From the List of Shame File #6: The Producers (1968)

While we have seen many films, there are many films that are held in high regard that we haven’t seen yet. As we cross them off our List of Shame, we’ll write about them here!

I love Mel Brooks, but I have only really seen his ‘classic’ films from the mid-seventies on. Young Frankenstein is far and away my favorite film of his, but despite there being two movies and a musical, I had never seen The Producers. I have to say, after watching the film, I wasn’t missing much. The plot here is the interesting part, with the premise of attempting to make the worst musical ever a fun proposition. It’s just enough to carry this film, but it is not filled to the brim with gags, jokes, puns, and visual nods the way later Brooks’ films are. 

The main joy of this film comes from the fictional play itself, Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. The staging of the play is a blast, especially with the title song (which has Mel Brooks’ only ‘appearance’ in the film). It seems telling that the best part of this movie is a direct and over the top satire, like Brooks’ later films. Also fun is the uneasy partnership between con artist theater producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), who are two performers who outclass the material on display here. Dick Shawn gives an interesting performance as Lorenzo St. DuBois (aka LSD), the hippie actor whose performance as Hitler is what convinces the crowd of the satire. He’s fun to watch, and I wonder if Robin Williams didn’t borrow some of his shtick.
Overall, though, The Producers is not a great film, but is not unenjoyable. I would really only recommend it to people who already love Brooks. Oh, and it’s on Netflix Instant.
However, I do plan on watching the new film version, if only to see what improvements Brooks made to the story after 40 years.
Cool Trivia Fact: The classic U2 album, Achtung Baby! gets it’s name from a line in this film!