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To Be or Not to Be


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Product Details

  • Actors: Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Ronny Graham, Estelle Reiner, Zale Kessler
  • Directors: Alan Johnson
  • Writers: Ronny Graham, Edwin Justus Mayer, Ernst Lubitsch, Melchior Lengyel, Thomas Meehan
  • Producers: Howard Jeffrey, Irene Walzer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000G6BLYC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,016 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "To Be or Not to Be" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Behind-the-Scenes Making-Of Featurette
  • Character Profiles and Interviews with Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Tim Matheson, Christopher Lloyd. Remake of the 1942 classic about Polish stage stars who become involved in Germany's invasion of Poland, aiding the Resistance while appearing to help the Nazis. 1983/color/107 min/PG.

Amazon.com

No filmmaker seems to take such glee at poking fun of the Nazis as Mel Brooks. In To Be or Not to Be, a remake of a 1942 Jack Benny comedy, Brooks and an all-star ensemble cast have a splendid time working as a makeshift Polish underground in World War II, using as their cover their theatrical company. Brooks stars as Frederick Bronski, a legend-in-his-own-mind leading man, and Anne Bancroft, Brooks' real-life wife, is his glamorous--and amorous--spouse. It's a joy to see the two spar, snuggle, and softshoe together. Bancroft, in her early '50s, is so gorgeous and seductive it's perfectly believable that she's beguiling to men of all ages--from a hunky young flier played by Tim Matheson to a wizened Nazi collaborator played by Mel Ferrer. As one would expect in a Brooks film, there's lots of silliness, but the script is leavened with real drama and fleshed out by a superb cast, including Charles Durning as a semi-clueless Nazi official. There are witty blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments, too; early in the film, Bronski is barking orders to his theater staff, including one crew member who's named Sondheim, apparently solely so that later Bronski can bark, "Sondheim, send in the clowns!" Also not to miss is the production number "Naughty Nazis," in which Bronski, as a misunderstood Hitler, sings, "All I vant is peace... a little piece of Poland, a little piece of France...." No wonder he's "world famous in Poland"! Extras include a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, and interviews with Brooks, Durning, and the lovely Bancroft, all the more bittersweet viewed after her 2005 death. --A.T. Hurley

Customer Reviews

This is one of my all-time favorite movies!
KH
The humor is the good solid kind that will leave you smiling after the movie is finished.
Tiresia Darksaber
If you thought Young Frankenstein was good, well, this comedy is just as funny.
Wayne E. Torbert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Dom Miliano VINE VOICE on December 26, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
When I see the name Mel Brooks on a film title, I think bawdy gags, double-entendres and a bathroom-humor punchline. (But that's me!) This movie was a pleasant change from the usual Brooks offerings with crisp dramatic direction, a good dramatic cast (Ann Bancroft was perfect as the wife with a wandering eye) and a bitter sweet plot. Watching Mel Brooks interact with some accomplished actors, you realize the depth of his talent - he holds his own very well and has a strong screen presence. Although this is a remake of a wonderful 1942 Jack Benny film, Brooks does a great job updating the script for today's audiences. It's not Young Frankenstein or even High Anxiety but it is a nice little movie that any Brooks fan will thoroughly enjoy. As an aside, I think Mel must lay awake at night thinking of ways to poke fun at Nazis in general and Hitler in particular (think Producers, Blazing Saddles...). He does it so well, I hope he never stops.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Top Hat on January 17, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
This is, for me, the best of the Brooks films. How often does one enjoy a re-make as well as the original? Jack Benny and Carol Lombard are wonderful in the 1942 original, a must-see, but I love this version just as much - José Ferrer steals the show along with a host of great modern character actors. This is a more refined, less raw Mel Brooks comedy, with a wonderful homage to the original. Charles Durning is fabulous as well as the entire well-cast cast. I have been patiently waiting to replace my VHS with a DVD version. Hello? How much longer do I have to wait?
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Joe Libby on December 7, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Mel Brooks' remake of TO BE OR NOT TO BE doesn't improve on the Ernst Lubitsch classic, but it's a very enjoyable film in it's own right. Perhaps wisely, the script follows the 1942 original very closely, but the comedy is broader this time and the thriller aspect lessened.Brooks and Anne Bancroft play stars of a Warsaw theatrical troupe in 1939 (A highlight is their duet of "Sweet Georgia Brown," sung in Polish). When Bancroft discovers she is the object of a pilot's affections, it begins a chain of events that has the troupe working to save the underground movement after Hitler invades Poland.Brooks gives one of his very best performances as an actor who uses his skills to outwit the Nazis, while worrying whether or not his wife is having an affair. Bancroft matches him every step of the way, and comes closer than anyone in the cast to achieving "the Lubitsch touch." Charles Durning is also a standout as the notorious "Concentration Camp Ehrhardt."While this film is well worth watching, I also STRONGLY recommend the original Lombard-Benny classic, if you've never seen it. But you won't hear Jack Benny and Carole Lombard sing "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Polish!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan A. Biatch on August 5, 2006
Format: DVD
My children, now ages 12 and 9, have loved this film for the last six years, since the day we allowed them to watch it. The Nazis are not the bumbling dimwits of "Hogan's Heroes," but they are not quite as smart as Mel Brooks's Fredric Bronski. The characters are enjoyable and ultimately lovable: Brooks as the self-absorbed and not-quite-successful head of a rag-tag Polish vaudeville troupe; Anne Bancroft as his aging but flirtatious (and much better received) performing wife, and a wonderful ensemble cast to support each other. There is adventure, excitement, subtle and highbrow comedy, and as one might expect from Mel Brooks, victory over the Nazis. The theatre troupe is ultimately successful in its mission to stop a traitorous Polish spy, but when Brooks disguises himself as the spy to complete the mission, the movie really takes off. There is some sexual innuendo, as well as some slang references to homosexuals, so parents: be cautious. But as an introduction to Brooks, as a glimpse into the Nazi preoccupation with the conquering of Europe and the Final Solution, it is a winner.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
I personally thought that this movie was hillarious. The first time i saw it i couldn't stop laughing. Yes, it's true that it's not the best Brooks film but i thought it was a great change from watching most of his recent movies. The little things in the movie crack me up, like when the Col. keeps falling off the desk. That's just classic Brooks. Brooks is one of my favorite actor/directors and i think that it might not match up to Space Balls, Young Frankenstein, and others, but, i still think it's a great movie and very entertaining.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Copeland on November 26, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
This film is a combination of laughter and good drama. We need more artists like these who can see the good - even in the midst of difficulty. I've been looking all over town for this movie, and I would heartily recommend it. If you're not a Mel Brooks fan, this is a different kind of comedy than he usually does - and with spectacular results.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Herr Frog on August 6, 2007
Format: DVD
This is a slightly more serious side of Mel, which is to say, madly funny; and I found it absolutely hilarious. Taking on a suspenseful WWII drama in Poland, probably the last thing you think of is slapstick. The comedy had its perhaps poignantly cheesy moments, which are the only detractors in the entire film, and I'm sure most viewers will recognize them, and yet also has some classic, mad hilarity.

Having not seen the original, I think I will have to now. Mel is surely one of the greatest American comedians, and I also agree with other reviewers here that he displays his acting skills more strongly than in other films. There is, BTW, no raunchy humor here, and some of the best slapstick I've seen for a while. From the first moment, Mel and the stunning Anne Bancroft as well as all supporting roles are well done and tasteful. Any references to or portrayal of homosexuality are well done and not lewd or offensive.

Because as you may well know, Bronski, played by Brooks, is a director determined to rescue family and friends from his theatre from certain death in the Nazi occupation, and at one point says, "without Jews, gypsies and qu66rs, there would be no theatre. [paraphrased, but very close]" I imagine this film is the inspiration of the 90s synth-pop band choosing the name "Bronski Beat." In this film one of Bronski's gay employees is forced to wear the imfamous pink triangle, and it is remarkable that Mel should portray that historical fact in this film.

But that is just a side-note, as the film is larger than that one issue, and Mel's taking on such a serious drama armed with slapstick, and one absolutely gorgeous co-star, is testimony to the power of humor, (And Anne's beauty) to redeem and enliven, and help us through moments too grim to bear otherwise. And because of that I'd recommend this film strongly. Mel is the man.
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