To Be Again
Frederick Bronski (Mel Brooks) and his wife Anna (Anne Bancroft) are the stars of a small Polish theatre whose nightly entertainment ranges from Hamlet to a pastiche on Hitler called the "Naughty Nazis" as well as clowns. Whilst Frederick is all about the performance his wife Anna has fun with a handsome young flight Lt. Andre Sobinski (Tim Matheson) who keeps on sending her flowers. When Hitler and his Nazi's invade Poland Sobinski comes to Anna for help as he is part of the resistance.
It is a long time since I watched Lubitsch's 1942 version of "To Be or Not to Be" and in truth because I watch so many movies I had forgotten a lot of it. I sill remembered the basics of the storyline but not the specifics. Some of those specifics started to come back when I sat down to watch the 1983 version starring husband and wife Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft as whilst much more of a slapstick movie the story elements are clear to see.
The thing about this 1983 version of "To Be or Not to Be" is that whilst it is directed by Alan Johnson it could be one he directed rather than one he just performs in. The humour is snappy, it has that backstage showbiz feel and even features a musical number about Hitler and it is a lot of fun. Right from the opening scene with an entertaining rendition of Sweet Georgia Brown it has you smiling and when Brooks does the musical Hitler number with lines such as all I want is piece, a piece of Poland, a piece of France it just keeps putting that smile on your face.
The thing about this version of "To Be or Not to Be" is that the humour from the scenes involving Brooks and Bancroft is so good that when ever it turns its attention to the story it begins to lose you. For me it is a case of balance and unfortunately the farce side of the movie is so good it overwhelms the actual story.
What this all boils down to is that "To Be or Not to Be" is a lot of fun thanks to Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft who make every joke a winner. Unfortunately they are so good that when they are not in the scene it seems to drift.