An American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that his grandfather was not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body.
Down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock is forced to romance rich old ladies to finance his efforts. When timid accountant Leo Bloom reviews Max's accounting books, the two hit upon a way to make a fortune by producing a sure-fire flop. The play which is to be their gold mine? "Springtime for Hitler."Written by
Scott Renshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gene Wilder had previously starred alongside Anne Bancroft in a stage version of "Mother Courage". Wilder had become friendly through with Mel Brooks through their association with Bancroft, and Brooks realized that Wilder would make a great Leo Bloom. In June 1963, Brooks invited Wilder to spend the weekend with him and Bancroft on Fire Island, where he gave him the first thirty pages of The Producers to read. He liked it immediately, and Brooks offered him the part. Three years passed without Wilder receiving a phone call or any contact with Brooks about the film. He assumed the project was dead. Then one night, when he was performing in the play Luv, Brooks showed up in his dressing room, out of the blue, with Producer Sidney Glazier in tow. It was as if not a day had passed. "We got the money, here's the script, you're Leo Bloom", said Brooks. Wilder couldn't believe it and he burst into tears. There was just one obstacle: Zero Mostel didn't know Wilder, and wanted to meet him first. If he passed muster with Mostel, he had the part. Wilder was nervous about his first meeting with Mostel. "This huge, round, fantasy of a man came waltzing towards me", said Wilder in his 2005 autobiography "Kiss Me Like a Stranger". "My heart was pounding so loud, I thought he'd hear it. I stuck out my hand, politely, to shake his, but instead of shaking my hand, Zero pulled me into his body and gave me a giant kiss on the lips. All nervousness floated away, I gave a good reading, and was cast." See more »
When Max wipes coffee off his window with his scarf, it becomes dirty. It is clean a moment later. See more »
The closing credits shows the actors full name and their picture. It only says "Zero" for Zero Mostel. See more »
The 2002 DVD release includes an alternate blow-up-the-theater sequence. Franz Leibkind stomps out "ze quick fuse" after lighting it. He then switches to electrical detonation from outside the building. This fails. When Leo, Max and Franz go back into the basement to see what went wrong, the drunk from the bar comes along. Thinking that the detonator handle is a shoeshine stand, he props his feet up on it... See more »
"Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said." -Mel Brooks
In 21st Century America, the one feature of The Producers that astounds even today is the boisterous, exaggerated, confrontational impulsiveness of its two lead performances. But in 1968, the film's content was like a suicide bombing of the audience's idea of good manners. There's such greed in its heroes, such merry deceit, such eagerness to concede every ethic, that the 1968 audience just had to surrender, stick with it. How did Brooks get away with that? By proving the dishonorable struggle of both lead characters at the start, by casting them with actors you couldn't help liking. Mostel's Max Bialystock is a man whose yearnings are so measureless they exonerate his voracity. There's a scene where he rubs his grubby office window with coffee, peeps through the dirt, sees a white Rolls-Royce and shouts, "That's it, baby! When you've got it, flaunt it!" You can drink a tall glass of his gluttonous self-indulgence. "Look at me now! I'm wearing a cardboard belt!" It's characteristic of this movie that after he says the line, he rips off the belt, tears it to smithereens.
Mostel, a distinguished thespian, blacklist foil, and academic, here gives a tour de force of low comedy. Regardless of a comb-over that starts just above his clavicle, he propels buoyant egotism, spitting on his hand to slick back his hair before an elderly female investor enters for her weekly frolic. What Mostel propels in particular is unreserved self-assurance. He never has doubts. Maybe he never thinks at all, just simply carries on out of evolutionary necessity.
Wilder was a fresh mug in 1968, familiarized to audiences with a significant supporting role in Bonnie and Clyde a year before, also as a rather hysterical character. His performance in The Producers is a tinge short of cardiac arrest. On the floor with Mostel over him, he shrieks, "Don't jump! Don't jump!" Mostel begins to leap in a flurry. "I'm hysterical! I'm hysterical!" Mostel pours a glass of water and chucks it in his face. Wilder serves a perfect line: "I'm wet! I'm hysterical, and I'm wet! I'm in pain, and I'm wet, and I'm still hysterical!" Gene and Zero reel on the floor so violently we expect them to chew on one another. Mostel's so overexcited and feral, Wilder so flustered and frantic, you marvel that slobber didn't get on the camera lens. The entire movie's toned on that plane of turbulent anxiety. One of the delights of watching it is to see how the actors are able to manage timing and distinctions even while shrieking. Timing is in the hands of actors, but without scripts, there would be loads of tedious improvisation. Good timing in the written words is the gateway to good timing on screen. I'm sure we'd be surprised at how snappish the dialogue seems on the page. But Brooks, a veteran nightclub act himself, leaves space for delivery while simultaneously working economically with form. Characters repeat the last thing another character said to extend the laugh. Characteristic of Brooks, that's often what causes the laugh. Language is ecstasy to him.
Kenneth Mars is a militant live-action cartoon, up on the roof with his pigeons, singing Nazi songs, later commanding an audience member to stop laughing because "I am the author! I outrank you!" Brooks includes gay jokes, with the ostentatious couple of Broadway director Roger De Bris and his right-hand Carmen Giya. At one point Max, Leo and Carmen crowd into a teeny elevator, and are ejected breathless and ill-at-ease. Heterosexuality's epitomized by the nubile Lee Meredith, as Ulla, the voluptuous secretary, who types one letter at a time then stops for a pat-on-the-back smile. The other terrific performance is by Dick Shawn as the actor who plays Hitler. In a movie made at the pinnacle of the hipster era, he's a hippie comprised out of archetypal junk scraps, with his finger cymbals, soup can necklace and knee-high shag boots.
To produce a musical named Springtime for Hitler is naturally in the worst achievable taste, as an exiting audience member remarks in the movie, to the glee of Bialystock and Bloom, who're depending upon precisely that response. To make a movie about such a musical was also in bad taste, apparently. It's clear that Bialystock and Bloom are Jewish, but they never touch on that. As Franz Liebkind rages, they nod, because the more repugnant he is, the more liable his play will fail. Brooks throws in merely one brief flash to indicate their personal feelings. As the two men walk away from the playwright's apartment, Bloom covers the red-and-black Nazi armband Franz has given him. "All right, take off the armband," says Bialystock, taking off his own. They throw both armbands into a garbage can and spit in it.
Whilst jabbing at the troubles of Broadway, Brooks' directorial debut's concerned with two overtly Jewish characters who are, in the best tradition of Jewish comedy, doomed to failure, in a film steaming with conflict on every level. Whilst there may be a prominently Jewish-American sensibility about Brooks' work, it's a feature that he's chosen to leave out after this film, apart from the Yiddish Native American chief in Blazing Saddles, the metal detector scene in High Anxiety, occasional comments in To Be or Not To Be and the fictitious trailer for Jews in Space in History of the World Part I. But what he's maintained, and what I feel---having grown up in a family of Brooks fanatics---is what makes a particular generation enjoy him so insatiably, is a pure audacity, mischievous delight, eagerness to leap any bound for a laugh. They'll say, "Ah, comedy today's all eff this, eff that, fart on this, have sex with that. It's all bad taste." And I say, look at your boy Mel. He knows better than any of them: Bad taste can taste the best.
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