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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.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM Mono
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.93
Release Date: 7/2/2013

• “The Making of The Producers” Documentary
• “Mel and His Movies: The Producers” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Sketch Gallery
• Peter Sellers’ Ad in Variety
• Trailers
• Bonus DVD


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Producers [Blu-Ray] (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2013)

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 influenced that growth. When it hit Manhattan in early 2001, the show became an instant hit and led to more movie-to-Broadway efforts.

Unlike other adaptations like Beauty and the 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 failed 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 LSD (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 one funny bit after another. 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 Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+ / Bonus B+

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.

A second disc delivers a DVD copy of Producers. It includes all of the Blu-ray’s extras.

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 Blu-ray provides acceptable but unexceptional picture and audio along with a smattering of interesting bonus materials. This is a reasonably good reproduction of an amusing movie but it’s not a great Blu-ray.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE PRODUCERS (1968)

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