Mel Brooks’ first movie has received a Blu-ray upgrade and several vintage titles are on DVD for the first time.
“The Producers: Collector’s Edition” (Shout!/MGM/Blu-ray, 1968, two discs, $29.93, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scene, documentary, featurette, sketch gallery, trailer). Writer-director Brooks won the best screenplay Oscar for this hysterically funny farce about a bombastic veteran Broadway producer who schemes with a timid accountant to raise too much money for a sure-fire tasteless musical flop, “Springtime for Hitler,” which instead becomes a hit, making it impossible to repay all the investors.
Zero Mostel is a riot as the producer and Gene Wilder, in his first leading role, is equally riotous as the fraidy-cat accountant. The supporting cast is also quite good and everything comes together wonderfully in this 45-year-old movie that remains screamingly funny.
This is a sharp Blu-ray upgrade with just one new featurette, though it’s mostly redundant with stories told in the hourlong documentary.
“Front Page Woman” (Warner Archive, 1935, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Bette Davis and George Brent play competing reporters continually trying to outdo each other in this light romantic comedy. Typical variation on “The Front Page” with reporters doing unethical things to get the story first, but Davis is delightful and gives this fluff a real lift. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“Winter Meeting” (Warner Archive, 1948, b/w, $18.95, trailer). In this melodrama Davis stars as a poet who falls for a soldier returned from the war, but they both find they are embroiled in unresolved emotional issues that prevent them from getting together. One of Davis’ many “suffering” pictures, this one is way too talky, but she delivers her usual sterling performance. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“The Brotherhood” (Warner Archive, 1968, PG-13, $18.95). A mob boss (Kirk Douglas) flees New York to hide out in Palermo, Italy, awaiting an inevitable showdown with an unknown hitman. When his Vietnam veteran younger brother (Alex Cord) arrives on the scene, flashbacks reveal why he is on the outs with “the family,” even as he wonders if his brother is the killer he awaits. You’ll be reminded of “The Godfather,” though this film played four years earlier. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“The Naked Jungle” (Warner Archive, 1954, $18.95). Overheated but fascinating story of legions of army ants marching toward a South American cocoa plantation in 1901. The stubborn owner (Charlton Heston) refuses to abandon his life’s work without a fight. Eleanor Parker is the independent mail-order bride he has rejected but who nonetheless joins him in the battle against the predators. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)Comment on this story
“Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight” (Warner Archive, 1994, $18.95, trailer). HBO TV movie casts Diane Keaton as the title character in this retelling of the story of the famed aviatrix whose plane disappeared when she attempted to fly solo around the world in 1937. Keaton is good; the movie is so-so. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“Kentucky Fried Movie” (Shout!/Blu-ray, 1977; R for sex, nudity, language, violence; $19.97, audio commentary, featurette). Before they hit it big with “Airplane!” the filmmaking trio of Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker wrote this raunchy, off-the-wall skit film, directed by John Landis a year before he hit it big with “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” A lengthy, very funny spoof of kung-fu movies is the film’s centerpiece, but the rest is very hit and miss and very sleazy.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parents Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com