The Producers (1968)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Peter Sellers Statement Read By Paul Mazursky
|Year Of Production||1968|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Mel Brooks|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Max Byalistock (Zero Mostel) is a Broadway producer and a failure. To raise money for his productions, he romances little old ladies who pay him with cheques made out to "cash". One day when romancing a particularly randy old lady (Estelle Winwood), in walks Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), a milquetoast accountant sent to check his books. Leo discovers a $2000 discrepancy in the books, where Max's latest flop was overfunded. It dawns on Leo that Max would have been better off getting a million dollars in funding for his $60,000 production, so he could pocket the difference - the Internal Revenue Service would not bother investigating a flop. Max picks up on this idea and seduces Leo into helping him produce a flop, with Max convincing all the old ladies he knows into backing the play, for 50% each.
Soon they have secured funding for the play, with 25,000% backing. In order to ensure the film is a flop, they choose the worst play they can find: Springtime For Hitler by Franz Liebkind, a German-accented (and German helmet wearing) pigeon fancier and downright nutter. Then they engage the worst director on Broadway and cast the worst actor: L.S.D. (Dick Shawn).
My first draft of this review started by saying that this film gets funnier each time I see it. Then I read another review where the reviewer said the same thing, so I had to scrap that idea. But it's true, this is hilarious and much funnier than I remembered. The film is short and fast-paced, the first-time direction by Mel Brooks is excellent, as is his own screenplay. The screenplay has some similarities to the 1967 British film Mister Ten Per Cent, but was actually based on Brooks' own experiences working for a producer like Max in the 1940s. The production number that opens the play is pure Brooks, complete with his own voice dubbed in for one line. And how many comedies nowadays manage to include passing references to both Dostoevsky and Kafka?
The performers are faultless. Mostel and Wilder are hilarious, but even they are outshone by Kenneth Mars as Liebkind, in a wonderfully eccentric performance. Dick Shawn is perfect as the flower-child actor. Estelle Winwood, aged only 86, is marvellous too as the sex-crazed old lady in the long credits sequence.
Over thirty years later Brooks turned this into a stage musical (not his own idea) starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, a film of which is due for release in 2005. They could not improve on the original, which is probably the best American comedy of the 1960s.
The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The video transfer is pretty good, quite sharp, clear and bright. There is a good level of detail available, to the point that I could clearly read the posters on the wall in Bialystock's office, most of which look to have been doctored. Shadow detail is quite good too.
The colour is excellent, with some very bright colours in evidence. At times the reds seemed a tiny bit oversaturated, though there is no bleeding that I could detect. Black levels are good.
The only video artefact of note is aliasing, which appears quite regularly, such as at 16:26. The edges of some curved surfaces also seem jagged in some shots.
Film artefacts are present in abundance, with a lot of tiny white spots in evidence throughout. There is a larger splotch at 20:46, plus a slight drop in visual quality for a few seconds from 75:19, with an excess of grain evident. Otherwise grain is visible but restrained.
No subtitles are provided on this dual layered disc. There is no layer change during the film.
The sole audio channel is Dolby Digital 2.0, which sounds mono to me. There is no surround encoding.
The audio is quite good and dialogue is clear, though I did occasionally feel that the dynamic range is not quite what it should be, with a slight harshness to the sound. This is possibly just the original recording quality, though it could also be a result of noise reduction in the remastering.
The music score is by John Morris, a Broadway composer who has worked on most of the films of Mel Brooks. His own music is very good and suits the film. His orchestration of the two songs by Brooks, Springtime For Hitler and Prisoners of Love, is exceptional. The music scrubs up well on this disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menu looks like the producer's desk, with champagne bottle, cigar and script, while on the helmet in the upper left scenes from the film are shown with the relevant audio. The cursor is a pigeon, though on the extras menu it turns into a silhouette of Ulla, Max's secretary. The menus are nicely done.
A substantial documentary on the making of the film, with interviews with surviving cast members and crew, including Brooks, Wilder, Mars, Lee Meredith, Andréas Voutsinas, John Morris, production designer Charles Rosen, assistant director Michael Hertzberg and choreographer Alan Johnson. A fascinating documentary with interesting tidbits about the production. For example, Franz Liebkind was originally going to be played by Dustin Hoffman, but he was called away to appear with Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. In 1.33:1 and ends with a tie-in to the Broadway musical.
Sketches and plans for the film.
Forty black and white production stills and behind the scenes shots. Like the Sketch Gallery, this is 16x9 enhanced.
An old-looking trailer in 1.33:1, I cannot imagine many people being persuaded to see the film by it.
This scene was cut from the final film. It was the original concept of the blowing-up of the theatre, but was cut as it was too long. In 1.85:1 but not 16x9 enhanced
This is an unused bit from the interviews in the Making of featurette. Mazursky reads a statement Sellers had published in Variety two days after he and Mazursky had seen the film unofficially before its release, an event described in detail in the featurette.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release also includes
The Region 1 is a dual sided disc with the two versions of the film on one side and the extras on the other. Reviews suggest that the 5.1 mix is not an improvement over the 2.0 mono mix, so I can see no real reason to prefer the Region 1 to the Region 4, although the subtitles would be nice for hearing impaired viewers.
A classic comedy, well worth owning.
The video quality is pretty good.
The audio quality is satisfactory.
The extras package is pretty good too.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Yamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|