The Producers find humor on deperation

The Producers
Guild Theatre
Nov. 15-17
Thu 7 p.m., Fri 9 p.m., Sat 4:30 and 9 p.m.

The Northwest Film Center is presenting a series of Nazi satire films that begin with the 1968 comedy “The Producers.” This Mel Brooks comedy is currently a huge Broadway hit starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The film stars Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel as Broadway producers who need their current show to be a flop in order to make money. The result is a hilarious musical tribute to Adolph Hitler entitled “Springtime for Hitler.”

Mostel plays producer Max Biyalistok who has resorted to sleeping with wealthy elderly women in order to finance his shows. Wilder is a timid accountant named Leo Bloom who realizes while going over Max’s books that they could make a fortune if their next show was an enormous failure. The plan is to raise more money than they need, so that when the show fails the investors won’t expect to get any of it back. To ensure that the show is dreadful, they find crazed Nazi sympathizer Franz Lie (Kenneth Mars) to write it, and the result is the worst musical ever made. The two find terrible actors, an even worse director and a lot of investors. They then sit back and wait for the show to bomb. Unfortunately for them, the truly tasteless show is a success.

This film is one of the best in Mel Brooks’ career and the musical number “Springtime for Hitler” is his personal favorite. The original title for the film was “Springtime for Hitler” but at the time it was considered too offensive and was changed. It was, however, released internationally with that name.

The next installment of the film center’s Nazi satire theme is “To Be or Not to Be” starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard about a Polish theater company caught in an espionage situation with the Gestapo. This film was criticized in its time for trying to find humor in a desperate situation. This film will show on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.

The classic Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator” will be shown the following Wednesday, Nov.29 at 7 p.m. This comedy has Chaplin in dual roles. First he is a power-mad dictator and in his second role he plays an amnesiac Jew who is forced to play the dictator at public events. Had he known about the concentration camps though, Chaplin later stated that had he known about Nazi concentration camps, he would not have done a comic film about Hitler. On Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. the film “Seven Beauties” will show. This Italian film is about a soldier who resorts to seducing a cruel female commandant to survive a Nazi prison camp. The final film in the series is “Train of Life” in which a whole village of people escapes from their homes and flee to Palestine. This film will show on Dec 8 at 7:30 pm.