio from the cartoon) before zipping away.
  • When Lone Starr, Barf, Dot, and Princess Vespa enter the tomb, Dot gets scared and says, "Goodbye, folks! Lemme know how it turns out!" when Yogurt's statue blows out fire. This is a parody of the scene where Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tinman, and the Scarecrow meet the Great Oz in The Wizard of Oz.

The Schwartz[edit]

Primarily, "the Schwartz" is a play on "the Force", from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The lightsabers emanating from the Schwartz-rings held in front of the crotch are phallic symbols. Schwarz (an adjective) is German for "black" and a common Ashkenazic Jewish surname. The Light and Dark sides of the Force are parodied by being called the "up side" and the "down side". In the first episode of the animated series, the Dark Side is called "the Schwarz side of the Schwartz". The Schwartz maybe could be also a reference to FAO Schwartz, a toystore chain that at the time the official distributor of Star Wars toys(Infact, there's a part of the movie where Yogurt promotes the various Spaceballs merchandising). It has also been widely reported that "the Schwartz" is a reference to Mel Brooks's lawyer, Alan U. Schwartz.[10][11][12] The word is also reminiscent of the Yiddish word Schwanz, "tail", which is Yiddish/German slang for "penis". This is also implied by the phallic symbolism and jokes ("I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.")

Release[edit]

Box office[edit]

The budget for Spaceballs was an estimated $22.7 million. The film grossed $38,119,483 during its run in the United States, taking in $6,613,837 on its opening weekend, finishing behind Dragnet.[13]

Critical reception[edit]

A helmet from the film at a convention in Stockholm, Sweden.

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 54% of critics gave positive reviews based on 35 reviews with an average rating of 6.2/10.[14] At another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 46%, based on 14 reviews.[15] Many critics agreed that, while it was funny, doing a Star Wars parody ten years after the original film had been released seemed slightly pointless. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, and remarked "I enjoyed a lot of the movie, but I kept thinking I was at a revival. (Spaceballs) should have been made several years ago, before our appetite for Star Wars satires had been completely exhausted."[16]

Home media[edit]

Spaceballs was first made available on DVD on April 25, 2000. This version also contained "the making of..." documentary and the collectible "making-of" booklet. The film was then released in the "Collectors Edition" on May 3, 2005. This edition contained more extras including the documentary about the film and the video conversation about the making of the film with Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan. On August 7, 2012, the "25th Anniversary Edition" was released on Blu-ray containing many of the same bonus features as the 2005 DVD release with the addition of a new featurette.[17]

Sequel and animated series[edit]

Breaking the fourth wall, the possibility of a sequel was already included in the film itself, with Yogurt's quote: "God willing, we'll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money". In September 2004, news about a sequel, parodying the Star Wars prequel trilogy, appeared on the internet.[18] A follow on to Spaceballs was eventually developed[19][20] into an animated television show which debuted in September 2008 as Spaceballs: The Animated Series on G4 and the Canadian Super Channel.

Rick Moranis claimed in an interview that he pitched a potential sequel idea to Mel Brooks called, "Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II." However, Moranis added that he and Brooks were unable to structure a deal that would allow the project to move forward.[21]

In 1989, the movie Martians Go Home was distributed in the Italian market as Balle Spaziali 2 - La vendetta (Balle Spaziali being the localized title of Spaceballs). The film has no connection to Spaceballs.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094012/business
  2. ^ "Spaceballs (1987)". Box Office Mojo. 1987-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  3. ^ "Spaceballs - Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards - AllRovi". Allmovie.com. 1987-06-24. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  4. ^ Patrick Carone (2013-02-06). "Interview: Icon Mel Brooks". Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  5. ^ a b Steve Heisler (2012-12-13). "Mel Brooks on how to play Hitler, and how he almost died making Spaceballs". www.avclub.com. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  6. ^ Ben Pearson. "Q&A with Actor Bill Pullman". geektyrant.com. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  7. ^ "Spaceballs". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2014-01-20. 
  8. ^ "''Spaceballs'' press release at La-La Land Records". Lalalandrecords.com. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  9. ^ Spaceballs at IMDb
  10. ^ David Margolick, "LAW: AT THE BAR; More lawyers are less happy at their work, a survey finds", New York Times, August 17, 1990.
  11. ^ David A. Kaplan, "Requiem for a law firm", Newsweek, January 7, 1991.
  12. ^ Emily Bryson York, "Writers' rights: L.A. attorney Alan Schwartz has represented Truman Capote and Mel Brooks," Los Angeles Business Journal, August 14, 2006.
  13. ^ "Spaceballs". boxofficemojo.com. 2006. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  14. ^ "Spaceballs Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 
  15. ^ "Spaceballs (1987): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  16. ^ "Spaceballs — rogerebert.com". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  17. ^ Katz, Josh (June 6, 2012). "Spaceballs: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  18. ^ Slashdot September 29, 2004
  19. ^ Elizabeth Guider, "'Spaceballs' rolls to TV", Variety, January 19, 2005.
  20. ^ "'Spaceballs' to become TV cartoon", CNN, September 21, 2006.
  21. ^ "Rick Moranis Discusses Sequels To ‘Spaceballs’ and Being Approached for ‘Ghostbusters 3′". slashfilm.com. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2013. 
  22. ^ "Balle spaziali 2 - MYmovies". Mymovies.it. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 

External links[edit]