The Producers (1967)
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Starring: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn
Man, I hadn’t seen this movie in forever, and it’s really funny. Not one of Mel Brooks’ best necessarily, but it was his directorial debut and he won an Oscar for the screenplay, so it’s not too shabby either. And no, I haven’t seen the remake because I hate both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
A scumbag producer (Mostel) teams up with a nervous accountant (Wilder) to engineer a Broadway play that will be sure to close on opening day so they can scam a bunch of old ladies out of their money. The scheme they use doesn’t hold up to a whole lot of strict scrutiny, but that’s not what the movie’s about. They recruit a Nazi playwright (Kenneth Mars) and put on a show called ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ a rosy-colored musical about WWII from the German side.
The real beauty of this film, from the perspective of someone who grew up on MST3K and who loves watching terrible movies, is that it shows exactly what happens when you try really hard to make something as bad as you possibly can: it becomes hilarious. The Producers is a bit of a thesis statement for my entertainment viewing habits, and because of that it’ll always have a soft spot in my heart. Also, of course, is the performance of Gene Wilder, who is such a phenomenally scary actor at times you worry for the guy. When Gene Wilder flips out, it touches a primitive part of your brain where you can clearly see another human in serious distress and you just don’t know what to do about it.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Directed by: Mel Stuart
Starring: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum
This movie is fucking retarded. And yet, it’s a really classic film, and it’s eminently enjoyable by kids and adults alike. I mean, hell, I like this movie, Gene Wilder is fucking awesome in it. But really… Oompa Loompas. Retarded.
A kid with the worst life in the world becomes one of the five “lucky” children to get one of the titular candy maker’s “golden tickets”, which afford them a tour of his nightmarish facility and a lifetime supply of chocolate. One by one the children get maimed, disfigured, or outright killed, until at the end only poor Charlie is left, and when he decides to give Wonka back one of his experimental candies he could’ve sold to his competitor, it turns out it was all a test and Charlie wins the real prize: Ownership of the factory when Wonka dies! Which, let’s be honest, could be any day. That factory is AMAZINGLY DANGEROUS.
There are pretty much three remarkable things about this film: First is the fact that it was written by Roald Dahl, master of putting children in depressing, horrible conditions. Second is the psychedelic nature of the factory, making it seem otherworldly and even stranger than it would’ve been otherwise. And third is Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, who is just fucking amazing. I mean, he’s a great actor, but I’d say that this is easily his best role. He’s just so insane, and effortlessly moves from being whimsical to negligent to downright fucking scary. And that’s how kid’s movies SHOULD be.