Monday, 19 August 2019

The Producers (1968)



Forår for Hitler
“The Producers” is a movie I have been looking forward to re-watch for a long time. It must have been more than 20, probably more like 30, years since I saw it last and, as these things go, it had grown to a level that it could really only disappoint me. I hate to say it, but I was not as impressed with this movie as I thought I would be.

The idea is marvelous though. A dilatant of a theater producer raises money for his productions by courting little old ladies when he get the brilliant idea, through his accountant, that if he raises a lot of money and set up disaster show, he could shut it down right away and leave with the money since nobody would expect to see any of them again. So, he sets up a terrible show by a Nazi called “Springtime for Hitler”, directed by a prima-donna disaster director. This could not go wrong except it does.

I chuckle just writing this synopsis. It is so ridiculously funny a plot.

The trouble is the execution. It is just a bit over the top. The jokes are just a bit too drawn out. The acting is just a bit too much towards the camera. Ahh, but it is so close!

The producer is Max Bialystock played by Zero Mostel, who having been blacklisted made most on his career on the theater. That is quite evident in the film as his acting is always very theatrical and very vocal. The accountant is Leo Bloom, Gene Wilder’s breakthrough as a comedian. He is, well, the same character he played throughout his career, the hysterically scared geek. Neither of them really hit it with me.

I know I am a bit hard on the movie and probably it deserves better. Its just that the first time I actually laughed was when Max and Leo went to visit Roger De Bris (great name!, played by Christopher Hewett) and are received by the priceless Carmen Ghia (Andreas Voutsinas). That is pretty much halfway through the movie. From here however the movie does pick up and the show itself is exactly as outrageous as we could have imagined. There is a very nice reference to the old Busby Berkeley musicals when we see the dancers from above forming a giant rotating swastika.

What of course “saves” the show (and condemns Leo and Max) is that Hitler is played by the acidhead L.S.D. (Dick Shawn) who makes Hitler a laughable hippie. That is ridiculously funny. In fact I would much rather like to watch the actual show “Springtime for Hitler”, I just love the idea, but I am given so very little of it. It is the best part of the movie.

Kenneth Mars’ Franz Liebkind, the crazy, Nazi writer of the play is another example of a very funny idea that just gets a notch too much. Going around in his coal scuttle helmet he looks the part, but I just do not entirely buy him as a mentally disturbed Nazi. He is a little too sweet…

Mel Brooks went on to make a lot of movies and some of them I do remember fondly. I just hope, as they appear on the List, I will not again have too high expectations for them. Maybe I should sit down and watch “The Producers” again and just take it for what it is.

 

   

4 comments:

  1. Fortunately, the Brooks that appears on the rest of the list is the very best of Brooks, like this one.

    This is pitch-perfect, directed within an inch of its life, and brilliantly cast.

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    1. Yeah, I read your review and understand that you enjoyed it a bit more than I did. Don't get me wrong, it is a good comedy, just not the masterpiece I expected

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  2. Watch it again! I've been watching it over and over for years! I saw it on network TV in the 1980s and I even taped it on VHS when I was a teenager! It's just gets better and better and you don't notice that it's a bit creaky in spots because the acting and the script are SO GOOD!

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    1. I will watch it again and I may also come around to it. I should know that Mel Brooks would always be over the top and as a teenager I loved his style. I may simply have changed or my memory of the movie had outgrown reality.

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