The Producers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an up and down presentation.
Sharpness tended to be inconsistent. While most of the movie seemed fairly distinctive and well-defined, more than a few soft shots materialized. These weren’t a major concern, but they could cause some distractions. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but edge haloes occasionally appeared.
Grain remained natural and print flaws were fairly minor. I saw a smattering of specks, marks and streaks – and one big “cigarette burn” – but much of the film passed without defects. The image could’ve been cleaner, but it clearly could’ve been much messier, too.
Colors appeared decent. Skin tones tended to be a little ruddy, and I couldn’t claim the hues impressed; occasionally they were somewhat flat. Overall they showed fair to good reproduction, though. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively opaque. In general, the movie showed adequate clarity; it just didn’t impress.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix of The Producers also showed its age. For the most part, the soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the front, and music demonstrated erratic stereo imaging. At times these elements spread nicely to the side speakers, but on other occasions, they 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 dialogue displayed light edginess at times; the most notable examples occurred during the Hitler auditions. The lines always stayed intelligible, but they lacked a natural feel.
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.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2002? Music was pretty similar, as the lossless track couldn’t do a lot with the erratic 45-year-old stems. Visuals showed improvements but not to a huge degree; the Blu-ray offered superior delineation and clarity but was flawed enough that it didn’t blow away the DVD. While I preferred the Blu-ray, it wasn’t a night and day difference.
The extras mix old and new components. First we discover The Making of The Producers, a one-hour, three-minute and 23-second documentary about the film. 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 looked 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 shows a little more from the movie’s ending segment. It lasts three minutes, 41 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 two minutes, 15 seconds and presents an interesting look at the film’s production work. Under Trailers, we see ads for Producers as well as American Masters: Mel Brooks – Make a Noise and The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy. (The Blu-ray drops a forgettable photo gallery.)
Peter Sellers’ Ad in Variety offers 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.
New to the Blu-ray, a featurette called Mel and His Movies: The Producers goes for 18 minutes, 52 seconds and includes Brooks. He talks about the genesis of the film as well as its progress toward production, casting, aspects of the shoot and its reception. Though some of this material appears in the longer documentary, we get many new thoughts in this brisk, informative piece.