Sunday, February 18, 2018
The Producers (1967 film)
Written and directed by Mel Brooks, The Producers is the story of a Broadway producer who teams up with an accountant in financing a sure-fire flop hoping to make money out of the flop and live happily. The film is a look into two different men who team up to find a flop as their choice would prove to be something that might offend so many in the hopes they can succeed by creating a Broadway bomb. Starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, and Dick Shawn. The Producers is a whimsical and lively film from Mel Brooks.
The film follows the life of a washed-up Broadway producer who hears his accountant talking about the ideas of making money in investing a flop where the two come together to find a sure-fire flop as they choose a play written by a former Nazi called Springtime for Hitler. It’s a film with a simple premise in which two men decide to take part in a scheme in the hopes they can make some serious money but the journey in finding the flop, getting the worst director to helm the play, and get a terrible cast would prove to be hard. Mel Brooks’ screenplay play into this unlikely partnership between the producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and the account Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) as the former coaches the latter in what it takes to raise funds and such while convincing the Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) to have his play be made with the help of the notoriously-flamboyant director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett). It all play into this scheme where Bialystock and Bloom take careful planning into as it would culminate in the opening night where they hope to unleash the mother of all Broadway bombs.
Brooks’ direction is quite straightforward in terms of the compositions and setting as much of the film is shot on location in New York City with some of its interiors shot at the Chelsea Studio in the same city. While there are some wide shots including a key scene at the Metropolitan Opera House, much of Brooks’ direction rely on close-ups and medium shots to play into the interaction of the protagonists and the adventure they take. At the same time, Brooks would infuse elements of life-hearted banter as it relates to the nerve-stricken Bloom and the aggressive Bialystock where they encounter so many things. Brooks would also put in some moments that are funny such as a Swedish receptionist named Ulla (Lee Meredith) whom they hire just so she can wear skimpy clothes and dance. When the character known as L.S.D. (Dick Shawn) comes into the picture to audition for Hitler, the humor would amp up into the film’s climax for the play’s opening night. Yet, its aftermath that would lead to the funnier moments as it relates to the reaction of Springtime for Hitler and what the audience would see whether Bialystock and Bloom’s scheme would work. Overall, Brooks creates a witty yet exhilarating film about two Broadway producers trying to cash in by financing a sure-fire flop.
Cinematographer Joseph Coffey does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is straightforward and colorful for many of the scenes in the day as well as the way the play is presented in its lighting. Editor Ralph Rosenblum does nice work with the editing as it is straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the humor. Production designer Charles Rosen and set decorator James Dalton do amazing work with the look of Bialystock and Bloom’s office as well as the staging of the play. Costume designer Gene Coffin does fantastic work with the lavish costumes from the dress that De Bris wear as well as the costumes at the play. Sound editor Alan Heim does terrific work with the sound as it is straightforward to play into the atmosphere of the crowds at the play. The film’s music by John Morris is wonderful for its playful orchestral score that add a lot to the film’s humor as it include a few original songs by Mel Brooks such as the titular song to the play.
The casting by Alfa-Betty Olsen is great as it feature some notable small roles from William Hickey as a drunk at a bar, Renee Taylor as an actress playing Eva Braun, Madelyn Cates as a landlord claiming to be a concierge, Barney Martin as an actor playing Hermann Goring, Andreas Voutsinas as De Bris’ assistant Carmen, Estelle Winwood as one of the old ladies that Bialystock woos to get her money, and Lee Meredith in a funny performance as the very attractive receptionist Ulla. Christopher Hewett is superb as the flamboyant and openly-gay play director Roger De Bris who cares more about extravagance rather than the story. Dick Shawn is hilarious as L.S.D. as a singer who auditions to play Hitler as he acts like a Beatnik of sorts as he consistently brings in the laughs.
Kenneth Mars is excellent as Franz Liebkind as the author of Springtime for Hitler as this former Nazi who wrote the play to show Adolf Hitler in a different light while being furious if things don’t go his way. Finally, there’s the duo of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in incredible performances in their respective roles as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom. Mostel brings an energy and determination to his role as a man that is willing to humiliate himself to pleasure old ladies as well as deal with the struggles of being a producer. Wilder is definitely the funnier of the two in the way he is wracked with nerves as he comforts himself with a tiny piece of his blanket as well as display this abundance of energy that had been repressed in him. Mostel and Wilder are a joy to watch in the way they interact with each other as well as be foils to each other.
The Producers is a phenomenal film from Mel Brooks. Featuring a great cast, a witty story, some catchy songs, and an abundance of funny moments that are fun to watch. The film is a whimsical comedy that play into two men trying to pull a scheme by choosing the worst story ever in the hopes they can make money. In the end, The Producers is a spectacular film from Mel Brooks.
Mel Brooks Films: (Twelve Chairs) – Blazing Saddles - Young Frankenstein - (Silent Movie) – High Anxiety - (History of the World Pt. 1) – Spaceballs - (Life Stinks) – Robin Hood: Men in Tights - (Dracula: Dead and Loving It)
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