Anthony's Film Review

The Producers (1968)

Brilliant and satisfyingly funny in more ways than one...

The Producers was a film that helped boost the career of comedic filmmaker Mel Brooks. Prior to this, Brooks co-created the classic spy sitcom Get Smart, which I thought was pure genius. Therefore, he could have stayed in the medium of television if he wanted to. However, he might have had a good reason to go into movies instead: the freedom to be politically incorrect. You know what I think? That might have been a wise move. The result is the 1968 comedy The Producers, which I can imagine was surprising in its premise for laughs.

Basically, it's funny because it revolves around an upside-down plot. Imagine being a theatrical producer and putting efforts into making the worst show of all time, not the best. It's like a filmmaker who's desperate for a Razzie award. The idea comes up when producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) hires accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) to organize the books. Bloom notices a discrepancy between the amount of money raised for the last show and the portion of that money that went into production costs. So a mental lightbulb goes off. It's possible to raise a ton of money, produce a horrible show to minimize production costs, and keep the remainder as profit.

To produce this horrible show, they look for the best of the worst for their production crew. First, the play itself. They find a script by Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) for a musical called Springtime for Hitler. Just the title alone is guaranteed to offend a crowd of Jews. Next, they get a horrible theater director. For that, they enlist a homosexual named Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett). And finally, the cast. They audition a bunch of misfits but manage to get a cast together, including a terrible actor named L.S.D. (Dick Shawn) for the title character of Adolf Hitler.

Obviously, this is a rather funny setup. Only the whacked-out mind of Jewish-American filmmaker Mel Brooks could have come up with this. And there's more to the humor than just the story. The performances of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder are just memorable. They play characters who are funny by playing it straight or going over the top. A great example of the latter is when Bialystock scares Bloom, who screams, "I'm wet and I'm hysterical!" You have to see it to get a good laugh out of it.

So the reason why The Producers is noteworthy has to do with Mel Brooks's daring approach to humor. He's not afraid of being politically incorrect. After all, the purpose of comedy and humor is to feel good, and someone always has to pay the price anyway. So what if a movie pokes fun at Hitler and the Third Reich? It hasn't been done before. That's an opportunity to be funny in a way never before seen. The bottom line is that The Producers shows us that comedy can be derived from pretty much anything, just as long as you open your mind and smile.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Producers, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my review of the 2005 cinematic remake The Producers.


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