© 1983 Brooksfilms

To Be or Not to Be (1983)

I noticed that today was is Mel Brooks’ 84th birthday, actually yesterday, due to the huge time difference between Japan, where I live, and the US. So I decided to mark the occasion by watching a Mel Brooks film.

To Be or Not to Be is the least typical Brooks film, in that it is not a genre parody in the way that Blazing Saddles satirized the Western or Young Frankenstein parodied Universal horror films. Brooks handed over directing duties to longtime collaborator Alan Johnson, who had been choreographing the musical number in Brooks’ films since The Producers in 1968. Furthermore, is the only time Brooks was involved in a remake, giving a slight update to the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch film with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard in the leads.  I usually think that almost all remakes are unjustifiable and unfounded, and on the surface it seems pointless to make a satire of the Nazi invasion of Poland during the 1980s. But this is really a wonderful film, with some funny moments and some very touching moments, and which makes a rather serious point about perseverance and human dignity. Mel Brooks has referred to this as the best film he has made, and I agree with him.

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