Per IMDb: “A bad Polish actor is just trying to make a living when what should intrude but World War II in the form of an invasion.”
This is a somewhat-faithful version of the original, except with a comedic twist, from what I can tell. The Nazis take over Poland and put a stop to the world-famous Bronski Theater on chance that its show about Hitler would be offensive to the fuhrer. Instead, Bronski (Brooks) puts on a production of Hamlet. Bronksi’s wife, Anna (Bancroft), has a thing for the young officers of the Polish army and whilst her husband does the famous “To Be or Not to Be” speech, a certain airman, Lieutenant Andrei Sobinski (Matheson) sneaks back and tries to make the move on Anna.
The Polish officers retreat and officers talk to a Professor Siletski played by legend José Ferrer in an officers’ club. When he reveals he’ll be going back to Warsaw, the officers dash to give him names of their friends, family and Polish Underground members. Sobinski tells the professor to give a message to Anna. The message is simply “to be or not to be.” It is revealed (because he didn’t know the name of the “world famous” Anna Bronski) that he’s an informant for the Nazis. Destined to catch him before they can expose the underground, Sobinski must fly back and parachutes into Warsaw to find his “love.”
There’s a lot of twists and impersonating since this involves a theater group. And to really go into any of them would be giving stuff away. I think the best thing about this was the cast. Some familiar faces, some big names, some great performances. That being said, I found this to be a little on the shy side of Mel Brooks. I was expecting something in the vein of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein or Spaceballs. While funny, this wasn’t the over-the-top funny that I wanted out of a Brooks.
The actual parts that really did make me laugh out loud were the scenes that involved Charles Durning as Col. Erhart and Christopher Lloyd as Captain Schultz. Brooks took from the television show Hogan’s Heroes and utilized the “Schultz” scream for Erhart. Those scenes were the best, in my opinion. Overall, I think it was funny but nothing to write home about (barely a blog). If you’re a Mel Brooks fan, you’ll need to see it and perhaps have a different opinion about it than me.
Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 63% Fresh with an Audience score of 77%. IMDb has it at 6.8 stars out of 10. I saw this on Netflix and rate it a straight up 3 stars out of 5. Nothing spectacular but it was entertaining. Have you seen it? What did you think?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Sondheim! Send in the clowns!” – Frederick Bronski