The Twelve Chairs

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Ron Moody, Frank Langella, Dom DeLuise, Andreas Voutsinas, Diana Coupland
Rated: PG

The Twelve Chairs — based on a 1928 Russian novel — had seen service quite a few times when Mel Brooks made his version of it in 1970, the most famous being the 1945 Fred Allen film It’s in the Bag. Oddly, the Brooks version is a lot tamer than the Fred Allen version (one of the oddest films of the 1940s), and, in fact, is probably the closest Brooks ever came to making a “normal” film. That may also be why it’s largely ignored today — sandwiched between the classic The Producers and the brazenly outrageous Blazing Saddles.

“Normal” is a relative term, of course, but here Brooks attempts to tell a story in a more or less traditional manner — and he generally succeeds (his tendency to goose the humor with fast motion to one side). The story is serviceable farce material — a search for a set of dining room chairs, one of which contains a fortune in jewels. The pace is frenetic, befitting the material, and the playing of the great Ron Moody is dead on, even if Dom DeLuise doing his best Phil Silvers impression wears a little thin on occasion. The odd-couple friendship between Moody and Frank Langella works surprisingly well, but doesn’t equal the Zero Mostel-Gene Wilder pairing of The Producers. Yet it gives the film a heart that’s lacking in most of Brooks’ work.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “The Twelve Chairs

  1. accent chairs,

    “The Twelve Chairs” satirizes not only its central characters, but also the people and institutions they encounter: the operations of a Moscow newspaper, student housing, a provincial chess club, and so on. Through the process of elimination, the two finally discover the location of the last, 12th chair. The one containing the treasure.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.