wed 17/10/2018

DVD/Blu-ray: The Producers | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: The Producers

DVD/Blu-ray: The Producers

Mel Brooks' breakthrough hits the half-century, still blissfully funny

Another opening, another show: Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in The Producers

Few things divide opinion as much as comedy, and we’ve all had the experience of sitting through a film stony-faced while all around collapse with mirth. What tickles you? Erudite Wildean wordplay, or the simple joys of watching a fat bloke fall over? The genius of Mel Brooks’ 1967 incarnation of The Producers is that it ticks so many boxes. There’s something to please (and offend) everyone. The set-up should by now be familiar: has-been Broadway producer teams up with naïve accountant to produce a show so terrible that it will close on opening night, allowing them to flee with the oversold production shares.

Zero Mostel’s Max Bialystock is a lovable rogue first seen romancing a series of rich old ladies in return for backing and reduced to wearing a "cardboard belt". His office boasts peeling yellow paint (Brooks thought that yellow was intrinsically funny) and filthy windows, which he cleans with coffee. Accountant Leo Bloom was Gene Wilder’s first major role, and he’s perfectly cast, the moment when he outlines the criminal act priceless (“Let’s assume that you are a dishonest man…”). Brooks’ screenplay is wordy, but you wouldn’t want to cut a single syllable. Not everything has worn well – Lee Meredith’s airhead Swedish secretary does little apart from cavort in a mini-dress, and Andreas Voutsinas as Carmen Ghia is painted with very broad brushstrokes.The ProducersBut, mostly, The Producers is magnificent. Bialystock and Bloom opt to stage the musical Springtime for Hitler. Director Roger de Bris (Christopher Hewitt) gets to shout, “Will the dancing Hitlers please wait in the wings? We are only seeing singing Hitlers!” during auditions, and the famous opening musical number, when it comes, is still a jaw-dropper. This Busby Berkeley-style spectacular replete with goose-stepping chorus girls dodging machine-gun fire is one of the funniest things committed to celluloid (pictured above), and Brooks’ lyrics are priceless (“Don’t be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi party!”). The first night audience look on, paralysed with shock.

There’s so much more to savour, and home viewing allows for frequent pausing and rewinding. Look out for playwright Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) in the closing scene, wrapped from head to toe in bandages. The location filming is superb, notably when Max and Leo stroll down ungentrified New York side streets. And if you’ve seen Paddington 2, you’ll enjoy the coda, Bialystock and Bloom mounting a dire prison-set musical and overselling shares to fellow inmates.

Image and sound are immaculate on this 50th anniversary re-release. Extras include an entertaining recent Q&A with Brooks, plus a 2002 “Making Of” featurette, with Brooks, Wilder and Meredith on sparkling form, Meredith even recreating her dance moves 35 years on. Sharper and wittier than the 2005 musical remake, this is a must-have.

Brooks’ screenplay is wordy, but you wouldn’t want to cut a single syllable

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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