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Saturday, May 6, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be (1983)

When the Nazis invade Poland, a theatrical troupe finds itself inadvertently involved in helping a Polish fighter pilot (Tim Matheson) in obtaining a list of the names in the Polish underground from a Polish traitor (Jose Ferrer) working for the Nazis before he turns it over to the Gestapo. Although the directorial credit goes to Alan Johnson and the screenplay credit goes to Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan, the film was produced by Mel Brooks and it feels like a Mel Brooks directed comedy. I'm not a fan of Nazi comedies in general whether it's HOGAN'S HEROES, Chaplin's THE GREAT DICTATOR or the original 1942 Ernest Lubitsch movie this film is based on. I simply don't find Nazis remotely funny. That being said, I quite like this film. It never lets its zany humor get in the way of the essential seriousness of what the Nazis did or represent. All the performers are in top notch form here. Brooks does what he does best (play Mel Brooks) but Anne Bancroft is a pure delight exercising her comedy chops as his wife. But perhaps the film is stolen by Charles Durning (Oscar nominated for his performance here) as the S.S. Colonel who is always one step away from destroying his career. With Christopher Lloyd, George Gaynes, Lewis J. Stadlen, Estelle Reiner, Ronny Graham and James Haake. 

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