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Mel Brooks' 'Producers' -- Well, Productive

12 May, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The classic Mel Brooks comedy film The Producers makes its DVD debut May 16. Sort of.

It's not the landmark 1968 original, starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, with its darkly comic musical centerpiece, “Springtime for Hitler.”

It's not exactly a remake, either.

Rather, what's coming to video is the 2005 theatrical release, with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, that's based on the Tony Award-winning musical stage show that became the talk of Broadway in 2001 — and which, in turn, is based on the 1968 movie.

Make sense? It doesn't need to. Suffice it to say that after nearly 40 years, The Producers is still commanding attention, with its irreverent story of a pair of Broadway producers who entice investors with a can't-miss scheme. Then the curtain unveils an intentionally tasteless musical ode to the Third Reich that becomes a surprise hit.

“You can't kill it with a stick,” Brooks said with a laugh. “It's just like Dracula or a cat — it has nine lives. I think we'll probably end up doing a claymation version.”

That said, Brooks insists the latest incarnation of The Producers also is his favorite, with Broderick and Lane reprising their Broadway roles and Brooks given the liberty to expand both certain plot elements and musical numbers absent from the original big-screen outing.

“In the original movie, [Leo] Bloom flirts with Ulla, but they never really connect — so that the love story really came to be in the new version,” Brooks said. “And then I had always wanted to write ‘Heil Myself,' with Hitler singing to himself, but never did until now. With all those crazy lyrics I had a chance to write, this is by far the best version of The Producers.

While the film only grossed $19.4 million in U.S. theaters, Brooks has high hopes for the DVD, which includes such bonus materials as an extended version of the musical number “I Wanna Be a Producer” and several deleted scenes, including the musical sketch “King of Broadway” that was cut from the theatrical edit.

“People over 35, like me, don't want to wait in line [at theaters] with all the noise, cell phones and kids,” Brooks said. “They like to order up a pizza, kick it back and watch a movie on DVD. And I think we're right up there with Singin' in the Rain.

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