I remember vividly the first time I saw The Producers. It was during the Australian Open, and since that event was in Melbourne, it had been washed out.
In place of tennis, the television station started to screen this unheralded masterpiece. There was no warning given that, once seen, you would never recover. Nothing. Just an onslaught of blitzkrieg chutzpah such as the world had never seen.
This 1968 movie is writer/director Mel Brooks's finest achievement. A film which should be in every household. Back in those flower-power days of the greatest decade of the 20th century, everything seemed possible. But even so, The Producers seemed particularly impossibly improbable.
Talk about bad taste! No film has ever offended sober sensibilities so brilliantly as The Producers. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll cringe...
Think about the plot. Here are two Jewish businessmen. One a larger-than-life theatrical impressario (Zero Mostel), the other a shy, retiring accountant (Gene Wilder). Zero makes his living convincing geriatric women that he loves them passionately, and will love them even more if they will invest in his next Broadway show. Just make the cheque out in the name of the play. It's called 'Cash'.
Gene Wilder is sent along to investigate his accounts. And it's love at first sight, as soon as Gene realises that here is a goldmine which Zero could exploit for all it's worth, if only he realised that instead of selling 100 percent of a production, he could sell 1000 percent. Nobody would ever know. Well, they wouldn't know if the show ran at a loss. While profits have to be distributed on a strict equity basis, no one is as fussy about allocating shares of a Broadway loss...
Zero is crazy about the idea. He finds the worst script he can and, let's face it, could anything be worse than a musical based on the Third Reich?
He hires a total travesty of a director and recruits drug-dazed hippies for the cast. And so is born the greatest musical of his career, the immortal Springtime for Hitler, with its blazing high point of a demented Nazi high-kicking chorus line celebrating fascist domination of Europe.
If you have not yet seen this classic, there is now no excuse. By all means see the current stage musical. But remember its roots. This movie is where it began, and nobody delivers quite so well as Zero and Gene.
I've categorised this movie as a classic and a comedy and a musical. But I've also pegged it as a romance. There's nothing gay about it. But the romance between Zero and Gene, as poor Gene Wilder willingly dives into the maelstrom and waits to be ecstatically drowned, forms one of the great screen romances, one with Bogie and Bergman.
And Dick Shawn as the drug-numbed hippie L.S.D. who plays Hitler on stage deserves the Iron Cross for his dazzling performance.
You'll watch the movie two or three times the first year you have it. You'll want to watch special scenes every week.