DVD Review HTF Review: The Producers (1968) - Deluxe Edition

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    The Producers: Deluxe Edition




    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1968
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 90 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) and Fullscreen (1.33:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1 and Original Monaural





    Release Date:
    December 6th, 2005



    Although most of Mel Brooks’ recent films have been quite disappointing to me, I cannot deny that he has made quite an impact on the comedy genre (and me), with masterpieces like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and perhaps the best of his films, The Producers. Amazingly, though The Producers, originally titled “Springtime for Hitler”, was Mel Brooks’ directorial debut, he demonstrated tremendous ability for getting the best out his performers and delivering fearless, biting humor, in this case trashing both the Nazi party and the movie industry.

    Basically, the story, also written by Mr. Brooks, centers on a duo of unlikely con-men, who are hoping to put together the worst film ever to be captured on celluloid! Why, you ask? Well, the answer starts with the fact that former super-producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), now washed up, sporting a hideous combed-over hairstyle, and so cash poor that he wears a cardboard belt and is forced to finance his works by providing “services” to elderly women, wants to climb out of the deep financial hole he is in.

    Luckily, old Max is given an ingenious idea by his financial advisor/partner in crime, a neurotic, blanket-toting accountant named Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder). Inspiration strikes good old Leo while doing Max’s books, when he finds that Max actually turned a profit out of his latest failed production, and he concocts a scheme that would allow Max to score big by utilizing the same principle on a larger scale. To be more specific, Leo proposes that Max raise way more money than needed to produce a film, then make it on a shoestring budget, and ensure that the final product is so god-awful that no one will want to show it. If all goes to plan, there will appear to be no profits to distribute amongst the film’s backers, but Max and Leo will actually divvy up the funds that were supposed to be used during production.

    To bring their despicable plot to fruition, the fellows decide that they will adapt the worst play they can find for the screen, and end up settling on a musical entitled “Springtime for Hitler”, written by a demented Nazi-lover named Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), who also has a penchant for having serious discussions with birds. Of course, they also want to ensure that a skilled director will not somehow turn this crappy play into a smash hit, so they retain the services of the most inept director they can find, Roger De Bris (Christopher Hewitt) and a pill-popping actor named Lorenzo S. Dubois or “LSD” (Dick Shawn), to undermine every aspect of the film they possibly can.

    With all of their pieces in place, will Max and Leo fulfill their dream of creating the world’s biggest flop, and get rich in the process? Or, conversely, will “Springtime for Hitler” unexpectedly become an overnight sensation, getting them into some real hot water in the process? The answers to these, and other questions, are for you to discover, but rest assured that there is a good time to be had in finding out!

    Moving along to the film, and its place in history, what impresses me most is how much brash, daring material there is on display here, which undoubtedly offended many persons not too far removed from the days of Hitler, and the brutal Nazi regime he commanded. True, The Producers did win the 1968 Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay, so it is not fair to say that it was ignored, but the film certainly did not exceed its box-office expectations. With this in mind, it is a safe bet that its mediocre revenues were a function of the level of uncertainty or apprehension that moviegoers had to The Producers’ humor, particularly those of Jewish ancestry.

    Viewers able to tolerate this brand of humor, however, were treated to an almost magical interplay between Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, both of whom were intoxicating in their respective roles. Personally, I most enjoyed Mr. Wilder’s anxiety-induced screeching, especially as it pertained to his little blue blankie, but Mostel was also wonderful as the bombastic Max Bialystock! The very beginning of the film, when Mostel is changing out the pictures on his desk to prepare for his next “client”, and then playing strange games with her, is extremely amusing, and loaded with lots of subtle humor…and it just gets better from there, culminating in the utterly silly, but very funny “Springtime for Hitler”!

    In my opinion, this is just great movie-making, through and through, and in watching The Producers again for this review, it is little wonder that this motion picture has overcome the lukewarm reception given it by moviegoers, and achieved the level of respect and admiration that it now enjoys. Indeed, Mel Brooks’ directorial debut has become a bona fide classic, checking in near the very top of the list of America’s 100 Funniest Movies compiled by the American Film Institute. If you have not seen The Producers yet, I strongly urge that you stop reading, hunt it down, pop it into your DVD player, and prepare to laugh hard and often!





    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    The Producers is offered in two different aspect ratios on this “deluxe edition” DVD, in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and mutilated full frame (4:3)! You can probably guess that I did not waste my valuable time with the full frame version, so let’s take a gander at how the anamorphic widescreen transfer stacks up.

    First off, aside from a faint hint of grain, the print is astonishingly clear, with practically no print damage to speak of! Colors and flesh tones are also bold, rich, and free of any distracting abnormalities. Black level and fine detail are exceptional as well, giving the image a rich texture (look at Gene Wilder’s disheveled locks, for example), excellent shadow detail, and a tangible sense of depth. Finally, I noticed nothing in the way of compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    To put it mildly, this transfer is quite impressive, and certainly makes the film look as if it were made a lot more recently than it was. Great job MGM!


    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for The Producers is not quite as stunning as the image transfer, but it still reproduces the source material in fine fashion. In particular, dialogue is delivered in a crisp and intelligible manner throughout, and the music and effects ring through delightfully, without ever intruding with the characters’ speech. Frequency response is also relatively even across the audible spectrum, but low bass response could have been a little more forceful.

    Further, although there is a hair more separation (to my ears) across the front channels on this 5.1 channel track, the engineers did not get carried away with the use of the surrounds, so the vast majority of the audio information resides in the front of the soundstage. That being said, the multi-channel mix can be likened to the “original” monaural mix, which is also included, and which stacks up quite nicely against its counterpart!

    Basically, either audio option is a good choice, and I think that MGM deserves a thumbs up for giving fans of the film the opportunity to hear The Producers’ original soundtrack should they so choose!





    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!

    The answer to the obvious question, “Do I need to upgrade?” is a firm NO, unless you are absolutely have to see the trailer for the upcoming theatrical update of The Producers, reason being that the remaining bonus features were ported over from the “Special Edition” DVD release.


    The Making of The Producers
    The “Making of The Producers”, which runs for about an hour, is divided into five sections: Opening, Act I, Intermission, Act II, and Closing. Some segments are more interesting than others, and some are light on detail (e.g. Intermission just features footage of Lee Meredith dancing), but Producers fans may be interested to hear about how Mel Brooks conned his way into the director’s chair, or about Gene Wilder’s first meeting with Zero Mostel. There are also a few comments made by Brooks and Wilder about the subsequent Broadway smash, starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, to close out the featurette.


    A Look at the New Theatrical Release
    The trailer for the upcoming The Producers motion picture, starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (1:48) is included.


    Sketch Gallery
    The sketch gallery runs for just over two minutes, and features detailed sketches of The Producers’ sets, which play over music from the film.


    Playhouse Outtake
    This is a deleted scene (3:40) featuring Mostel, Wilder, and Kenneth Mars setting up explosive devices at the playhouse.


    Photo Gallery
    The photo gallery consists of approximately 40 black-and-white photographs, most of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, which can be perused with your remote control.


    Peter Sellers’ Statement
    This extra is the reading (by Paul Mazursky) of a statement submitted to the publication Variety by Peter Sellers, which raves about The Producers.


    Insert
    A four-page color insert, which offers some interesting trivia about The Producers, is tucked inside the keepcase.


    Promotional Materials
    The second disc contains trailers for: West Side Story: CE, Monty Python and the Holy Grail: SE, Rent, and Spaceballs: SE.



    SCORE CARD

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    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    In all honesty, there is no need to purchase this DVD unless the previously released “Special Edition” is not a part of your collection, but The Producers remains every bit a classic, and a definite must-own on DVD! Though Mel Brooks seems to have given us his best shots early in his career, his initial stint in the director’s chair resulted in a brilliantly realized blend of gut-busting humor and commentaries on the insanity that existed in both Nazi Germany and the inner circles of show business.

    As competent as Brooks turned out to be however, it was the marvelous performances turned in by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder that have given this film such longevity. Of course, your opinion may differ, but I honestly cannot picture another actor who could have handled either of the two lead roles with such ease – they owned their characters!

    In terms of the DVD, there really is nothing new in the way of value-added material except the trailer for the upcoming theatrical remake, so as I mentioned above, there is not much need to double-dip. However, if you still have not picked up The Producers, there is little here not to like, as the disc is technically solid and the ported over extras should be of interest to fans of the film.

    With all that said, this “Deluxe Edition” of The Producers comes very highly recommended, but (again) only for film buffs that do not yet own the title!!!


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    so the only fifference with this and the old special edition is the trailer for the new movie?

    i cant remember was the trivia booklet in the old one too?
     
  3. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    No trivia booklet in the SE, just a single sheet with scenes and cast...better than usual these days...
     
  4. Bill Thomann

    Bill Thomann Supporting Actor

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    I'll be buying it as I had the SE but lost it in Hurricane Charley & when I replaced it I got the "movie only edition". Time to get rid of that & get the 2 disc SE. Thanks for a great review.
     
  5. Ira Siegel

    Ira Siegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Jason for the advice regarding avoiding double dipping.
    Two points:
    1. Leo and Max were making a Broadway play, not a motion picture.
    2. The 4:3 version is open-matte, as opposed to a "mutilated" P&S version.
    I've seen this movie many, many times, starting in '68. It is FUNNY! And I keep falling in love with Lee Meredith.
     
  6. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    For sure, anybody who has a funnybone must have The Producers and Young Frankenstein available for *immediate* therapeutical viewing. No excuses accepted, this is your last warning.

    Thanks for the review.
     
  7. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    So does this mean that the audio/video transfer is the same? I ask only because I'm not sure I'd rate the original DVD as highly in the A/V department as you do with this new set.

    Thanks for the clarification!
     
  8. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Still no word on whether or not the A/V transfer is the same as the old DVD?

    Thanks!
     
  9. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Nice review! Makes me want a decent anamorphic transfer of "Young Frankenstein" too!
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The original MGM 16x9 version looked amazing, so Columbia probably just ported the same master to their DVD.

    It was fully restored on film prior to MGM's DVD.

    This is useless to owners of the original DVD-14 SE, but if you never got that, this is worth owning. The documentary is excellent.
     
  11. Steve Meskell

    Steve Meskell Second Unit

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    This might be the only movie that "might" look better in the 4:3 mode...Check the scene when LSD is sitting at the piano singing to Eva Braun. Also the scene on the lake with Leo and Max. It looks like too much information was cut when it is in widescreen.
    Also some of the musical numbers are different in 5:1. They used the soundtrack that does not have any dancing sounds. Switch back and forth on the Springtime for Hitler number and you'll see what I mean.

    It still looks great and the sound is top notch.
     

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