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The Producers

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Producers

Starring: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder
Director: Mel Brooks
Rated: NR
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: March 1968
Genres: Comedy, Classic, Cult

*Also starring: Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars, Estelle Winwood, Renee Taylor, Christopher Hewitt, Andreas Voutsinas, William Hickey

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

THE PRODUCERS is the movie that reminds us that one time, long ago, Mel Brooks used to make good movies. With this and his 70's hits like BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKEN- STEIN, it must have seemed like he would be a formidable comedic force to be reckoned with. But as time wore on and his output extended to movies like DRACULA... DEAD AND LOVING IT and LIFE STINKS, it was obvious Brooks burned out. The message here is to stick with 60's and 70's Brooks and stay away from everything from the past two decades.

To be sure, even his good movies had plenty of strained moments where the comedy just wasn't working, especially in THE PRODUCERS, which has annoying scenes of loud silliness that make you want to throw the TV out the window. From the early scenes, it seems like a bad, plotless movie, especially the scene where Gene Wilder gets hysterical (translation: ultra-whiny) for a minute and a half because Zero Mostel has taken his "blue blanket" away.

Even a normally likeable performer like Wilder can get on one's nerves with bad comedic material (Remember his Man- Smitten-With-Sheep scene from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex?), and Lord knows there are places here where you wish someone would shove an Everlasting Gobstopper in his mouth to shut him up.

Wilder is an accountant who has come to balance Broadway producer Mostel's books and soon becomes partners with him in a scheme to produce a play that will be a surefire flop and pocket the investors' money. First he needs some investors, whom he culls from his usual bevy of blue-haired old ladies who invest in exchange for sex with Mostel, the oldest and fattest gigolo alive. His sex appeal is less than his first name, but to an arthritic old lady, I guess it doesn't matter.

The rest of THE PRODUCERS continues on an episodic scale, with scenes where Mostel and Wilder have to find the worst play ever written ("Springtime For Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolph and Eva"), track down the author (a crazed Nazi), find a director ("the worst director to ever live," who also wears a dress... I thought Ed Wood was dead.), audition some actors (including a hyperactive hippie Hitler who acts like Robin Williams) and finally put on the play itself.

Most of the best moments in THE PRODUCERS come from the performance of "Springtime For Hitler" and its opening song-and-dance number, complete with a chorus line of German babes who form a moving swastika with their bodies. Tasteless (but not as tasteless as the man-smitten-with-sheep scene -- remember that?) but incredibly funny, unlike the rest of the movie, which is brainless and marginally funny. As a whole, though, THE PRODUCERS is a classic of 60's comedy and one of the few Mel Brooks successes.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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