‘Spaceballs’ 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – Mel Brooks Comedy Classic Gets The 5-Star Treatment It Deserves

The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Martin Sexton as a part of his ongoing “Opinions of a Traditionalist” series. 

When Star Wars graced our screens in 1977, it was just a matter of time before someone decided to spoof the film and the genre as a whole. And no one was better at doing that kind of thing than Mel Brooks. If there was a sight gag, literal imagining of a common phrase, or genre that was just crying for satire, Mel Brooks was at the ready. Could it be sophomoric and silly? Absolutely, that was Mel’s Charm.

So when it was announced that he would be doing Spaceballs, fans pretty much knew what they were going to get. A Mel Brooks spectacular of silliness and hilarity using recognizable themes. Premiering in 1987, Brooks enlisted himself (of course), Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, Joan Rivers (voice), Dom Deluise and George Wyner to lay waste to the Star Wars phenomenon (along with Star Trek, The Wizard of Oz and others) but with a nod and a wink.

Of course critics were lukewarm on the outer space shenanigans. Because of that, it pretty much made, as Mel Brooks called it, Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money unlikely. However, as with most things, it has become a cult classic over time and rightfully so. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a car speed by me and comment that they were going “ludicrous speed.” Or when our son asks us to stop doing something, we reply: ”We can’t stop, it’s too dangerous.”, 

Spaceballs brought us Pullman as Captain Lonestar with his first mate Barf as played by the late great John Candy. Barf was a MAWG. Half man, half dog. As Barf explained, “I’m my own best friend.” They traveled in Eagle 5, which was a space-age Winnebago. But unfortunately for our dynamic duo,  they were in debt to The Godfather of Space, Pizza the Hutt. That sentence alone tells you what we’re dealing with here.

That’s where Planet Druidia comes in. Planet Spaceball, led by the incompetent President Skroob (Mel Brooks), has squandered all of its fresh air. Skroob schemes to force King Roland (Dick Patton) of the neighboring planet Druidia to give them the code to the shield that protects Druidia. This will allow them to steal all their air.

To force Roland into agreeing, they plan to kidnap his daughter Princess Vespa (Zuniga) on the day of her arranged marriage to the narcoleptic Prince Valium. Skroob sends the villainous Dark Helmet (hilariously played by Rick Moranis) to complete this task with Spaceball One. Which is an impossibly huge ship commanded by Colonel Sandurz.

But before they can put this plan into action, Vespa comes to her senses and abandons her wedding. She decides to flee the planet in her Mercedes spaceship. Taking along her droid of honor, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers).

King Roland contacts Lonestar and agrees to pay him one million space bucks to save Vespa from the clutches of the evil Dark Helmet and the SpaceBalls. This leads to more outer space hijinks, a “Schwartz” duel between Lonestar and Helmet and as one might expect, the heroes winning the day.

But not before great one liners like ”What‘s the matter Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?” A scene where soldiers are being told to “Comb the Desert.” And you see them running ACE combs through the sand. Brooks himself gets double duty as the all knowing, all powerful Yogurt, who introduces Lonestar to the real source of a film’s money: Merchandising. “Spaceballs, the Coloring Book, Spaceballs, the Lunchbox, and Spaceballs, the flamethrower!” Hard to believe it was almost 35 years ago. Damn I’m old. But Spaceballs is still great fun as long as you accept the absurdity of it all. And you should.

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Video Quality

Spaceball debuts on 4K UHD Blu-Ray with a pretty miraculous 2160p Dolby Vision transfer sourced from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. When compared with the previous MGM Blu-Ray, the 4K disc offers outstanding improvements in all respects. While this may not be the absolute pinnacle of the format, the presentation is what longtime fans of the film have been dreaming about. The gains in contrast and overall clarity are readily apparent, especially in unique details like the production design and the elaborate costumes. There is a good amount of natural film grain that resolves naturally and gives a lot of nice texture and detail to the transfer. Skin tones largely look great with no apparent instances where characters look desaturated. The clarity of the transfer gives you a great amount of character detail including fine droplets of perspiration, matted fur, latex costumes and other minute details. 

 The UHD disc contains very nuanced, deep colors throughout including the extremely bright reds, blues and yellows in varying shades throughout the runtime. The Dolby Vision employed here provides an outstanding boost all around including in simple elements such as the visuals in the Schwartz battle. When referring back to the old Blu-Ray, colors appear to be a lot more bland and less complex than the 4K disc. White levels are brighter and more stable without veering into blooming. Black levels are deep and allow the picture to maintain a good amount of depth and detail in darker environments. There are moments where the baked-in optical effects do look a touch out of place, but the presentation is much more natural between source elements. This transfer is practically a miracle from Kino Classics to comedy fans. 

Audio Quality

This 4K UHD Blu-Ray comes with both lossless DTS-HD 5.1  & 2.0 Master Audio tracks that effortlessly handle everything this film throws at it. Spaceballs has a lot of great sound effects that engage the surround speakers including material with blasters and other science fiction noises. Dialogue takes precedent as it comes through clear in the front channel without being overwhelmed by any sound effects or score. The track has a good sense of directionality with sounds always coming from the appropriate channels. The movie leans into the comedy more than the adventure elements of the story so the low end is only put to work sporadically. The music evokes the perfect atmosphere for this comedic tale which fills the speakers well. There are no issues with fidelity or damage to the track. This audio presentation is pretty fantastic especially with the upgraded two-channel mix. 

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary: The one and only Mel Brooks gives an entertaining commentary track in which he tackles basic information about the development and production of the film including writing the script, casting the film, humorous anecdotes from the shoot and more. It honestly feels like your grandpa is telling you stories from his life and its a real delight. 
  • Force Yourself! – Spaceballs and the Skroobing of Sci-Fi: A 17-minute featurette in which Brooks discusses his penchant for injecting some humor into classic genres, the development of the film after the unexpected success of Star Wars, his relationship with George Lucas, the performers in the film, how he developed certain ideas and more. Brooks is mostly alone for this besides being joined by the actor who played Pizza the Hutt. This is an enjoyable reflection on the film. 
  • Spaceballs – The Documentary: A 30-minute piece in which various members of the cast and crew discuss their experiences with the film, what makes the film so effective, the special effects and props, the camaraderie on set and more. The execution is a little dated, but the information is quite fascinating. 
  • In Conversation with Mel Brooks and Co-Writer Thomas Meehan: A nearly 21-minute conversation between these two brilliant minds as they recount their development of the script. Fans of Brooks will love to take in this one, as everything he does is usually worth checking out. 
  • John Candy – Comic Spirit: A 10-minute featurette in which the cast and crew reflect on the comedic genius that is John Candy. There is some insightful biographical information given along with personal anecdotes that makes this a warm and delightful viewing. 
  • Watch Spaceballs in Ludicrous Speed: Watch the entire film in a mere 30 seconds. 
  • Film Flubs: A minute-and-a-half featurette which points out some of the goofs that made it into the film that you might not be able to unsee. 
  • Storyboards to Film Comparison: A seven-minute video which gives you a side-by-side comparison of how the film compared to the initial storyboard ideas. 
  • Image Galleries: A collection of behind-the-scenes photos and posters/art images are provided here which provide a cool look at the production. 
  • Trailers: Several trailers for Spaceballs are included here including a an Exhibitor Trailer with Mel Brooks intro, a teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer. There are also trailers included for The Producers, Life Stinks, Delirious and Once Upon A Crime
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Final Thoughts

Spaceballs feels like a very obvious move in the Mel Brooks pantheon of films, but obvious or not the film is one that continues to keep you laughing out loud after all of these years. The number of quotable lines are too numerous to list, and the performers are all bringing their comedic A-game. Kino Classics has given this comedy staple a 4K UHD Blu-Ray presentation worthy of its legacy. This disc sports a top-tier A/V presentation and a solid assortment of legacy extras. It is clear we are never going to get the long-teased sequel to the film, but this new disc is a very nice consolation prize that any comedy fans should add to their collection. Highly Recommended 

Spaceballs will be available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray on April 13, 2021.

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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