Mostel is Max Bialystock, a gone-to-seed Broadway producer who spends his days wheedling checks from his "investors," elderly women for whom Bialystock is only too willing to provide company. When wide-eyed auditor Leo Bloom (Wilder) comes to check the books, he unwittingly inspires the wild-eyed Max to hatch a sure-fire plan: sell 25,000 percent of his next show, produce a deliberate flop, then abscond with the proceeds. Unfortunately for the producers (but fortunately for us), their candidate for failure is Springtime for Hitler, a Brooksian conceit that envisions what Goebbels might have accomplished with a little help from Busby Berkeley.
Truly startling during its original 1968 release, The Producers does show signs of age in some peripheral scenes that make merry at the expense of gays and women. But the show's nifty cast (notably including the late Dick Shawn as LSD, the space cadet that snags the musical's title role, and Kenneth Mars as the helmeted playwright) clicks throughout, and the sight of Mostel fleecing his marks is irresistibly funny. Add Wilder's literally hysterical Bloom, and it's easy to understand the film's exalted status among late-'60s comedies. --Sam Sutherland
For those planning on purchasing the DVD make sure that you get the 2002 released 'Special Edition' version. This edition includes over one hour of documentaries that actually manage to be viewable. Aside from the numerous other extras on this disc the video transfer is great (for an older movie) and a remastered 5.1 surround mix is included as well.
I know the movie is approaching its 40th birthday, and that comedies just don't age as well as dramas or musicals. But DEFINITELY give this one a chance. It'll be worth the money just to watch Zero and Gene and Kenneth. And as an added bonus, for you New Yorkers out there, get ready for shots of midtown and the Village that are like a moving museum pieces.