It is the forgotten Brooks movie. Probably because it has the most controlled script story, and had the least wild, satyric inventiveness of any of his films. After he wrote and directed the original THE PRODUCERS, Brooks did not do another film for a few years. The second one was this one set in the post-Russian Revolution period in the Soviet Union. Ron Moody (Fagin in the musical OLIVER) is a minor Tsarist nobleman who discovers, when attending his mother-in-law on her death bed, that she hid her fortune in jewelry in one of the dining room chairs. There were a set of twelve chairs, and they were appropriated by the government to be given to deserving members of the proletariat. Moody discovers that his mother-in-law did confess this to one person besides him: the local Russian Orthodox Priest (Dom DeLuise). Moody finds the latter a difficult opponent to beat to the fortune first. By chance he falls in with a young swindler (Frank Langella) and he and Langella pursue the chairs, and also send DeLuise on a wild goose chase following a second set of similar chairs. What we get is a view of the Soviet Union in 1928, as the Civil Wars died out and the regime consolidated power. Trotsky's name is now dismissed (as a street shows). The stage is dominated by the state oriented drama that is anti-capitalist. Witness the performance of Andreas Voutsinas - the original "Carmen Ghia" in the first PRODUCERS, as the government backed manager of the theater group that Moody and Langella join. There is a life and death threat behind comments he gives to one of the stage crew he controls. We also see how the common people try to cope with the changes - being sent across country on government sponsored jobs - to houses that the government may furnish. Brooks has his first role in his own films in this one - as Tikhon, the drunken, ex-servant of Moody. He receives a slap from the latter, and considers it exactly like a hug. Like IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, THE TWELVE CHAIRS looks at the antics people will go through for hidden wealth. Langella, who is a street criminal anyway, is the only sane member of the three treasure seekers. He is a realist (the first really serious one in Brooks' films), and has adapted to the new conditions fairly easily by living on his considerably keen wits. He realizes that he is hampered as well as helped by his alliance with Moody, but manages to figure out how to live with Moody as best as possible. Moody has become a bureaucrat to survive in the new regime (he's suspect as an aristocrat), but he still has his pretenses. It takes the events he shares with Langella for him to finally give up his pretenses. Together both men find out what is really worthwhile about living. DeLuise is less lucky. He just discovers the perils of being a loner.
The Twelve Chairs
The Twelve Chairs
In 1920s Soviet Russia, a fallen aristocrat, a priest and a con artist search for a treasure of jewels hidden inside one of twelve dining chairs, lost during the revolution.
February 19, 2020