The Producers (1968 Film) - Reception


When it was first released, the film received a mixed response and garnered exceptionally harsh reviews from New York critics— Stanley Kauffmann ("the film bloats into sogginess", The New Republic); Pauline Kael ("amateurishly crude", The New Yorker); and Andrew Sarris—partly because of its directorial style and broad ethnic humor. Negative reviewers noted the bad taste and insensitivity of devising a broad comedy about two Jews conspiring to cheat theatrical investors by devising a designed-to-fail singing, dancing, tasteless Broadway musical show about Hitler, 23 years after the end of World War II. Renata Adler wrote that it was a "violently mixed bag. Some of it is shoddy and gross and cruel; the rest is funny in an entirely unexpected way. It has the episodic, revue quality of so much contemporary comedy—not building laughter, but stringing it together skit after skit, some vile, some boffo. It is less delicate than Lenny Bruce, less funny than Dr. Strangelove, but much funnier than The Loved One or What's New Pussycat? According to her, Mostel is "overacting grotesquely" while co-star Wilder is "wonderful" playing his part "as though he were Dustin Hoffman being played by Danny Kaye."

Others considered the film to be a great success. Time Magazine's reviewers wrote, "...hilariously funny... Unfortunately, the film is burdened with the kind of plot that demands resolution... ends in a whimper of sentimentality... The movie is disjointed and inconsistent..." and "... a wildly funny joy ride ...", "...despite its bad moments, is some of the funniest American cinema comedy in years." The film industry trade paper Variety magazine wrote, "The film is unmatched in the scenes featuring Mostel and Wilder alone together, and several episodes with other actors are truly rare." Over the years, the film has gained in stature, garnering a 93% certified fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert later claimed that "this is one of the funniest movies ever made." In his review decades later, Ebert wrote,

"I remember finding myself in an elevator with Brooks and his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, in New York City a few months after The Producers was released. A woman got onto the elevator, recognized him and said, 'I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.' Brooks smiled benevolently. 'Lady,' he said, 'it rose below vulgarity.'

Reviews in Britain were positive to very positive.

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