Considering Mel Brooks’ more successful works one is likely to see most highly praised the two movies of his annus mirabilis of 1974, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, while 1968’s The Producers is highly regarded.
Still, other films of his, if not enjoying that level of acclaim, still seem to have at least a decent-sized cult following. History of the World, Part I seems to fall into this category (enough so that the “Part II” promised at the movie’s end seems to have finally materialized).*
So did it go with Spaceballs, which was popular with, at least, us Star Wars-loving ’80s kids.
Interestingly, this was even though some of the jokes could not have had much significance to us. I do not mean by this anything particularly subtle or “adult,” but rather the Yogurt’s Cave parody satirizing the crassness of post-Star Wars filmmaking with its sequels and its merchandising. This generation — my generation — had never known any other type of cinematic world, and could not, did not, appreciate the revolution that Star Wars wrought in this way, something I only came to properly understand reading about film history in books.
Still, even if we take it for granted I think we often underestimate just how much it matters — certainly to a company like Disney. The Disney-Pixar film Cars was not the most celebrated such production — but the billions in merchandise it sold insured the sequels kept on coming.
Marvel has been at least as big that way — and anyone considering the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) likely longevity should remember that, not only do the MCU films remain big profit-makers even as far down as they have descended from their Phase Three peak, but that revenue stream is plenty of incentive to keep the movies coming even should their profits not look as great as they did before. That by no means guarantees the MCU another fifteen years of high-volume output of the kind we have been seeing since 2008 — but it is a reminder that, if the trend has been downward it has a long way to go before reaching the kind of state that drove Warner Bros. to even reboot the DCEU, never mind shut up the shop.
* In line with the tendency in the exploitation of those yesteryear hits not likely to make for big sci-fi action spectacles the sequel has taken the form of a streaming TV series on Hulu, rather than a movie.