To Be or Not to Be (1983)

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Released 9-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 102:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alan Johnson

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Mel Brooks
Anne Bancroft
Tim Matheson
Charles Durning
Christopher Lloyd
Josť Ferrer
Case ?
RPI ? Music Ronny Graham
Mel Brooks
John Morris (II)

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† To Be Or Not To Be is a Mel Brooks re-make of a 1942 Jack Benny and Carole Lombard film. Being more than a bit of a Mel Brooks fan, I was very much looking forward to seeing this movie again, and was not disappointed. This is one of Mel Brooks' better comedy offerings. It has numerous laugh-out-loud moments highlighted by a couple of very entertaining musical numbers, particularly the Naughty Nazis sketch. To Be Or Not To Be is not as over-the-top or corny as Spaceballs or High Anxiety. It has a tighter storyline after the style of his best work such as Young Frankenstein and The Producers.

††† To Be Or Not To Be follows the adventures of a group of theatre actors in German-occupied Poland during World War II. The World Famous star of the Polish theatre, Frederick Bronski (Mel Brooks) and his wife Anne Bronski (Anne Bancroft) lurch from one crisis to the next. Mr and Mrs Bronski become clandestine undercover agents for the resistance. They must assist Lieutenant Andre Sobinski (Tim Matheson) to retrieve a list of resistance members and their families. The list must be obtained from a Polish traitor, Professor Siletski (Josť Ferrer), before he turns it over to Colonel (Concentration Camp) Erhardt (Charles Durning) of the Gestapo.

††† Things are not as straightforward as they seem. The simple retrieval of the list gets very complicated and decidedly funny.

††† The performances from the whole cast are excellent. I found the frustrated Capt. Schultz (Christopher Lloyd) very entertaining, as he gets out of all manner of difficult situations by "Heiling Hitler".

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


††† The video transfer was better than I expected for a movie of this era, although not of reference standard.

††† The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

††† The sharpness of the transfer is only adequate as there is slight grain present throughout the movie. This was not distracting, but a clearer picture would have improved the perceivable shadow detail, which was only passable. The grain made it difficult to judge low level noise but did add a nostalgic, war documentary-like feel to the transfer. At times, the picture was a little soft, as if extra filters had been used during filming. This was only evident in scenes with close-ups of Anne Bancroft.

††† Colours were vibrant and bright without being oversaturated and distracting. They were clear and constant with no irregularities.

††† There were no noticeable MPEG or film-to-video artefacts. However, as is common in movies of this age, there were numerous small film artefacts which did not detract from the viewing experience.

††† This disc is RSDL-formatted. The layer change takes place at a scene change at 56:58 and is practically invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† The audio transfer is more than acceptable, though like the video transfer is not of reference quality.

††† There are five audio tracks on this DVD: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. All tracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 channel formatted and encoded at 192 kbps. The default track is the stereo English offering.

††† The dialogue was clear and easily understood at all times. Initially the dialogue is in Polish, but a hidden narrator quickly states that "in the interests of clarity and sanity the rest of the movie will not be in Polish", at which point the two stars heave a great sigh of relief. There are no audio sync issues with this DVD.

††† The musical score was written by John Morris and the musical numbers were written by Mel Brooks and Ronny Graham. The songs and score suit the movie perfectly, adding to both the comedic appeal and war-time atmosphere respectively.

††† There is no use made of the surround channels or the subwoofer by the 2.0 audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


††† Extras are few and far between.


††† The menu is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer

††† The theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, although it is not of good quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† As far as we can tell, this DVD has not yet been released in Region 1.


††† To Be Or Not To Be is at times very funny and overall is an entertaining movie. For those of you who are Mel Brooks fans, this DVD will be a must as it is one of his classics. The movie has been given an acceptable transfer to DVD, though more extras would have been appreciated.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Geoff Greer (read my bio)
Friday, June 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S525, using S-Video output
DisplayBang & Olufsen BeoVision Avante 82cm 16:9 Widescreen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVR-1803. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR 1803
SpeakersParadigm: Phantom Version 3 Front, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 Rear, Jensen SPX-17 Sub

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K
The DVD Bits - Craig D

Comments (Add)
Brooks' most Noble film... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
to be or not to be -
All this plus Lewis Stadlen Jr. - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)