If Mel Brooks didn’t exist the cinema would have to invent him. Here’s a director that did Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein back to back. Brook’s debut feature, which he also wrote, The Producers (7/2, Shout! Factory) gets special edition Blu-ray treatment. The package includes a doc on the movie, a lengthy interview with Brooks, and a deleted edit of the basement bomb scene.
The Producers tells the story of a Broadway entrepreneur (Zero Mostel) who fleeces elderly women for development of his lousy plays and the meek accountant (Gene Wilder) who shows him a loophole that can net the pair tons of money. Simply produce an expensive flop that closes the same day it opens and pocket the change. Only the play, Springtime for Hitler, becomes a smash hit. Mostel and Wilder are a classic comic duo and in fact also appeared together in the film version of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. Also worth noting is actor Dick Shawn whose comic talent has never really been duplicated by current comedians.
The documentary Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (6/25, Kino Lorber) celebrates the life of director William Wellman. Narrated by Alec Baldwin and peppered with testimonials from classic actors, relatives and directors (Eastwood, Redford, Mitchum, others) the doc covers his life and filmography and appears for the first time on DVD. Wellman walked the walk; he flew for the Lafayette Escadrille during WWI, an experience that was depicted in his 1927 classic Wings (the first film to win a Best Picture Oscar).
Some of Wellman’s films include The Public Enemy (1931), A Star Is Born (1937), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Battleground (1949), The High and the Mighty (1954), and about 75 other titles. If you know Wellman’s films Wild Bill puts a lot of facts in order, and if you’re unfamiliar with Wellman’s filmography you will be making a short list of films you’ll want to see sooner rather than later.
Briefly noted: 6 Souls (7/2, Anchor Bay) stars Julianne Moore as a psychiatrist brought in to examine mental patient Jonathan Rhys Meyers. 6 Souls slowly goes from psychological thriller to terror and if you had to pigeon hole the film with a similar title that would be Fallen (1998). Portlandia Season Three (7/9, VSC) continues to elicit laughs by skewing politically correct behavior. Starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, this two-disc set includes the winter special, all 10 eps of season three and extras that put the spotlight on Portland culture spots.
- Michael Bergeron