Mel Brooks’ directorial debut, The Producers, finally arrives on Blu-ray sporting a new high definition transfer, courtesy of Shout! Factory, porting over most of the bonus features from the previous MGM DVD release.
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDDual Blu-ray Keepcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: A, 1
Release Date: 07/02/2013
Washed-up Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) has been taking advantage of little old ladies (to put it politely) to fund his failing productions and lifestyle for several years. When a by-the-book accountant, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), finds a $2,000 discrepancy in Bialystock’s latest flop (he raised more than he spent), Max convinces Leo to “cook the books” and plug the money in somewhere. This leads Leo to think aloud that, on a much grander scale, a producer could make more money from a flop than a hit. And thus is the premise for Mel Brooks’ The Producers, as Max corrupts Leo even further, convincing him to become a producing partner, and the two go in search of the worst play and hire the worst director. What they find is Springtime For Hitler (the film’s original title), written by Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), a crazy Nazi war criminal hiding in New York that still idolizes Adolf Hitler. Hoping to seal the deal, Bialystock and Bloom hire cross-dressing director Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewitt), whose plays typically “close on the first day of rehearsal” and flower-power hippie actor Lorenzo St. DuBois, better known a L.S.D. (Dick Shawn) as Adolf Hitler. After witnessing the audience’s shocking reaction to the play’s opening musical title number (complete with singing and dancing SS-men, and concluding with a Busby Berkley dancing swastika), Max and Leo retire to the bar across the street to celebrate their total failure. However, things do not go as planned, and the audience quickly warms up to the idea that Springtime For Hitler may be a musical comedy, storming the same bar during intermission and christening the play as a success. Max and Leo find themselves in a pickle, trying to find a way to close the show before it can turn a profit (they sold a combined 25,000% stake in the show), ultimately landing them in prison.
The Production Rating: 4/5
The Producers was the first film Mel Brooks had directed, and often appears as a filmed stage play, cutting away to extreme close-ups, with no sense of style. Brooks did not really develop a style of direction until his third film, Blazing Saddles. Zero Mostel is completely over-the-top as Max Bialystock, and it fits the manicness of the film quite well. Gene Wilder, in only his second film role, plays Leo Bloom as a panic attack waiting to happen, and provides a taste of some of his more famous roles to come. Kenneth Mars, as Franz Liebkind, is almost as nutty as his Inspector Kemp in Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
Critics and audiences were not exactly kind to The Producers when it was first released back in 1968. However, the film did garner two Oscar nominations, one for Gene Wilder’s supporting performance, and another for Brooks’ original screenplay, with Brooks winning for the latter category. Over the years, the film gained in popularity thanks to home video, cable, and movie critics like Roger Ebert, who placed The Producers on his Great Movies list in the year 2000, calling it “One of the funniest movies ever made.”
The 1080p transfer compressed using the AVC codec retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and has never looked better. Colors are well-saturated and consistent, blacks are inky while retaining much of the detail, and film grain is left virtually intact. The print used does have a few minor nicks and dirt debris here and there, and some shots (usually opticals) are somewhat soft. All in all, though, a near-perfect transfer for a 40+ year old film.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The Producers contains two English soundtracks, a 2.0 PCM mono (replicating the film’s original theatrical presentation) and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix. Both sound very good, and have been cleaned up quite nicely by removing a lot of the noise inherent in earlier video releases. The PCM mono is clear and clean throughout, while the DTS-HD MA 5.1 opens up the soundstage a bit by expanding the music to the left, right, and surrounds, while directing dialogue and effects to the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Most of the special features from the 2005 MGM DVD release have been ported over on this new Shout! Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Mel and His Movies: The Producers (HD, 18:52): An excerpt from the feature-length documentary, this is new for this release.
The Making of The Producers (SD, 1:03:52): This is an excellent documentary on the making of the film, ported over from the Deluxe Edition DVD released by MGM in 2005.
Deleted Scene (SD, 3:41): A secondary scene in which Franz Liebkind attempts to blow up the theatre.
Peter Sellers’ Ad In Variety (SD, 0:53): Paul Mazursky reads the full-page ad Peter Sellers placed in Variety shortly after first seeing The Producers.
Sketch Gallery (SD, 2:15): A slideshow of several production sketches made for the film.
Trailers: The Producers (SD, 2:12), American Masters’ Mel Brooks: Make A Noise (HD, 1:51), The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy (SD, 2:30)
DVD Copy: The film and all of the above special features on a standard definition DVD.
Shout! Factory continues their streak of bringing classic films to Blu-ray that the major studios would rather license out, and making them shine. The Producers is my third favorite Mel Brooks film (after Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles), and I’m very happy to now have all three on my shelf in high definition.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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