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USA 1983
Directed by
Alan Johnson
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

To Be Or Not To Be (1983)

Although the directorial credit goes to Mel Brooks’ choreographer Alan Johnson, To Be Or Not To Be is unquestionably a Mel Brooks film. As a remake of the Ernst Lubitsch 1942 classic it is generally regarded as a weaker effort but although it lacks the finesse, as a comedy it holds its own with the original.

Brooks retains the main strokes of the original and its jokes but strips out the historically specific references and infuses the remainder with his own sensibility so that we get, for instance, a couple of musical numbers and a very camp dresser.  He also casts himself and his real-life wife, Anne Bancroft, as the Warsaw theatrical husband-and-wife  team, Frederick and Anna Bronski  who become part of a plot to kill a Nazi collaborator Professor Siletsky (Jose Ferrer).

Where Benny was the stand-out in the original and Lombard relatively low-key, here, somewhat surprisingly, for comedy is not an area for which she is known, it is Anne Bancroft who steals every scene. The always -eliable Charles Durning, wonderfully matches Sig Ruman’s original “Concentration Camp” Erhardt whilst Ferrer is suitably slimy as the traitorous Pole. Siletsky.

Although Brooks spoofed the Nazi’s with much more originality and flair in The Producers (1967), To Be Or Not To Be is one of his better comedies and a not-bad remake.




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