The Producers is a comedy about a falling actor/producer and a accountant who scheme to create a Broadway flop, and make “big bucks” afterwards. It is also one of the funniest satires directed at Nazism that I have ever encountered. The movie remains a classic, and has spawned a remake as well as a very successful Broadway run. This, the original movie was written and directed by the brilliant Mel Brooks.
The movie stars Gene Wilder as the neurotic accountant Leo Bloom, and Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, as the once famous actor, star of blockbusters movies, Broadway hits, and now, barely scrapping two roles together and adored only by a bunch of old ladies, who, like his career, are closer to the grave than actual life. This was my first encounter with Mostel and I was absolutely floored. The aura, the gravitas, the screen presence, the ability to command every single scene, just a breathtaking acting master-class. The first fifteen minutes of this movie, where Mostel goes all out, are the funniest 15 minutes of my film watching life.
We meet our two future fraudsters in Mostel’s office, after he has had some “fun” with a couple of old ladies, on separate occasions. By chance they think off a scheme. Mostel, who usually needs around 10k for a play will try and collect 100 times more this time. When the show fails, they will just keep all the leftover money and enjoy their lives. But, the catch is, they need a flop. But not just any flop, the flop of flops, something that will fail no matter what, foolproof flop. And they find it. Their potential flop is written by a former Nazi, a sort of love letter to Hitler named, “Springtime for Hitler”. After some back and forth, the author, Franz Liebkind, agrees to let them turn his script into a Broadway show.
Afterwards we get a quick look at the two fraudsters looking for a director, actors etc. They think they sealed the deal for their flop/personal success when they hire a ex-con hippie who has a very particular take on Hitler. But, the night of the show arrives and half through the show everything seems to go to plan, Until… Well, lets just say they pulled a T. Wiseau.
The Broadway show itself is insane. They really go all out on turning everything that was a symbol of the Nazi party or Nazi propaganda into a object of precise ridicule and satire. But, the songs are really catchy, especially the titular song, “Springtime for Hitler”. But as with most scenes in this movie, there’s a machine gun barrage of jokes coming your way.