For the Boids

While Mel Brooks refined his comedic style over time, The Producers’ sheer mania isn’t typical. It’s a movie riddled with anxiety, chaos, obsessions, and blue blankets. The sheer loudness of The Producers – or just the consistency of such – is unlike anything else Brooks created.

The Producers is a kind of coping humor, possible only some 20 years after a tragic event. Leave it to Brooks to come up with the concept of two Jewish Broadway producers going forward on a pro-Hitler farce, trailed by a German determined to kill them.

The Producers is a kind of coping humor

But the audiences love it, of course. Letting themselves bury the unspeakable cruelty, ticket buyers (who somehow think the title “Springtime for Hitler” has potential) guffaw as a beatnik Hitler acts a fool, on a stage production laced with moronic costume numbers, absurd songs, and incompetent performers. In trying to scheme vulnerable old women, Max Bialystock doesn’t consider the buffoonery hit at the right moment, when grieving is gone, the country returned to normalcy, and war only a memory. Their scam doesn’t fail because “Springtime for Hitler” is outwardly funny (even though it’s hysterical) so much as they were the first to stumble upon comedy’s hidden trigger – time.

It’s a shame The Producers doesn’t show more of the play itself, the only fault in an otherwise perfect comedy. Sitting in on “Springtime for Hitler” would mean stepping away from Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, who as a pair, find their commonalities. Wilder, the accountant, worries as he scans Mostel’s books; Mostel worries there’s not enough in the books to even count. And, both suffer from impossible restlessness, only Mostel’s slimy, balding shyster finds a way to bottle that into a successful scheme. Wilder can worry and little else.

Everyone in The Producers is an oddball. The ditz secretary who barely speaks English, the vocal German hiding out on a roof from peering eyes, and the eventual play director who embodies garish ‘60s era gay stereotyping, although in a film where nothing is played less than 120 decibels on the acting scale. Mel Brooks’ methods always found a way to balance the worst assumptions and tropes about people, making them hilarious no matter how awful. To make Hitler into a dorky goofball even as he talks about conquering whole countries? That’s a skill few mastered.

Video

Stunning material from Kino here, their new master lush and precise, plus sharp as crystal. The texture is marvelous, pulling more detail from the 35mm source than any previous home release. From the 4K scan, the images can easily challenge a true 4K source in fidelity terms. Unfiltered, the filmic qualities shine.

Flawlessly resolved grain doesn’t endure any compression faults. It’s utterly transparent. Not even the bright, vivid colors pose a challenge. Incredible vibrancy trounces previously faded masters. Blues and reds as Mostel seduces one of the old women during the credits reach a stunning saturation.

Renewed contrast gives The Producers added life. Hefty contrast and unusually pure, rich black levels suggest a film new rather than vintage. No crush intrudes either, leaving the imagery flush with depth.

Audio

Dodge the 5.1 mix; stick with the 2.0. The latter is balanced better, and offers greater volume. Plus, it’s fuller overall, sporting better dynamics. Odd, but true.

Crispness only falls at the highest treble. A little thing but nothing concerning, and reasonable for the age.

Extras

Michael Schlesinger offers his commentary, with an hour long making-of following. A quick deleted scene comes before some pre-production sketches. Peter Sellers’ praise is read for a minute, and a slew of trailers round off Kino’s disc.

The Producers
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Although Mel Brooks refined his comedy style in time, The Producers is still one of the most inspired film comedies ever made.

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