[Film Review] The Producers (1967)

The Producers 1967 poster.jpg

Title: The Producers
Year: 1967
Country: USA
Language: English, German
Genre: Comedy, Music
Director/Writer: Mel Brooks
Music: John Morris
Cinematography: Joseph F. Coffey
Cast:
Zero Mostel
Gene Wilder
Kenneth Mars
Dick Shawn
Lee Meredith
Christopher Hewett
Andréas Voutsinas
Estelle Winwood
William Hickey
Barney Martin
Renée Taylor
Bill Macy
Rating: 7.2/10

The Producers 1967.jpg

Successfully transferring Mel Brooks from the small screen to the big one, not to mention nabbing him an Oscar for its madcap script, THE PRODUCERS, his debut feature, mines into his rich seam of satire as an industry practitioner, and finds the nugget that a Broadway producer can make an ill-gotten killing for a sure-fire flop if he dares to oversell the shares, and this is exactly what the washed-out producer Max Bialystock (Mostel) decides to do when he is inadvertently prompted by a hysteria-prone accountant Leo Bloom (Wilder).

The opening scenes send up a hand-to-mouth Max romantically propitiates his long-in-the-tooth female investors for their checks, it is slightly offensive because god knows, these minted old ladies could splash out on someone more prepossessing than the obese, sweaty, middle-aged Max, a macho wish-fulfillment at the expense of sexism and ageism, yet one must hand to Mostel for his comedic bent to pull it off with thoroughbred facetiousness, because, it is really funny.

Things get more tasty when Wilder’s Bloom comes aboard, and the formation of the pair’s folie-à-deux contributes a fetchingly jocular two-hander par excellence, with the dilated glint from Mostel’s beady eyes beginning to be attuned to Wilder’s aura of shrill timorousness. After securing the worst play, SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER, written by an ex-Nazi crackpot Franz Liebkind (Mars, a perfervid presence with sheer seriousness) as an encomium to his idol, the worst director, Roger De Bris (Hewett, mimicking a cross-dressing Ed Wood Jr.), and the worst actor to portray the Führer, Lorenzo St. DuBois aka. L.S.D. (Shawn), a flower child emblazoned with Warhol’s signature, who sometimes has difficulty to recall his own name, it is a dead cert that the play would be a fiasco, only with one catch – the fickle public taste.

It is a satirical romp, so things certainly do not pan out as Max and Leo intend them to be, but Brooks fails to dish out the full justification of the audience’s expected about-face, is it just a genre-switch or L.S.D.’s impromptu charisma that serves as the curveball? We don’t really buy it but we go along with it because schadenfreude gets the better of our common senses, where will those two poor chumps end up? Prison for shizzle, but not before they make another wonky act out of desperation, and a recap of their friendship spouting out of the Leo’s mouth in the court, nonetheless, it turns out old habit dies hard even in the penitentiary during the ending credits.

Overall, Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS is a side-splitting mishmash of madness, crudeness, crassness and levity, anchored by two diametrical but equally barnstorming performances from Mostel and Wilder, its appeal blissfully subsists in this day and age, to say nothing of its later Broadway run and a less palatable remake in 2005.

referential entries: Alan Johnson’s TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1983, 6.4/10); Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974, 8.1/10); Susan Stroman’s THE PRODUCERS (2005, 6.5/10).

Oscar 1967 - The Producers.jpg

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