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1966, MGM Repertory, 99 min, USA, UK, Dir: Richard Lester

Zero Mostel is a lazy, sloppy slave in ancient Rome who wishes to win his freedom by helping his master woo a beautiful young courtesan in this adaptation of the popular Broadway musical. A cast of comedy and musical legends including Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton and Michael Crawford keeps the pace fast and furious in this classic farce directed by the great Richard Lester. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

1968, Rialto Pictures, 88 min, USA, Dir: Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks’ directorial debut is one of his finest, and it won him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This outrageous look at two Broadway producers - conniving con man Zero Mostel and sheepish, going-along-for-the-ride Gene Wilder (nominated for Best Supporting Actor) - deciding to get rich by selling shares in what they believe will be a guaranteed flop is certainly one of the funniest comedies of the 1960s. The pair’s production “Springtime for Hitler” (“Don’t be stupid, be a smarty! Come and join the Nazi party!”) inadvertently becomes a so-bad-it’s-good hit, and their grandiose designs on big-time wealth comically crumble. Watch for Dick Shawn as acid-casualty actor LSD, who becomes a surprise star as the jive-talking Führer, and Kenneth Mars as the humorless, ex-German soldier playwright.

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