The Producers -- **** (out of 5) (1968)
Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Christopher Hewett, Dick Shawn
Directed By Mel Brooks
What makes THE PRODUCERS such one of the best comedies ever isn't just the fact that it's funny. It's absolutely inspired. When you hear the plot, you can pretty much guess from the start things aren't going to end up as planned, but the fun isn't in getting there, but the way it gets there. Although he has been relatively unsuccessful of late, THE PRODUCERS reminds us what a tremendous talent Mel Brooks really was at the peak of his career, and he won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, which I would say was well-deserved if one of them wasn't 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Gene Wilder also received a nomination for one of his best performances ever, but one should not overlook the great performance by Zero Mostel. From the writing, directing, the perfect casting, and the memorable songs, THE PRODUCERS may arguably be the best of Mel Brooks' comedies all-around.
Zero plays Broadway producer Max Bialystock, once the most successful man in the business, now most of his plays close on opening night. Gene Wilder plays Leo Bloom, an accountant that is brought in because Max has been skimming money from the investors. During a moment of inspiration, Leo discovers that one could make a small fortune for producing a flop because no one will come around to collect if they think the play made no money. Max and Leo set about concocting a play certain to fail, a love-letter to Hitler by a Nazi, which they make into a lavish musical, "Springtime for Hitler."
It's such a joy to watch a comedy that fires on all cylinders the whole way through, and even the predictable elements are done in a uniquely hilarious fashion. It's a bold and audacious undertaking that could have just as easily failed, but soared to great success, just like the play within the film itself. This marks Brooks first time as director, and the results could not have been more impressive, and perhaps no other director could have captured the vision and timing he shows in his screenplay.
THE PRODUCERS is must-watch entertainment for all who love Mel Brooks, and is highly recommended to all others who enjoy broad farces. It was named by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 Funniest American movies (ranked #11 to be exact.) It's hard to argue when your sides are sore from laughter after watching it.
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