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11 Dashing Facts About Robin Hood: Men In Tights

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A charming spoof, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights introduced the world to Dave Chappelle and extolled the virtues of form-fitting legwear. Here’s everything you need to know about the arrow-slinging 1993 comedy.

1. MEL BROOKS HAD PREVIOUSLY WORKED ON A COMEDIC ROBIN HOOD TV SERIES.

In 1974, Mel Brooks’ smash-hit genre parodies Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein became two of the highest grossing movies of the year—with Blazing Saddles beating out The Towering Inferno and The Godfather: Part II for the top spot. Having secured a lasting career for himself in Hollywood, Brooks took a break from cinema so he could pursue a new TV project. The comic joined forces with Norman Stiles and John Boni to co-create ABC’s When Things Were Rotten, a fast-paced, gag-driven sitcom that put a satirical spin on Robin Hood. Starring Get Smart alum Dick Gautier in the lead role, the show relied heavily on anachronistic pop culture references; in one episode, for example, a character named Lord McDonald of the Golden Archers dons a T-shirt reading “Over 1,000,000 Dispatched.”

When Things Were Rotten premiered on September 10, 1975. After three months of lackluster ratings and mixed reviews, the show was canceled just 13 episodes into its run. Brooks would, of course, take another stab at the legendary hero of Sherwood Forest when Robin Hood: Men in Tights was released 18 years later. Incidentally, that 1993 comedy starred a familiar face: Dick Van Patten, who plays an abbot in the film, had portrayed Friar Tuck in When Things Were Rotten.

2. A DENTIST’S KID INSPIRED THE MOVIE.

Despite its impressive showing at the box office, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) didn’t win universal praise. Many took issue with the movie’s inconsistent tone and Costner’s half-baked attempt at an English accent. When 11-year-old Jordi Chandler saw it, he told his father, Evan, that the flick deserved to be parodied. As it happened, Evan Chandler was a Beverly Hills dentist whose clientele included Hollywood screenwriter J. David Shapiro. During an appointment, the DDS pitched the idea of a Robin Hood spoof movie to Shapiro, who loved the concept. Together, they put together a screenplay that was later sold to—and heavily revised by—Brooks.

3. MADELINE KAHN MIGHT’VE PLAYED LATRINE.

Madeline Kahn made a name for herself by starring in several of Brooks's comedies, including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and History of the World, Part 1. Kahn’s family has stated that she was offered the part of Latrine—Prince John’s manic soothsayer—in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but turned the role down over salary concerns. On the other hand, Brooks himself says he didn’t cast Kahn because the character wouldn’t receive much screen time. Regardless, Tracey Ullman ended up landing the part.

4. SEAN CONNERY WANTED TO PORTRAY KING RICHARD—IN WOMEN’S CLOTHING.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had an all-star cast that boasted Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Rickman. Sean Connery also made a brief appearance as King Richard, a part he reportedly wanted to reprise in Men in Tights. According to James Robert Parish's It's Good to Be the King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks, Connery told the director “that he would repeat his role of the monarch—but this time in drag. However, intriguing as this comic prospect was, he wanted a $1 million salary, which he planned to donate to Scottish charities.” Unable to afford this king’s ransom, Brooks cast Patrick Stewart instead. For better or for worse, the cross-dressing angle was scrapped entirely.

5. BROOKS WROTE THE LYRICS TO ALL OF THE ORIGINAL SONGS.

From The Producers's “Springtime for Hitler” to a Sinatra-esque lounge number in High Anxiety, Brooks’s comedies are loaded with songs that the filmmaker either wrote or co-wrote himself. Robin Hood: Men in Tights continued this musical tradition. The legendary director penned the lyrics for Maid Marian’s song, the titular “Men in Tights” number, and both versions of the "Sherwood Forest Rap." Meanwhile, their melodies were provided by composer Hummie Mann. However, neither man can take any credit for “The Night is Young and You’re So Beautiful,” which Robin (Cary Elwes) belts out during a romantic scene with Marian (Amy Yasbeck). Famously covered by Dean Martin, that amorous ballad was written way back in 1937 by Dana Suesse, Billy Rose, and Irving Kahal.

6. WHEN BROOKS FIRST REACHED OUT TO CARY ELWES ABOUT PLAYING ROBIN HOOD, THE ACTOR ASSUMED HE WAS BEING PRANKED.

Early on in the Men in Tights casting process, Brooks called Elwes at his home to discuss the project. "He actually called me at home and I thought someone was pulling my leg so I hung up on him," Elwes told Den of Geek in 2014. "He called back and he said 'don’t hang up, it’s really me!' I apologized, but I couldn’t believe he was calling me." In short order, Elwes was cast as the film’s hero. Once he came aboard, Elwes helped Brooks choose an actor to play Ahchoo, Robin’s sidekick. In the end, the part went to an unknown 19-year-old comedian named Dave Chappelle. “We actually cast [him] together,” Elwes recalled. “We saw a lot of actors and when Dave came in, he was just so amazing and we knew right then and there [that] this guy was a star.”

7. IT SHARED A FILMING LOCATION WITH TWO OTHER WELL-KNOWN ROBIN HOOD MOVIES.

A body of water in Southern California’s Santa Monica mountains that was formerly known as Lake Canterbury was renamed Lake Sherwood in 1921, when a Robin Hood movie starring Douglas Fairbanks shot a few scenes on its shores. Subsequently, this same lake was utilized as a backdrop for certain outdoor sequences in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights did some filming there as well.

8. THE ACTORS ATTENDED A SWORDPLAY BOOT CAMP.

“If you put the name Robin Hood on a marquee, then it’s incumbent upon you—nay, it behooves you—to have horses and sword fighting,” Brooks declared in the HBO making-of documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The Legend Had it Coming. “The actors came in every weekend and they worked Saturdays and Sundays just on their sword fights,” Brooks said. These sessions were overseen by fencing coordinator Victor Paul, who also did stunt work on big-budget action films like Die Hard and Armageddon. The bladed weapon specialist found that Elwes was particularly easy to train because The Princess Bride star already had plenty of fencing experience under his belt. “All I had to do was teach him the routines, he knew how to fence,” Paul said in the documentary.

However, Elwes wasn’t quite as adept at archery. Right before the training montage, we see Robin hit a bull's-eye from a few yards away while his merry men look on. At the 2013 Motor City Comic Con, Elwes shed some light on the scene—which turned out to be a rather triumphant moment for him. “I was quite proud of the fact that I got a bull's-eye shooting the bow and arrow because there was a lot of pressure from Mel to get that in a few takes. He said ‘Okay, you’ve got three takes. Get a bull's-eye, let’s go!,'" Elwes shared during a Q&A session. “And I’m like ‘Really, Mel? I’ve only got three? Really?’ And I got it on the third one, thank god.”

9. LATE IN THE SHOOT, RICHARD LEWIS CAME DOWN WITH A 106-DEGREE FEVER.

Richard Lewis, who played the neurotic Prince John, opened up about his experiences on the set in a 2013 PBS documentary titled Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. Apparently, as production came to a close, Lewis’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. “I was almost done with the film, I had one scene left, [and then] I got Hepatitis A,” the actor recalled. Stricken with a 106-degree fever, Lewis was hospitalized. Amazingly though, this development didn’t stop Brooks from trying to complete his villain’s final scene on schedule.

Completely undeterred, the director called Lewis’s hospital room and announced an elaborate plan to lay Lewis in a stretcher, drive him to the set, and prop the immobilized performer up against some wood so that he could deliver a pair of lines. “You’ll do your two lines, we’ll carry you right back into the stretch, you’ll be back [at the hospital] in 20 minutes,” Brooks told him. “Mel,” a weary Lewis responded, “I’m dying. I think I’m dying. I have a 106 fever. I’m jaundiced.” He then hung up on Brooks, who proceeded to call him back “about 15 times with the same riff” in Lewis’s estimation.

10. THE MOVIE MADE GENE SISKEL’S “WORST OF '93” LIST.

When it came to the film critics, "most of them reamed it,” according to Lewis. “It was disappointing.” Leading the chorus of derision was Gene Siskel, who counted Robin Hood: Men in Tights among his worst films of 1993. “Movie comedy, I think, is threatening to pass Mel Brooks by,” the late critic opined. “When comedies don’t work and everybody in the audience knows it, that is about as low as it gets ... [Brooks] has clearly lost his way.”

Still, like many of Brooks’s later pictures, Robin Hood: Men in Tights has slowly developed a cult following over the years. It has even received some faint praise from a more contemporary Robin Hood: In 2016, Russell Crowe called Men in Tightsthe most entertaining version” of the heroic character’s timeless story.

11. JACK BLACK ONCE SERENADED BROOKS WITH A RENDITION OF THE FILM'S THEME SONG.

Along with Bruce Springsteen, Dave Brubeck, Robert De Niro, and opera singer Grace Bumby, Brooks was named one of the 2009 Kennedy Center honorees. When asked to comment on this development, Brooks told The Washington Post, “I hope you never find my award on eBay, because you never know ... You run out of cash and wherewithal.” Seated near President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Brooks was presented with a medley of his unforgettable songs. Among other acts, this star-studded revue featured Martin Short’s take on the Blazing Saddles theme while Richard Kind led a jazzy rendition of the Spanish Inquisition number from History of The World, Part 1. Jack Black also took the stage in full Robin Hood regalia to lead a chorus in singing “Men in Tights.” All the while, a gleeful Brooks could be seen mouthing the lyrics to every song from the audience.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
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For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
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Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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