Directed by Mel Brooks
Starring: Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars
Comedy genius Mel Brooks wrote and directed this classic 1968 film. For his efforts he was awarded his only Academy Award, this for Best Writing. Brooks is the mind behind some of the best goofball comedies ever made. Some of his works include Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, and Young Frankenstein. This movie stars Gene Wilder, Zero Mostel, Dick Shawn, and Kenneth Mars.
Gene Wilder is a familiar face in Mel Brooks films. He was featured in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. One of his best known roles was in the 1971 classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Wilder has been nominated for two Oscars, once for his role in this movie, the other for his writing in Young Frankenstein.
Zero Mostel is also featured in this movie. His credits included The Electric Company, another Brooks movie. He was also in The Front and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Also featured is Dick Shawn, an actor considered by some to be ahead of his time. He was a man of many talents who acted in It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World as well as a number of popular television shows over his career. He was also part of the hit attraction film Captain EO which premiered at Disneyland in 1986.
One other name worth mentioning in this movie is Kenneth Mars. Most people from my generation might be surprised to know that he’s the voice behind King Triton in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. His career includes credits from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Young Frankenstein.
Max Bialystock (Mostel) is a has-been producer from Broadway. After a string of failures he’s resorted to living off of the generosity of willing investors who still believe in him. When his books are audited by accountant Leo Bloom (Wilder) a new idea comes to mind. soon Max and Leo have conspired to making the worst play ever, after taking as much money as they can from their investors. With the play a failure they’ll never have to pay the money back. Soon they find just the right playwright (Mars) and a terrible director to take the helm (Shawn). With an offensive play, a bad cast, and a lot of money they begin to produce their final play. As things shape up they may be surprised at the results.
This is a classic comedy with all the hallmarks of Mel Brooks. The cast is perfectly chosen and every bit of the acting feels right. With the over-the-top characters it took the entire cast to support the often insane dialogue and ridiculous plot. Wilder is the star of the film for me. With his huge body of work this is one more example of his genius. Mostel is equally good in his role as the pathetic producer. The two of them combine for a duo that is unforgettable. When you add in the rest of the cast around them you’ve got the formula for comedy gold.
There isn’t much to criticize with this one. The movie has hilarious musical numbers and great dialogue. Like most of Mel Brooks work, this is filled with moments that leave you going “what!?”. If you’re a fan of his other movies this one should impress you, it has a freshness he lost with some of his later films. This is definitely better than the remake of the film starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
I give this movie 4.7 out of 5 stars. It might not be for everyone, but it’s a great movie for most people who love comedy.