The Twelve Chairs

12chairs

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel Dvenadtsat stulyev by Ilya Ilf

The Soviet Union, 1927: A chair with jewels sewn in the seat cushion and three men who are trying to find it.

Oh, but that does not do this wonderful movie justice. Firstly, this is one of the four really good movies that Mel Brooks did (the other three being The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein)*…and has been an Otter Family Favorite since this otter, at least, was a teenager. In fact, we watched this movie with a friend who had never seen it…and when I was taking the dvd out to put it into the machine, Mr. Otter and I both simultaneously burst into our own tuneful rendition of the theme song, which is truly one of the best movie theme songs ever.**

And oh, what a joy to see it again, and to see it with someone for whom it was new, and who really got it.

Secondly: the cast. Ron Moody, a fine actor anyway (although, unhappily, best known for playing Fagin in Oliver!) is the ex-aristocrat Ipaulit Vorobyanninov, desperate to retrieve his family’s jewels and a measure of his former wealthy and aristocratic state.

Frank Langella, who was a SERIOUS honey in the 1970s, plays the cold and manipulative peasent Ostap Bender.

Oh, my. Frank Langella. He was SO BEAUTIFUL in the seventies…this and Dracula were the only two things I saw him in, but, well, WOOF! Need I say more?

He’s worked steadily in all kinds of things, lately as the president of the network in Good Night, and Good Luck.…no, he’s not beautiful any more…still good looking, for a guy who’s pushing seventy, and still has the most lovely voice, though.

And Dom DeLuise, who can just be embarrassingly unfunny, is here perfect as the priest who is also willing to do whatever it takes to get the jewels.

Of course Mel Brooks has a cameo, but again, it’s funny. Really funny.

The setting, in post-Revolutionary Russia, is wonderful. And the script is good, short, to the point, full of good lines that we quote even now chez otter, like “Never hit a policeman. Never, ever hit a policeman.”

Anyway. Buy it, rent it, watch it, love it. This movie is a gem.

*Yes, Silent Movie and High Anxiety were pretty funny. Not brilliant, but good. And I did like To Be or Not To Be, mostly because Brooks followed the original script very closely. But when you’re talking about real, honest-to-god, split your sides laughing, everybody must see these Mel Brooks movies…those are the four.

And don’t even get me started about History of the World Part I…

**Well, all the googling I could think of has resulted in nothing…I don’t think anyone has posted the lyrics of this song, so I guess it’s up to me…

Hope For The Best, Expect the Worst
Lyrics and music by Mel Brooks

Hope for the best, expect the worst,
Some drink champagne, some die of thirst.
No way of knowing which way we’re going,
Hope for the best, expect the worst.

Hope for the best, expect the worst,
The world’s a stage, we’re unrehearsed.
Some reach the top, friend, while others flop, friend,
Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid
Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it
Shouting, Live while you’re alive!
No one will survive!
Life is sorrow, here today and gone tomorrow
Live while you’re alive
No one will survive
There’s no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst,
You could be Tolstoy, or Fanny Hurst
So take your chances, there are no answers,
Hope for the best, expect the worst.

I knew a man who saved a fortune that was splendid
Then he died the day he planned to go and spend it
Shouting, Live while you’re alive!
No one will survive!
Life is funny, drink your wine and spend your money
Live while you’re alive
No one will survive
There’s no guarantee.

Hope for the best, expect the worst,
The rich are blessed, the poor are cursed.
That is a fact, friend. The deck is stacked, friend.
Hope for the best, expect the worst.

Even with a good beginning
It’s not certain that you’re winning
Even with the best of chances
Fate can kick you in the pantses

Look out for the
Watch out for the
Worst.

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