Written & Directed by: Mel Brooks
Starring: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Estelle Winwood, Dick Shawn
- The Making of the Producers Documentary
- Sketch Gallery
- “Playhouse Outtake”
- Photo Gallery
- Peter Sellers Statement Read by Paul Mazursky
- Soundtrack spot
Released by: MGM
My Advice: Own it.
Max Bialystock (Mostel) has hit rock bottom and isn’t exactly digging with a spoon, but ain’t doing too well in remaining above ground. You see, he’s in such a slump that he’s reduced to seducing rich old ladies for their money–they make the checks out to the name of Bialystock’s upcoming stage triumph…”Cash.” Enter accountant Leo Bloom (Wilder), who realizes that more money could be made off of an immense Broadway flop than a hit. Together (with some prodding by Max), they set out to find the worst show in history. They do. It’s called “Springtime for Hitler.”
[ad#longpost]This is the movie that introduced the world at large to Mel Brooks. And Gene Wilder, for that matter. And, much much later, it spawned a Broadway musical that kicked much ass at the Tonys. All the hoopla is for good reason: the film is literally funny as all living hell. And refreshing, especially in these times, over three decades later, when no one would be caught dead making this movie, due to PC-itis. Mostel and Wilder are a perfect partnership of crime. Dick Shawn is gloriously out of control as LSD, as is Kenneth Mars in his role of Franz Liebkind. There are few comedies in history that are just as tremendous as this one. What is there to compare with dancers with pretzels over their breasts? The Hitler auditions? Gene Wilder prancing around the fountain at the Lincoln Center? Answer: very little, if anything.
And what’s amazing is that the damn thing ever got made. That’s part of what a viewer comes away from the special features thinking. Sure, there’s no commentary on this thing–I know Brooks’ reasons, but I still respectfully disagree with them–but we do have an hour-long documentary regarding the making-of. And it’s a hella docu. They speak with just about everybody who’s left to speak to, and reveal some facts about the film (Dustin Hoffman’s casting, Peter Sellers saving the thing from obscurity) that I had no clue about previously. And it has an intermission which features Lee Meredith (who played the bombshell receptionist, Ulla) re-enacting her “work” scene. Priceless.
The other features consist of the Sketch Gallery–some of which are featured during the documentary–which appear in a moving slideshow fashion with the musical score underneath. The overhead “shots” of rooms are even funnier when viewed post-documentary. The Playhouse Outtake is an extended/alternate version of the destructive climax, which involves a drunk played by Bill Hickey. The Photo Gallery is just what it says, although these shots–some stills, some headshots, some promos–are better than your ordinary collection.
A very interesting addition is the statement that Peter Sellers placed in an ad in Variety, performed for you by Paul Mazurksy. This is essentially the reason that the film is extant today, as I understand it from the documentary. So it’s interesting that they broke it out from the docu like this, but I guess that just underscores the importance Mel and company place upon it.
Do you need to buy this DVD? Of course. It’s The Producers for God’s sake. Is it the Criterion release we would hope for? Well, no. But it’s probably the best we’re going to get for a while, and kudos to everyone involved for getting that docu done. They obviously understand the benefit of talking to these people while we still have them.
- The version reviewed here is out of print. It has been replaced by the “Deluxe Edition.” Click here to buy it from Amazon.