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Rewind Reviews - Mel Brooks' The Producers

by Andrew Siddall. Published Tue 07 Aug 2018 00:38
Mel Brooks' The Producers
Mel Brooks' The Producers

Mel Brooks is a writer and director with a wide-spanning career in movie making. In this week’s Rewind Review we travel back into the swinging sixties to celebrate the landmark 50th anniversary of his directorial debut, the cinematic comedy masterpiece, The Producers.

The Producers sees Zero Mostel’s down on his luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, and Gene Wilder’s high-strung accountant, Leo Bloom, set about to create a musical flop called ‘Springtime for Hitler’, when they discover they could make much more money than they would with a hit.

Zero Mostel plays the crafty Max Bialystock, who spends his time romancing wealthy old ladies out of their money to pay for his shows. The character feels believable and Zero does a fantastic job showing the poor producer growing desperate to be a success and not have to wear a cardboard belt.

Willy Wonka and Stir Crazy actor, Gene Wilder, stars as Leo Bloom. The character starts off as a nervous nobody whose eyes are opened when Max shows him that he matters. Gene Wilder does an excellent job, balancing the eccentric outbursts with some really heartfelt moments that round out his character believably, which would lead to his work with Mel Brooks on many more amazing comedies.

The first step on their path to failure is author Franz Liebkind, played by Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein). The character is a fully-fledged and deranged Nazi, complete with German helmet and a carrier pigeon called Adolf. He is easily one of the funniest characters in the film and steals every scene he’s in.

The next step is to find a director that will guarantee that the show will flop, and they don’t come any more outrageous than Christopher Hewett’s Roger De Bris, whose plays close on the first day of rehearsal. He’s a brilliant character and appears in some of the films best scenes.

After a pretty hilarious audition scene, we meet Lorenzo St. DuBois, aka L.S.D. played by Dick Shawn, who gets cast as a camp and OTT Hitler in the show after turning up to the wrong audition. He’s a great and funny addition to the cast and he plays L.S.D. really well.

This being made in the sixties, the only prominent female role is Lee Meredith’s Ulla, who has very little personality and doesn’t speak much English. She has a few laughs but only serves to look good. In the stage production they do expand her role, but she isn’t a necessary character and could do with more to make her a little more fleshed out.

The story mainly focuses on the two producers as they prepare for the performance of ‘Springtime for Hitler’, with the first two acts showing them hiring the directors and actors. It is meant as a satirical look at the world of Hollywood and in many ways, is still relevant today.

The plot almost plays out like a heist, with the leads preparing and planning their money making scheme. It gives a good idea about the steps towards making a show or even a film, or at least, what not to do.

Being a Mel Brooks movie, this may not be to everyone’s taste, but for the rest of us, it’s an absolute ball. The laughs aren’t as quick as Blazing Saddles, but they pack just as much of a punch. The relationship with Max and Leo is a particular highlight, especially when they meet for the first time.

The music was created by John Morris, who blurs both a traditional movie score with the songs of a musical. The music sounds brilliant and shows what a movie score used to be like before they became more subtle and only serve as an add on to any particular scene.

Even though The Producers has been turned into a successful stage show, the original version is still highly musical, especially towards the second half when the Broadway performance begins. The songs are written extremely well and performed perfectly, and add something extra to an already brilliant film.

Overall, this is one of Mel Brooks’ finest movie ever made and it’s still just as good and funny as it was all those years ago. While certain aspects may not have aged well, it’s still carries an appeal that draws people in and gives them a good time.

Purple Revolver rating: 5/5. It’s a hit!


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