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Mel Brooks
Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Estelle Winwood, Renee Taylor, Christopher Hewett, Lee Meredith
Writing Credits:
Mel Brooks

Hollywood Never Faced a Zanier Zero Hour!
Not Rated.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Screenplay. Nominated for Best Supporting Actor-Gene Wilder.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 12/3/2002

• “The Making of The Producers
• Sketch Gallery
• Playhouse Outtake
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Producers (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Back in the old days, they made movies of Broadway productions. Nowadays, they make Broadway productions of movies. Actually, this isn't an entirely new phenomenon, but it seems to be on the upswing, and the success of The Producers clearly will influence that growth. When it hit Manhattan in early 2001, the show became an instant hit, and it continues to perform wildly well, even without original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Unlike other adaptations like Beast, The Lion King, and Saturday Night Fever, however, The Producers offers one enormous distinction. For most of these film to stage productions, the movie version remains dominant in the public mind. If you mention those three titles to people, I feel confident the vast majority will connect much more quickly to the cinematic renditions first.

Not so for The Producers. While Beast, King and Fever all came from hugely successful films, The Producers lacked the same level of public awareness. If thought of at all, most folks regarded it as a minor entry in the Mel Brooks canon. His first directorial effort, The Producers maintains a distinct following, but it became overshadowed by better known Brooks flicks like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. I wouldn’t call The Producers an obscure movie, but it seemed pretty faded before the stage musical revived it.

I’m glad the Broadway show helped bring the movie back to some prominence. While not without some misfires, The Producers offers a generally amusing and clever experience that may well stand as Brooks’ best flick.

The Producers introduces us to has-been Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel). Once a huge success, he now must round up money for his productions by wooing old ladies. When an accountant named Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) checks out Max’s books, he discovers $2000 missing. When he notes that “the IRS isn’t interested in a show that flopped”, the meek number-cruncher comes to a delicious realization: a flop production could earn more money than a hit.

This seduces Max, who then enlists Leo in a scheme. They’ll put on a sure-fire bomb, which will net them scads of money from investors. The pair seek the worst of all possible worlds. They locate a script called Springtime For Hitler by former Nazi Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), and they hire flamboyant and incompetent director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett). To finish this crapfecta, they cast spacey hippie L.S.D. (Dick Shawn) as Hitler.

With that, Max goes to work on the old ladies, to whom he eventually sells 25,000 percent of the profits. If the show does well, Max and Leo will go to jail for their fraud, but how in the world can a musical about Nazi Germany starring a Laugh-In outcast make any money?

I won’t answer that question, since it spills into spoiler territory, but you won’t earn any points if you figure out where The Producers will eventually go. Nonetheless, even with the comprehension of the path down which the story will lead, The Producers offers a very pleasant journey. Brooks clearly is at the top of his game here, as the movie tosses out bit after funny bit. From the absurdities of Max’s relationships through the Springtime for Hitler production itself, the film provides scads of good gags. Of course, some fall flat, but more than enough of them work to make the flick a success. I planned to mention some of them, but my notes included so many fine moments that the prospect became too daunting.

The Producers also benefits from some excellent performances. To call the work seen here “broad” would be an extreme understatement; you’ll find some tremendously wild-eyed acting on display in this film. However, I regard that as a positive, since this form of emoting functions well within such a framework. The Producers never attempts to be anything other than a farce, so farcical acting makes total sense.

Since I’m not a big Mel Brooks fan, I screened The Producers with a little apprehension. However, the end result seemed quite pleasing. The movie offered a lot of fun and fired on all cylinders. Probably not for the easily offended, The Producers nonetheless should work well for most folks.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio C+ / Bonus B+

The Producers appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. While not without a few concerns, The Producers generally looked quite positive.

Sharpness usually came across well. Most of the movie seemed nicely accurate and well defined. Some wide shots betrayed minor softness, but those appeared infrequently, and much of the flick looked detailed and crisp. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no issues, but I did notice a little edge enhancement; that problem seemed most noticeable during the scene with De Bris in drag. As for print flaws, they remained modest given the age of the film. I noticed mild grain at times and also detected occasional examples of specks, spots, and grit. However, these stayed minor most of the time.

Colors usually fared well. Starting with Max’s red robe at the beginning of the film, the hues generally came across as nicely vivid and distinctive. I noticed no issues related to the tones, as they stayed vibrant and tight. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively opaque. In the end, The Producers gave us a very nice visual presentation.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix of The Producers seemed more dated. For the most part, the soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the front. Music demonstrated erratic stereo imaging. At times the music spread nicely to the side speakers, but on other occasions, it seemed pretty stuck in the center. A few scenes displayed mild atmospheric effects; for example, the surrounds added a little material during a street scene. Nonetheless, the soundtrack really stayed monaural for the most part.

Audio quality varied but remained acceptable for a film of this vintage. Speech occasionally seemed somewhat tinny and harsh. Dialogue displayed light edginess at times; the most notable examples occurred during the Hitler auditions. The lines always stayed intelligible, but they lacked the expected clarity. Effects played a minor part in the movie, but they came across as reasonably clean and accurate throughout the film. Music lacked great range, but the score and songs appeared decent for an older piece, and these elements seemed fairly good with that caveat in mind. Ultimately, The Producers offered a lackluster soundtrack.

On the flipside of this DVD, we get a mix of supplements. First we discover The Making of The Producers, a 63-minute and 49-second documentary about the film. This program mixes movie snippets, archival photos and materials, and new interviews. In the latter category, we hear from director/writer Mel Brooks, actors Gene Wilder, Lee Meredith, Kenneth Mars and Andreas Voutsinas, first assistant director Michael Hertzberg, composer John Morris, choreographer Alan Johnson, production designer Charles Rosen, casting director Alfa-Betty Olsen, and filmmaker Paul Mazursky.

A fairly terrific little show, “Making” provides a reasonably complete look at the production. It conveys how Brooks started the project and takes us along its path from attempted book to attempted play to actual screenplay and then moves through casting to subsequently deliver many anecdotes from the shoot. We also learn about the set design, the creation of the “Springtime for Hitler” production number, the film’s initial reception and eventual success, and many other topics. The participants all seem lively and entertaining, and they deliver a great deal of useful and intriguing information. Meredith – who looks simply amazing at age 55 – even “goes to work” at one point! “The Making of The Producers” provides a memorable documentary.

The sole deleted scene included on the DVD, the Playhouse Outtake shows a little more from the movie’s ending segment. It lasts three minutes, 38 seconds and presents a moderately amusing alteration of the existing climax.

Within the Sketch Gallery, we get a filmed montage of set designs created for the movie. It lasts 134 seconds and presents an interesting look at the film’s production work. The Photo Gallery utilizes the more traditional stillframe format. It includes 40 shots, most of which depict scenes from the flick.

The Peter Sellers Statement Read By Paul Mazursky offers exactly what it says. We get a 53-second clip in which Mazursky relates Sellers’ laudatory comments about The Producers. Alluded to during the documentary, this seems like an interesting footnote to the Producers history.

The Producers ends with some ads. We get that flick’s trailer - presented fullframe with monaural audio - as well as promos for MGM’s special edition DVDs of The Greatest Story Ever Told, Fiddler on the Roof, The Princess Bride and Some Like It Hot. Finally, a soundtrack spot touts the Broadway album.

Mel Brooks’ first – and probably best – film, The Producers provides a consistently winning experience. The movie offers a delightfully politically incorrect piece that usually delivers a lot of laughs. The DVD features generally positive picture quality along with fairly average audio and a nice little collection of extras highlighted by an excellent documentary. The Producers comes with my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.282 Stars Number of Votes: 39
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