The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs + Robin Hood: Men in Tights: Mel Brooks’ Greatest Films
Down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock is forced to romance rich old ladies to finance his efforts. When timid accountant Leo Bloom reviews Max's accounting books, the two hit upon a way to make a fortune by producing a sure-fire flop. The play which is to be their gold mine? "Springtime for Hitler."
A comedy film pioneer, no subject, joke or reference was off limits for Mel Brooks. One of the very few people to EGOT, meaning that he has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony award, for his work, the director will go down in history as one of the greats.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his directorial debut THE PRODUCERS, for which he won his first Oscar, we take a look at Mel Brooks’ best films. The Producers will be released in UK cinemas for one day only on August 5th, and then on DVD/Blu-ray/EST on September 10th.
The Producers (1967)
After realising that there is more money in producing a flop, theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) teams up with his accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) to put on the worst play in history. First on the agenda for the pair is to choose the worst script, and they find this in the controversial play “Springtime for Hitler” followed by hiring the worst director and lead actor they can find, sure to be a guaranteed disaster - however, to everybody’s surprise the show becomes an overnight success! The Producers was Mel Brooks’ directorial debut as well as Gene Wilder’s first lead role, the pair both won Oscars for their work and began a close working relationship.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
A new railroad halts in its construction after running into quicksand and gets rerouted through Rock Ridge, a frontier town. The land speculator, Hedley Lamarr conspires to drive the citizens out of Rock Ridge town by appointing its first black sheriff, Bart (Cleavon Little), hoping to cause chaos and disorder in Rock Ridge. To Lamarrs’ dismay the sheriff is welcomed into the community and wins over most of the townspeople. Lamarr then embarks on various plots to have the sheriff murdered, but with the help of gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder) he outsmarts each one and comes up with his own plan to save the town. When the film was first screened for movie executives, none of them laughed and they threatened not to release it. Mel Brooks reportedly arranged a subsequent screening for the studios employees and when the execs saw the emphatic reaction agreed to take a chance on the comedy.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Respected physician Dr Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) has spent his life trying to disassociate himself with his more famous (and notorious) grandfather, even convincing people that his surname is pronounced differently. But when he inherits his grandfather’s castle, he finds that the experiments conducted there to reanimate the dead were researched well and begins to believe that he was onto something. When preparing for the film, Mel Brooks discovered that the man who had made the elaborate machinery for the Universal Frankenstein films was still alive and had them stored in his garage. He made a deal to rent the equipment to use in his film and gave the man the recognition he hadn’t gotten for his work on the originals in the credits.
In this incredibly funny parody of Star Wars, President Skroob of planet Spaceballs orders the commander of his fleet, Dark Helmet, to kidnap Princess Vespa to coerce her father into providing the code for another planet’s atmosphere. Space rogue and handsome mercenary Lone Starr, as well as his half human, half dog sidekick Barf, are hired to track them down, but they too are on the run from ruthless loan shark Pizza The Hut. Mel Brooks got George Lucas’ blessing on the film after he gave him a copy of the script to read, Lucas loved it so much that he even had his special effects team help make the film – you can even see the Millennium Falcon make a cameo parked out side the Space Diner.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
In this hilarious retelling of the classic English legend, Robin Hood (Cary Elwes) returns from the Crusades to find his family, dog, fish and cat dead and his castle in the process of being taken (literally!). Robin embarks on a plan to overthrow the evil Prince John and Sheriff Of Nottingham by recruiting some Merry Men, as well as attempt to win back his one true love Maid Marion. The film openly references the hugely successful Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves throughout, and even pokes fun at the actor when Robin Hood remarks “unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.”
The Producers will be released in UK cinemas for one day only on August 5, and then on DVD/Blu-ray/EST on September 10