Forgotten Shows of My Nonage #12: When Things Were Rotten
Mel Brooks’ name is always gold, but he was never hotter than in the mid 1970s. In 1975 in the wake of his two smash box office hits Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, he and two collaborators (Norman Stiles and John Boni) created this parody of the Robin Hood legend When Things Were Rotten. I haven’t seen it in close to four decades, but if memory serves it was VASTLY better than his later Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), which he seems to have devised in response to Kevin Costner’s dreadful Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Much like the films of the Marx Brothers, Brooks’s late films seem all out of gas. The gags are too infrequent, the pacing too slow, the references too far behind the curve.
Be that as it may, the earlier When Things Were Rotten seemed the very epitome of cutting edge in 1975. It must have been; they cancelled it after 13 episodes. In addition to the hilarious writing and direction, much of the comedy hinged on the cast, which included two Get Smart veterans (Dick Gautier and Bernie Kopell), one future cast member of High Anxiety (Dick Van Patten), and as the villainous Prince John, Ron Rifkin.