Simply put: The Producers is one of my favorite comedies ever. Mel Brooks in its best and it’s not even a parody. The Producers is about a bankrupt producer (Zero Mostel) who comes across an idea to make money (a lot of it) through a Broadway flop. The idea was given to him by his neurotic and naïve accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder), who is now a part of the scheme as well.
It’s amazing how Brooks, a Jew himself, manages to pull off something that involves a musical called “Springtime for Hitler.” Ridendo castigat moris all over it.
Dealing with Nazism with humor and yet never making the subject trivial or unimportant is quite a feat. Brooks makes us ridicule Nazism and see it as an absurd twice: first in the movie itself The Producers and then in the play Springtime for Hitler inside the movie.
For example, in the movie there's the character of the Nazi playwright. He sounds stupid and dumb and that makes him laughable. But it's a fact that some Nazi officers escaped trial fleeing to other countries. Not to mention that it was that type of blind acceptance of the regime that got Hitler in power and kept him there for so long.
Then, there’s the play. The actor who plays Hitler is called LSD and he's a groovy hippie. It's funny but at the same time reminds us that the hippie's attitude of peace and love is the opposite of Hitler's war and hate. Goebbels is also portrayed like a cool jazz-dancing guy. He is happy and enjoying himself.
We know they weren't like that, but portraying them as such makes us laugh at them. It makes it easier to talk about them.
This is probably what Brooks wanted. It was very difficult for him to release this movie, specially because in the beginning the movie was called "Springtime for Hitler". It was also banned in Germany.
But he didn't want to the movie to be disrespectful. He probably wanted what all Jewish people want: never forget. The thing is, people do forget.
And I think Brooks understood that Nazism was becoming this taboo, a subject so terrible no one even talked about.
The Producers just goes ahead and says it's ok to talk about it, it's even ok to make fun of Nazis. Actually, the core of what is being said about Nazis is real, like when Hitler and Goebbles are talking and the latter says very satisfied: “I just laid the morning propaganda program on the people."
This mixture of comedy and criticism so neatly balanced makes the movie timeless.
What do you think of The Producers - critical or offensive? What’s your favorite line? (There are so many! I love “That’s it baby, when you’ve got it flaunt it, flaunt it!)
(If you want a taste of it, and specially if you've only seen the 2005 remake, try watching the first scene, which lasts almost 13 minutes and took 14 days to shoot, featuring mostly Nero and Gene and try not to be blown away).