On June 24th, 1987, one of Mel Brooks' absolute BEST films was released: Spaceballs -- the Hyperbole! Spaceballs has just celebrated its 30th anniversary this year! It is is the story of Princess Vespa, who is engaged to the boring Prince Valium (a real pill), who takes a powder on her wedding day. She brings along her trusty android Dot Matrix, as she drives her Mercades spaceship past The Planet Druidian air shields and away!
This prompts her father King Roland to call space adventurers Lone Star and Barf to intercede and bring the Princess Vespa back. They offer to do the job but only if King Roland will cough up ONE MILLION DOLLAR -- uh One Million SPACEBUCKS (Lone Star and Barf are in debt to the notorious gangster Pizza The Hut for exactly one million spacebucks. So, this works out nicely). When Lone Star and Barf track down the Princess and Dot they are caught in a tractor beam powered by the gigantic, huge, voluminous and just plain BIG Spaceballs space ship! Lone Star and Barf rescue the princess (and her matched luggage) as well as Dot.
Spaceballs President Skroob (an amalgam of the Brooks name) orders Spaceballs One's commanding officers Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz to find and capture Princess Vespa, so that they can use her as leverage in order to force King Roland to give them the combination to the air shields for Planet Druidia, so that they can steal their atmosphere (Planet Spaceballs' atmosphere has been sorely depleted due to Skroob's severe mismanagement). From there, Brooks' film moves into comedic high gear.
We meet Yogurt the Everlasting know-it-all, also played by Mel Brooks. Yogurt trains Lone Star in the ways of--the FORCE?? NO!! The SCHWARTZ!! Dark Helmet manages to capture Princess Vespa and Dot Matrix and cart them back to Spaceball One, with Lone Star in hot pursuit! The movie parodies even more vintage sci-fi films of the past (many people, even noted film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, state that Spaceballs was made about ten years too late. They say this because of the obvious Star Wars references. But, the Star Wars Trilogy is not the only respected and well-loved movies that Spaceballs riffs upon. There are Star Trek references, as well as references from ALIEN and THE PLANET OF THE APES).
Spaceballs was made on an estimated budget of $22.7 million dollars and the film took in a gross of $38,119,483 in the United States, and $6,613,837 on its opening weekend! There was a joke in the film that a sequel would be called: "Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money!" Rick Moranis, who played "Dark Helmet ", said in an 2013 interview, that Brooks wanted to call a possible sequel "Spaceballs 3: The Search For Spaceballs 2!"
Any sequel will, of course, not have a completed cast reunion, as several of the actors in the original film are deceased now. Lorene Yarnell, world famous mime who
was actually IN the Dot Matrix outfit, Joan Rivers, who was the voice of Dot Matrix, John Candy, who played the role of Barf, the half man/half dog (a "MOG! I'm my own best friend!"), Dick Van Patten, who was King Roland and Dom DeLuise who was the voice of Pizza The Hut have all died in the past thirty years! Bill Pullman, who played Lone Star, Daphne Zuniga, who played Princess Vespa, Lord Dark Helmet himself, Rick Moranis and George Wyner, who played Colonel Sandurz are all still alive. Mel Brooks himself is still capable of portraying both Yogurt and President Skroob! Many other actors made small cameos in the film and it is fun to spot them. Micheal Winslow, who has the ability to create realistic sound effects via his voice alone and who starred in the Police Academy movies played the Radar Technician, Sal Viscuso, John Hurt, Ronny Graham, Jim J. Bullock and The Bob Newhart Show alumni Jack "Mr. Elliot Carlin" Riley as a newscaster all make quick cameos in the film.
Spaceballs has its more lowbrow moments and it has its corny jokes, but hey--it is a MEL BROOKS MOVIE!! Brooks can make even the lamest jokes laugh out loud funny! Brooks' more classic films are like this--Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs all have such fun and funny moments! I wrote this column not just because it is the movies 30 anniversary! I wanted to spotlight Spaceballs because the movie carries with it a special memory for me. I saw Spaceballs with my friends Mike and Mark at the 112 Drive-In (the 112 is still there today) I had just graduated high school a week or so earlier and was wondering where to go from there. Anyone whom has been through those feelings will certainly empathize with me. Spaceballs represents not only a fun summer experience but also the feeling of a summer of freedom and fun before I entered the job world and decided what I was going to do with my life. Whenever I watch the film, I can still recall that summer and that feeling!
Happy 30th anniversary to SPACEBALLS!! May the Schwartz be with you!