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The Producers: Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack Collector's Edition Review

The Producers (1968) movie poster The Producers

Theatrical Release: March 18, 1968 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel (Max Bialystock), Gene Wilder (Leo Bloom), Dick Shawn (Lorenzo "L.S.D." St. DuBois/Adolf Hitler), Estelle Winwood ("Hold Me Touch Me"), Christopher Hewett (Roger De Bris), Kenneth Mars (Franz Liebkind), Lee Meredith (Ulla), Renee Taylor (Eva Braun), Andreas Voutsinas (Carmen Ghia), William Hickey (The Drunk), David Patch (Joseph Goebbels), Barney Martin (Hermann Gφring), Madelyn Cates (Concierge), Shimen Rushkin (The Landlord), Frank Campanella (The Bartender), Josip Elic (Violinist), John Zoller (Drama Critic), Brutus Peck (Hot Dog Vendor), Anne Ives (Lady), Amelie Barleon (Lady), Elsie Kirk (Lady), Nell Harrison (Lady), Mary Love (Lady)

Buy The Producers from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD • 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD

To the casual movie fan, Best Original Screenplay may sound like just another one of the countless Academy Awards issued on a night where films and their largely unknown makers seem somewhat secondary to the celebrities in attendance and the fashion statements they make. Those who truly love movies know better and realize it is one of the industry's most important honors.
It is a category which recognizes imagination, something traditionally in short supply in Hollywood and now more than ever as studios know full well that commercial success is much easier to obtain with an already popular source property (be it a novel, a superhero, a play, or a film). In years when different movies win Best Picture and Original Screenplay, you may be more inclined to enjoy and rewatch the latter. The stories and characters of a great screenplay are likely to stay with you far longer than an impressive set, camera move, costume, or visual effect.

Original Screenplay recognizes great films that may seem too light or small to win Best Picture. The category has included many an excellent comedy with no shot at winning the top prize, from blockbusters as beloved as Toy Story, Back to the Future, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to creative, offbeat indies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Little Miss Sunshine.

At the 41st Academy Awards, held in April of 1969, wealth was shared, although the musical Oliver! led the pack with six trophies, most of them in technical categories. Original Screenplay was up for the grabs with nominees including Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke for 2001: A Space Odyssey, the influential John Cassavetes for Faces, Peter Ustinov for his caper vehicle Hot Millions, and the oft-cited The Battle of Algiers. Beating out all of the aforementioned, however, was Mel Brooks' feature film debut The Producers.

Born shortly before the first Academy Awards, Brooks had already experienced some success by age 42, scripting sketches for variety shows, writing and narrating the Oscar-winning cartoon short The Critic, collaborating with Carl Reiner on popular comedy albums, penning the Broadway musical All American, and creating the hit spy sitcom "Get Smart." The Producers elevated Brooks to a new level, however, turning him into a writer/director of feature films, a position that has been the centerpiece of his long, revered comedy legacy.

Nowadays, to get funding for his plays, Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) must make elderly women (like Estelle Winwood) feel desired again. Accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) is in pain, he's wet, and he's still hysterical!

Long before it became Broadway's biggest attraction and a resounding flop of a feature film, The Producers was a non-musical comedy soaring on the wit of Brooks' script and the talents of its central odd couple, played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Mostel is Max Bialystock, a rotund sham of a theatrical producer with a history of duds who only gets financing by romancing lonely old women of advancing age. Wilder is Leo Bloom, a nervous young accountant who points out the strange reality that a producer could stand to profit considerably more off a flop than a hit.

It'd be criminal, but strapped for cash and reduced to wearing easily ripped cardboard belt, Bialystock isn't one to shy from that. He persuades Bloom to become his partner and help him stage a glorious failure that is certain to close quickly and yield no return for investors entitled to a mathematically impossible 25,000% of the show's profits.

From a large pile of scripts, the two men choose Springtime for Hitler, a love letter to Nazi Germany and the Third Reich written by Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), a crazy German New Yorker friend to pigeons who wears an Axis helmet at all times. With a tasteless script in place, Bialystock and Bloom bring the project to camp director Roger De Bris ("Mr. Belvedere"'s Christopher Hewett) and believe they've got a certain loser after casting a forgetful ex-con hippie who goes by "L.S.D." (Dick Shawn) as Hitler. With ill-gotten wealth sure to come, the producers splurge a little by hiring Ulla (Lee Meredith), a Swedish blonde bombshell with a flimsy grasp of English, as their dancing receptionist.

Producers Bialystock and Bloom (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) secure the rights to "Springtime for Hitler" by patronizing its passionate writer Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars).

Brooks' comedy often aims for big laughs with broad gags and ambitious parodies. In his feature film debut, he doesn't quite go for broke and the results are accordingly a lot easier to enjoy some forty-five years later.
Sure, there is an open casting call that puts Hitler mustaches on men of all shapes and sizes. What we see of Springtime for Hitler also shuns subtlety with its original songs and Busby Berkeley-style Swastika dance, which do earn obvious laughs. Much of the charm, however, comes from the simpler yet funnier interactions of Bialystock and Bloom, opposite personalities drawn together by an absurd singular cause.

The larger than life Mostel was the established star, who had endured Hollywood blacklisting and bounced back with Broadway musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Fiddler on the Roof, in which he originated the role of Tevye. Wilder was the novice, having just made his film debut in a Bonnie and Clyde supporting role. The two form a comic team for the ages and in Wilder, Brooks found a viable leading man he would enlist for both of his enduring 1974 comedies, Young Frankenstein (which Wilder co-wrote) and Blazing Saddles. Wilder landed The Producers a second Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor category (his only on-camera Academy recognition), but lost the award to his future Willy Wonka co-star Jack Albertson.

Much of The Producers seems tailor-made for Broadway, as it unfolds on stage and in an office. When the film actually ventures out and about New York (a midtown rooftop, a Central Park outing, a magical chat by the Lincoln Center's fountain), it is full of life and a love for the city it compellingly depicts. Having only seen the 2005 film and not Brooks and Thomas Meehan's 2001 Broadway musical from which it was adapted, I can only speculate that much of the allure of that stage show, which drew enormous crowds and won a record-best twelve Tony Awards, was based on goodwill towards the original 1968 movie. Admittedly, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane are incredibly likable entertainers well-suited for the double act. But Brooks' wildly creative tale and bold characters hold more appeal than any of the musical's new numbers or embellishments.

The original film continues to stand the test of time and remains better known and more beloved than most of its contemporaries. Any studio would relish an opportunity to bring it to Blu-ray, but somehow Shout! Factory has snagged that privilege, recently issuing this classic comedy, oft revisited on DVD by MGM over the years, in a two-disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack Collector's Edition.

The Producers (1968): Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack Collector's Edition cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: PCM Mono (English), 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD: Dolby Digital Mono (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Suggested Retail Price: $29.93
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase
Previously released as 2-Disc Deluxe Edition DVD (December 13, 2005), 1-Disc Movie-Only DVD (September 2, 2003), and 1-Disc Special Edition DVD (December 3, 2002)


The Producers was a fairly small independent film with a production budget of under $1 million. That might explain why its Blu-ray presentation isn't the best despite its legacy. I do not doubt that this is the best the movie has looked since its original theatrical release. Shout! Factory's transfer boasts a good amount of detail most of the time. Still, it is not immune to the occasional blemish, from tiny scratches and jumpy credit cards to a number of grainy shots to even a reel change mark. Some of it seems easily correctable with a Criterion-type remastering. And most of the flaws will seem like minor nitpicks to those who know the movie from a worn-out VHS. Nonetheless, this transfer clearly leaves a little room for improvement.

Sound is offered in both LPCM 2.0 mono and 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. They actually don't sound terrible different. The recordings are a little shrill, but clear. The 5.1 remix really only opens them up on the couple of big musical numbers. In a rarity for a Shout! Factory disc, English, French, and Spanish subtitles are supplied, but they do not extend to the bonus features.

A 54-year-old Lee Meredith proves she hasn't lost Ulla's dance moves in the hour-long 2002 making-of documentary. Mel Brooks mostly repeats stories you just heard in this 2012 interview, the Blu-ray's newest and only HD bonus feature.


Shout! Factory's new platters live up to their Collector's Edition moniker, by hanging on to nearly all of the extras from MGM's various DVD incarnations and adding a relatively new Mel Brooks interview.

The bounty of extras begins with "The Making of The Producers" (1:03:23, SD), a comprehensive 2002 documentary. Mel Brooks does the most of the talking, detailing the project's origins and how it evolved from the book it was conceived as into his feature directorial debut, casting and near-casting (Dustin Hoffman!), and the real-life things that influenced him.
Beyond that, many other relevant parties share production memories from their perspective, including Gene Wilder, co-stars Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith, and Andreas Voutsinas, first AD Michael Hertzberg, composer John Morris, choreographer Alan Johnson, production designer Charles Rosen, and casting director Alfa-Betty Olsen. Even including outtakes and a story from Paul Mazursky regarding Peter Sellers' first viewing of the film, it's a wonderful retrospective slightly predating the age when such bonus features became the norm.

The one new addition and lone HD extra is "Mel and His Movies: The Producers" (18:51), the pertinent section of a retrospective Mel Brooks box set Shout! Factory assembled last year. The writer/director repeats (almost verbatim) the same stories and jokes from his documentary interview a decade earlier regarding Zero Mostel and the Oscars, but he drops in a few new notes about the poster design, Renata Adler, and his Tonys that you haven't already heard.

In this deleted scene, William Hickey's barfly detonates the backstage dynamite. Designs for Bialystock and Bloom's office appear in the Sketch Gallery. Colorful screens establish the plot in The Producers' original theatrical trailer.

A deleted scene (3:41, SD), excerpted in the documentary, stages an alternate explosion of the dynamite involving the drunk barfly (William Hickey) mistaking it for other things.

"Peter Sellers Ad in Variety" (0:52) allows Mazursky to read the advertisement actor Sellers placed in Variety after seeing the film,

elaborating on the story from the documentary, but still not connecting his enthusiastic reaction to his missed chance to be in the movie.

A "Sketch Gallery" (2:15) is really a scored slideshow displaying production design pencil sketches envisioning the film's sets.

Finally, under Trailers, we get the colorful original theatrical trailer for The Producers (2:12, SD) and promos for recent Shout! Factory releases American Masters: Mel Brooks - Make a Noise (1:51), and The Incredible Mel Brooks: An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy (2:29).

The only things missing from past Producers DVDs are a 40-still, viewer-navigated photo gallery introduced in 2002's Special Edition and a preview of the musical film added for 2005's two-disc Deluxe Edition DVD.

Nicely, everything included on the Blu-ray also appears on the DVD, with everyone but the staunchest opponents of combo packs likely to be satisfied.

Holding a uniquely-labeled disc on either side, the blue keepcase features alternate cover artwork on its reverse side utilizing original poster artwork and the same rear cover.

On each format, the main menu recycles the cover art while looping an excerpt of "Springtime for Hitler." The DVD's submenus, which make further use of the same artwork plus the reverse/poster artwork, loop other songs. The Blu-ray does not support bookmarks or resume playback.

The producers' musical "Springtime for Hitler" shows a flagrant lack of taste as it sympathetically supplies Nazi Germany's perspective.


The Producers has withstood nearly half a century far better than most comedy films that old. Mel Brooks' feature film debut undoubtedly remains one of his best directorial efforts as well as one of the 1960s' most enduring and entertaining movies.

Serving up fairly pleasing picture and sound and adding a new-ish (albeit somewhat redundant) 19-minute Brooks interview to the solid hour-plus of extras recycled from DVD, Shout! Factory's combo pack is a winner that deserves a spot in practically any comedy Blu-ray collection.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Mel Brooks: Spaceballs | Starring Gene Wilder: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory | Guest-Starring Zero Mostel: The Muppet Show: Season 2
1960s Movies: The Odd Couple • Rosemary's Baby • Blackbeard's Ghost • The Graduate • A Thousand Clowns • Gypsy • Never a Dull Moment
Best Original Screenplay Winners: The Apartment • Annie Hall • Midnight in Paris • Ghost • Chinatown • Dead Poets Society
New: Portlandia: Season Three • Kentucky Fried Movie | AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs: Airplane! • Big • Caddyshack • Good Morning, Vietnam

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Reviewed July 10, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1968 AVCO Embassy Pictures and 2013 Shout! Factory.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.