Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Producers (1968)

The Producers (1968).  Can you believe I've never before seen this movie all the way through? Bits of it seem to show up in every Hollywood comedy retrospective, from Oscar night to PBS specials, and I knew the plot. But I'd never actually sat down and watched it. For once, something was all it's cracked up to be!

Surely everyone else knows the plot too -- Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) is an unsuccessful theatrical producer and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) is the accountant who comes to do his books. When Bloom points out that Max raised more money for one of his flops than it cost to produce, and then takes the next logical step, the two embark on a search for the perfect flop. Springtime for Hitler seems to fit the bill...but then things start to go hilariously wrong.

There's something in this movie to offend everyone -- Jews, Germans, older women, younger women, gay men, accountants -- but that's Mel Brooks for you, and he gets away with it because he's so funny. It was also fun spotting various sly allusions, such as the name of Gene Wilder's character (Leo Bloom = Leopold Bloom from Ulysses?)  Perhaps the most obscure was the little scene when the director's high-camp assistant has Max and Leo remove their shoes before entering his apartment. (This was not common practice when the film was made). He explains by saying "White, white, white is the color of our carpet...."  Only a couple of years ago at West Denmark Family Camp, I learned the German folk song to which he alludes.

I must point out a coincidence that Onkel Hankie Pants pointed out to me:


In the past week, I've enjoyed two films which ended with the protagonists in prison, Topkapi and The Producers. And in both films, the criminals are unrepentantly either planning or already carrying out their next caper!

The Producers is truly a classic comedy and a fun way to spend 90 minutes. I also liked that it was just the right length -- no joke carried on beyond the point where it was funny.

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