Total Recall: History of the Spoof Movie, Part One

A fond look at the finest practitioners of cinematic satire.

by |

Three spoof movies in one year! Is America fortunate or what? Following January's Meet the Spartans and March's Superhero Movie, the genre comes roaring back with Disaster Movie, cobbled together from trailers, Internet memes, and films dating as far back as December 2007. But the spoof genre runs a deeper cinematic legacy than current trends suggests, and in this week's Total Recall we salute the filmmakers who paved the genre's path and made it possible for Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer to find jobs.

more info...

Abbot and Costello
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were certainly not cinema's first spoofers, but their inspired silliness cast a long shadow over the movie parody subgenre. After conquering vaudeville and radio (their classic "Who's on First?" routine remains a classic of the medium), Abbott and Costello brought their bewildered, bumbling shtick to Hollywood, where they were among the biggest comedy stars of the 1940s and early 1950s. Their forte was taking on a variety of genre pieces, from war films to Westerns, and injecting their wild and wooly personalities in a way that sent up movie conventions with a fond sense of humor. One of the team's most successful outings was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein had Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. on board to spoof their iconic portrayals of Dracula and the Wolf Man, respectively. However, Lou and Bud also found themselves embroiled in misadventures with such iconic movie characters as the Invisible Man and Captain Kidd.

more info...

Woody Allen
What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)
Casino Royale (1967)

After Abbot and Costello, the spoof genre lay dormant without poster boys for decades. But come the swingin' '60s, Woody Allen brought it back in the biggest, broadest way possible. His 1965 "directorial" debut, What's Up, Tiger Lily?, is actually a re-dubbing of a ridiculous Japanese spy thriller called International Secret Police: Key of Keys. The new dialogue, written by Allen and a troupe of six other comedians, turns Key of Keys into an espionage story about a secret egg salad recipe.

Allen would re-enter the world of spy spoofs with 1967's Casino Royale, a total comedic reworking of the James Bond story. Following that, Allen made a minor final spoofing effort in Play it Again, Sam, a parody of Casablanca set in contemporary San Francisco. Afterwards, he came into his own as a writer/director/actor, though he did experiment with self-parody in a string of late 90s/early 2000s movies.