We can recall, years ago, being grouped around the TV at some mind-altering hour and obsessively replaying Gene Wilder emerging from the Wonka castle as a hobbled old man. He gets his cane stuck in a brick, falling so far forward that you wonder at the insurance costs of the film, then turns a somersault so perfect it could raise the eyebrow of Bruce Lee. His stunning entrance one that Wilder thought up and demanded be included set the tone of Willy Wonka, as did his insane speech on the river of chocolate: "Are the fires of Hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing?" he howled like a man piloting a boat full of serial murderers instead of adorable brats. With his "I'm not crazy or am I?" attitude, he made the film into the cult favorite it is today, and in the years since it opened he has brought us so much more: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles he even managed to work himself into a comedy duo alongside the hottest man in '70s stand-up, Richard Pryor. With more than 20 other movies, plus recent turns as a novelist (notably with the excellently titled My French Whore), the 75-year-old actor gets a long-overdue pat on the back with SF Sketchfest Presents A Salute to Gene Wilder. The night features a screening of Young Frankenstein, followed by an onstage conversation with Wilder and moderator Paul Gilmartin and an audience Q&A. Wilder will also be signing copies of his latest novel, The Woman Who Wouldn't.
Wed., March 19, 6:30 p.m., 2008