Navigation

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Producers: Collector’s Edition (1968) Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
the-producers-usMel Brooks’ legendary 1968 Oscar-winning film The Producers gets its first Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory.  From the endlessly funny mind of filmmaker Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein) comes this explosion of pure comic lunacy about low-rent Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and his high-strung accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) who is given to fits of hysteria. They discover that by raising a lot more money than they need from a few gullible investors, they can make more money on a flop than on a hit. So armed with the worst show ever written – “Springtime For Hitler” – and an equally horrific cast, this double-dealing duo is banking on disaster. But when their sure-to-offend musical becomes a surprise smash hit, they find themselves in the middle of the greatest Broadway dilemma in history.  The Producers: Collector’s Edition is a Blu-ray/DVD combo set that features a new HD transfer and includes a reversible wrap featuring original theatrical art, the documentary “The Making Of The Producers,” a 2012 interview titled “Mel And His Movies: The Producers,” the original theatrical trailer, a deleted scene, and a sketch gallery. 
Producers-Mostel

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The Producers was Mel Brooks’ first film and it’s also the film that the late great Peter Sellers saved when he took out an ad praising the film.  The film’s financiers were not too happy with how the film turned out and weren’t planning on a wide release but when a comedy genius like Sellers loved it, they reconsidered that position.  Needless to say, the film went on to become a classic comedy and eventually became a massive musical hit on Broadway which led to a movie version of the musical itself.  I can’t think of any other creative endeavor that has spawned so many different variations of the same thing.
In every version, there’s a desperate washed up Broadway producer named Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) who has fallen on such hard times that he pimps himself out with rich elderly women for money.  He even has nicknames for them depending on their sexual proclivity and a cabinet full of their pictures that he can use for whoever is visiting at the time. His creative bookkeeping has caused more problems for Max so it’s not long before he needs an accountant which leads to Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) coming to work for him.  Leo is just as messed up as Max, as he’s a bag full of neuroses.   He’s excitable, constantly nervous, and is prone to hyperventilating.  Putting the two of them together is just a recipe for trouble.
It’s not long before Leo discovers a $2000 discrepancy in Max’s books because he raised more money than he needed, a fact that Max convinces him to overlook.  While musing on that fact, Leo has a revelation…a producer could make a lot more money on a play that flops that one that succeeds.  He points out that no one would bother to audit a failure which would leave whoever was responsible very wealthy, a plan that Max enacts immediately.  He convinces Leo to leave his drab life and job behind and become a producer.  They decide to find the absolute worst script that they can find, one that is guaranteed to fail on Broadway.
They find the perfect one when they discover Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden, a play written by an ex-Nazi named Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) who worships Hitler.  Max and Leo persuade Franz to sign over the rights to the play by telling him that they want to show the world “the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart.”   Having the worst play ever written isn’t enough, so the pair hire the worst director they can find…Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewett), a flamboyant individual who has a penchant for women’s clothing and a reputation and someone whose plays “close on the first day of rehearsal.”  To further ensure failure, Max and Leo also hire a hippie actor named Lorenzo St. DuBois, a.k.a. L.S.D. (Dick Shawn), to play the pivotal role of Hitler.  Having done everything they could to stack the deck against the play, all they have to do is wait for opening night which by all logic should fail spectacularly.  But, this being a Mel Brooks film, the last thing they should be counting on is any kind of serious logic at work!
The Producers is without a doubt a comedy classic and the beginning of Mel Brooks’ hilarious run of movies that led to his other classics that included hits like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  This tale of desperate and greedy producers is mean-spirited, crude, sexist, wild, tasteless, and all in the best way possible.  This movie is an equal opportunity offender which I love as most movies today play it safe and end up watered down.  You can’t get more outrageous than a Broadway play that’s a love letter to Hitler whose played as a misunderstood flower child. For example, the opening number “Springtime for Hitler” is a celebration of the Nazi’s brutal takeover of Poland and France and it’s filled with dancing girls with questionable costumes that also point to some aspect of Germany’s food or drinks.
The script is great and so are all of the actors cast in these roles.  For a movie this big and broad, it’s interesting to see how the actors approached their roles to find their place in it.  For Zero Mostel, his answer was to overact and try to be bigger than the movie itself, which works most of the time but when combined with Gene Wilder’s lightning fast mellow to manic transformation, it can be a bit much but it somehow all still works.  They are joined by a bunch of other wacky characters who are just as out there as them.  There’s Roger De Bris’ sassy and sycophantic assistant Carmen Giya (Andreas Voutsinas), Ulla (Lee Meredith) the dancing Swedish secretary, as well as the aforementioned Kenneth Mars and Dick Shawn in their respective crazy roles.  I don’t want to go into how the movie ends because you have to see it to believe it, but it’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t go all soft at the end either.  It’s just as nasty and funny as the rest of the movie. While I prefer Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles over this, there’s no denying how funny and influential this movie is.
Producers-Wilder

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is a new one from the Shout! Factory that was sourced from a new HD master according to their press materials for the film which is a good thing for the rest of us.  This new transfer looks great and much better than I’ve ever seen the film look.  Detail looks much sharper than it ever has and you will see many details that you’ve never seen before.  Colors also jump off the screen more than they did before especially in certain scenes like the “Springtime for Hitler” bit and Ulla’s hypnotic yellow dress during her dance scenes.  There’s still some soft looking shots here and there, but overall this is a major upgrade over every other release of this movie and one that’s worth buying the Blu-ray for.
producers 4

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

The Producers wisely offers two different audio tracks – one for the purists who want the film’s original mono track which is now presented as an uncompressed LPCM Mono 2.0 mix, and another one for those that want the best sound as possible who get a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  Both tracks sound great but for my money I prefer the new surround track as it offers more cross channel activity and the music sounds a lot better.  I’m sure that many people will want to listen the Mono track which is fine and it’s great that Shout! Factory has actually given the film’s fans an actual choice which many studios don’t concern themselves with.
producers 3

Extras (4 out of 5 stars) 

There’s a lot of great extras here including just about every single one from the previous DVD Special Edition.  All of them are in standard definition except for the new except from Shout’s The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection (read my review of it here) of one of the “Mel and His Movies” segments about the movie which is in high definition.  We also learn that Dustin Hoffman was supposed to play Liebkind but begged to be released from the movie so he could star in Brooks’ wife’s film – The Graduate.  The rest is movie history!
  • The Making of The Producers - At over an hour long, this documentary is my favorite part of these extras as it really covers the making of the movie and we get to hear from many of the cast and crew.  This is really all you need but the rest of it is like getting a cherry on top.
  • Mel and His Movies: The Producers  – This almost twenty minute excerpt from Shout’s earlier Mel Brooks set finds Mel in his office talking about how the movie came about and how it was originally a book, then a play, and then a movie because that was the only way he could handle the dialogue and quick cuts between scenes.
  • Deleted Scene - Some more fun with Kenneth Mars.
  • Peter Sellers’ Ad in Variety - If you need proof that comedic genius Peter Sellers saved this movie with his ad in Variety, then you are in luck as we hear Paul Mazursky read Sellers’ rave if the film that was published the day after he saw The Producers.
  • Sketch Gallery - A short look at the film’s production design.
  • Trailers - There’s also trailers for other Mel Brooks releases including: The Producers , American Masters’ Mel Brooks: Make a Noise, and The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy.
Producers

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

This is one of the greats folks so make sure you pick it up unless you don’t have a sense of humor. The movie is great and so is this Blu-ray from the Shout! Factory who really seem to make a big effort to gives us the best version they can instead of just pumping out a second rate quickie release like some other studios do with their older movies.  This Blu-ray has some great video and audio quality and the extras are also great and give you a lot of insight into the making of the movie.  This Blu-ray ia highly recommended!
Order your copy today!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...