IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH MEL BROOKS REVIEW: “The Producers” stars Zero Mostel (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Rhinoceros), Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Young Frankenstein), Dick Shawn (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Love at First Bite), Kenneth Mars (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Little Mermaid ), Lee Meredith (The Sunshine Boys, Murder Me Murder You), Christopher Hewett (Mr. Belvedere [TV series], The Lavender Hill Mob), and Andreas Voutsinas (The Big Blue, A Dream of Passion). It was written and directed by Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, History of the World: Part 1). A near-broke Broadway producer (Mostel) concocts a diabolical plan with his newfound accountant friend (Wilder) when the accountant discovers that the producer could make more money creating a flop than a hit. Together, they set out to find the worst story and take all of the budget money to make themselves rich.
Boy, was this a risky endeavor (I’m laughing while writing this). What a way to break into the directing mold Mr. Brooks, because this was surely a fresh, hilarious film that would surprise audiences. Of course, when I say that, I’m talking about people around my age who have either never seen or heard of “The Producers,” a movie about what it takes to make more money off a flop than a hit on broadway. Now I’m not talking about the remake with Matthew Broderick; you can clearly tell that by the poster and cast listing. I’m analyzing the classic, the one with Zero and Gene: the one where they put on a little show called “Springtime for Hitler.” I gotta tell you all, when I read up on what this feature was about, I busted out laughing, primarily at the title of the play. Who would put on a play called “Springtime for Hitler” is beyond me, but that is the whole point of it all. I think the biggest compliment I can give this flick is that it’s extremely original. A greedy producer is rather typical, but the discovery he makes with his accountant is something I haven’t seen in film, and it was a sure-fire thrill ride to watch unfold. It was funny, charming, and witty, with enough jokes to keep anyone entertained throughout the whole scheme. Granted, there were moments that seemed filler, but overall I had an immense amount of fun. There are many aesthetics that play into this, with a big one being the acting. The chemistry between Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder is uncanny and fantastic, with both being the complete opposite of one another. Mostel represented the hectic story while Wilder represented the audience in awe over its wackiness. They were great, and the supporting cast were also wonderful, including Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith, Christopher Hewitt, and Andréas Voutsinas. All of them provided some good laughs and scenes to remember. Mars had to be the biggest scene stealer out of the lot though, for he was an insane former Nazi. The direction Brooks gave them made the story shine, and having written it as well as the musical number for “Springtime for Hitler” just piles on to his skill. To be honest, the opening number for that wretched play was actually catchy and is stuck in my head. It’s bold and certainly couldn’t be done in this day of age for comedy, which makes it all the better. The story itself was well-written with quite a bit of defining moments and good gags. I enjoyed the characters and watching a movie about making a play is interesting, even though the play is meant to be terrible. It’s entertaining, though I will say that there are scenes scattered about that don’t feel necessary to the plot. One in particular is the concierge lady that keep Max and Leo out of the apartment. I realized upon watching the documentary for this film that the moment was based on an actual event in Brooks’ life, so he must’ve added it because he thought it was funny. His story of it all was actually more humorous than the film’s, and it came off more as a distraction than an actual addition to the plot at hand. I would think that all the other filler moments were based on actual occurrences as well, because filmmakers who create comedy often draw in ideas from real life experiences, even if they were moments that happened after the script was written. If this is the case, it was not in Brooks’ favor. However, his movie as a whole was fun nonetheless, and it is definitely a solid start to a career in directing. The performances, idea, and brilliant musical score make for an entertaining adventure I’m sure anyone will get a kick out of. FINAL SCORE: 88%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: