Way, way back when was in college, for reasons that now escape me, one of my film school faculty showed us just the "Springtime for Hitler" sequence from Mel Brooks' The Producers. The class went bananas, and when the video ended, the professor immediately said "Don't get too excited, it's not Brooks' best work."
So I never bothered to see the movie. I have seen most of the movie version of the musical*, but seeing the original just never happened.
It's hard to tell if this was supposed to be a movie originally, because it really feels like a stage play during long stretches of the film. Scenes are very long and seem like stage business more than the tight economy of the silver screen where every word and gesture tends to be calculated.. There are moments that feel like the swell before the change of the scene on the theatrical stage. I understand Brooks worked on stage plays as well as Your Show of Shows prior to this movie, so maybe that's where the influence fits in.
It's the first movie Brooks directed, compared to Blazing Saddles (7 years and 2 movies later), it feels at times awkward at best from a scene management perspective and the occasional camera work. It's also a very early movie for Gene Wilder, and while maybe he's not quite as great here as he'd be in other Brooks films, he's still off by just a beat enough that it's already got the Gene Wilder flavor. I admit to not having had seen Zero Mostel in anything else, but he's very good here. And, oddly,
At the end of the day, the film also contains of the funniest ideas and scenes you're going to see in a movie. Pretty damn edgy stuff for a movie that's nearly 50 years old in a genre that's all about pushing the envelope. Whether you're talking about your protagonist shagging old ladies for money or, let's be honest, "Springtime for Hitler", the brass ones you'd have to have to try that, let alone the dexterity to be able to pull it off without just making your audience sad.
I'll need to watch it again at some point. I liked it well enough for that. And I am glad I know what my sister-in-law is now talking about in regards to "Cardboard Belts".
Saw at: Home on Netflix
Saw with: Jamie
*it's pretty good! Not great, but worth a watch.