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USA 1967
Directed by
Mel Brooks
88 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Producers, The (1967)

Mel Brooks has never done better and has certainly done much worse, than this, his first feature and one of the most-loved of all modern Hollywood comedies. Even so, it is a series of very funny moments in need of a developed narrative or, at least, linking devices.

Brooks' Oscar-winning screenplay, tells the story of a low rent Broadway producer who with the aid of a good-natured accountant thinks he can make more money with a flop than a hit. But he overshoots his mark and though his play about Hitler holidaying at Berchtesgaden is a disaster as a drama it is a hit as a musical comedy. 

It is the combination of  Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder as Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom, that makes the film so irresistible, the former a mix of oily charm and blustering vanity, the latter a nervous little man being towed in his partner’s sizeable wake (Wilder's line "I want everything I've ever seen in the movies" has been quoted many times since in a variety of contexts), They are supported by a first rate troupe with Kenneth Mars unforgettable as the Hitler-worshipping playwright, Franz Liebkind, whose work is selected as a guaranteed  misfire and Christopher Hewett as the “world’s worst director”, Roger De Bris with Andreas Voutsinas as his archly gay boyfriend, Carmen Ghia. 

Our first encounters with these characters are the film’s best moments but Brooks skates from one to the other with nothing of real substance in between (such as a badly-dated Benny Hill-ish skit about a Swedish-secretary), The film's biggest omission is that it completely jumps over the rehearsal phase, going straight from casting to opening night. 

FYI: Brooks’s script is indebted to the Milton Berle musical comedy, New Faces Of 1937 which has a similar premise and on which Brooks was a writer). Brooks turned the film into a successful stage musical. That version was filmed with the same title in 2005.




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