The Producers (1968)
Reviewed on 2007 November 29
When I was a kid, movie night at my house was always a big debate over what we’d watch, with someone always being less than thrilled with the winning video. Comedies were usually the biggest gambles, because everyone had such a different idea of what was funny. The Producers is one of the few movies I remember everyone in my family laughing at. I saw part of the remake while on a plane, and while it was very good, it’s an example of the danger of even the best remakes: competing with a perfect first model. Nathan Lane was very, very funny as Max Bialystock, but nothing on God’s creation can compete with Zero Mostel delivering the lines with that MoonPie® face and Walmart throw rug comb-over.
The once-great (or so he says) Broadway producer Max Bialystock has fallen on hard times, spending most of his time sweet-talking little old ladies out of their savings for seed money. When auditor Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder at his neurotic best) comes to check on him because of a financial discrepancy, Bialystock launches into a wailing tirade of how broke he is, showing Bloom his cardboard belt. Bloom starts poring over the books and remarks that given the right circumstances, a Broadway failure can leave a producer wealthier than a success. Bialystock immediately decides he’s going to create those right circumstances, and Bloom is going to help him. All they need is something that will fail spectacularly enough, and Bialystock thinks he finds it in a piece of hideous Nazi dreck entitled “Springtime for Hitler”. Now all they need are a ton of angels to back it, and some lousy actors to make sure it gets a Viking funeral on its opening night.
Everything about this worked. Even the opening credits were entertaining. Mel Brooks is a director and writer that can be as subtle as an elbow in the ribs and still be funny. Anyone who could even think of an opening number like that is brilliant, and then he topped himself with the most priceless audience reaction shots I think I’ve ever seen.
Four chocolate morsels.