#276 The Producers

(1968, Mel Brooks)

“Congratulations! Hitler will run forever”

Two days ago, I reviewed a silly movie which featured Mel Brooks in a cameo and said how much I enjoyed it. Now it’s time to review a silly movie directed by Mel Brooks. But did I enjoy The Producers?

The Producers, one of Brooks’ earlier works before much of his work consisted of direct parodies of existing movies, stars Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, a Broadway producer down on his luck. Unable to produce a hit for a while, and reduced to romancing old ladies for money to fund future projects, he hits upon a new scheme thanks to a visiting accountant, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder). Bloom discovers that by over-budgeting, it’s possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit. And so the duo set out to make the worst Broadway play possible – Springtime For Hitler.

Initially The Producers didn’t impress me all that much. The old lady romancing that opened the movie was more disturbing than funny, and the opening scene that focused on this dragged on way too long on the basis of a single joke.

You’d think this would have improved as soon as Gene Wilder walked in, but it didn’t. While he was still fairly entertaining, Wilder playing a nervous character felt wrong after his characteristically hammy performances in Willy Wonka and Brooks’ other work, and as such it felt generally…flat.

On top of this, the plot also moved quite slowly and the jokes didn’t really bring out many consistent laughs. In general, it just didn’t feel as good as some of Brooks’ later works like Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles. Not bad, just…average.

And then Springtime For Hitler happened, and this all changed. My god, Springtime For Hitler was awful, and this made for hugely entertaining cinema. The reveal of the musical made the entire movie work. From the delightfully dense hippy lead actor to the over the top musical sequences that praised Hitler and Germany (which still threaten to get stuck in my head), this makes the first half of The Producers worth it.

Everything after the musical works very well too, from the retired Nazi writer’s attempt to murder both the producers to the phrase “extremely guilty”, I loved it, and it did live up to the expectations I’d gained from seeing his later works first.

Essentially, what Brooks did here was a single 90-minute joke, with the slow first half acting as the buildup and the musical itself as the punchline. This is both delightfully clever but also still a little disappointing. It doesn’t feel right waiting almost an hour into a comedy to get some serious laughter going, so I’m a little torn about what I thought about The Producers overall.

I think I lean more towards the side of liking The Producers. Aside from loving the musical and its aftermath, the early scenes may have been a little disappointing but they were still fairly decent enough to accept.

So, The Producers then. A fairly decent comedy that pays off in a big way. Not one of Brooks’ best, but certainly worthy of some praise.

Starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars & Dick Shawn
Written by Mel Brooks
Produced by Sidney Glazier
Music by John Morris
Cinematography by Joseph Coffey
Edited by Ralph Rosenblum

Favourite Scene: Springtime! For Hitler! And Germanyyyyyy!
Scene That Bugged Me: The opening scene with the old ladies dragged on waaaaay too long.

Watch it if: You want to see a laughably bad musical about Hitler
Avoid it if: The awkwardness of the first half of the movie is off-putting

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Posted on April 17, 2014, in 1960s, Comedy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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