In a career spanning nearly five decades, Gene Wilder helped redefine comedy. During the late 1960s and ’70s, he had a string of notable films, be it the title role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, his partnership with Mel Brooks in The Producers and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein or his unlikely collaborations with Richard Pryor in Silver Streak and Stir Crazy, among others.

Produced in 2023, and recently released on Blu-ray, Remembering Gene Wilder, offers a fun look at the actor for fans. Recent interviews with Mel Brooks and Carol Kane (who co-starred with Wilder in 1977’s The World’s Greatest Lover are a welcome treat. Asked about Gene Wilder’s lasting impact on his life, Brooks says, “I miss his enjoying my humor — I could make him laugh where he would sometimes grab his belly, hit the ground and roll around on the ground and laugh.” Other interviewees include Alan Alda, Harry Connick Jr., Dick Cavett, Eric McCormack, Ben Mankiewicz and Peter Ostrum, among others.

Director Ron Frank wisely uses Wilder as the de-facto narrator utilizing his audiobook recordings and interviews to explore various areas of his life. A short look at his childhood is followed by a look at his early career. Born Jerry Silberman in 1933, Gene Wilder took his stage name from his love of the Thorton Wilder play Our Town. Having started his career with small parts in New York theater, 1963 found him working opposite Anne Bancroft, who was dating and would later marry, Mel Brooks. That meeting would later lead to a partnership that would produce The Producers in 1968, and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, both released in 1974. Amid that, 1971 saw Gene starring as the title character in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A box office disappointment at the time of its release, Willy Wonka would later become a classic after various airings on television.

After co-writing Young Frankenstein, the success of that film allowed Gene to write and direct his own projects, beginning with 1975’s The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.1976 would find him cast in Arthur Hiller’s Silver Streak in 1976, his first of four films with co-star Richard Pryor. It’s surprising to learn that the two men were not particularly chummy off screen. Disillusioned by the business side of filmmaking, Wilder largely retired from the screen by 1991. Preferring to paint and write books instead. Gene Wilder died in 2016 at 83, from complications from Alzheimer’s.

While Remembering Gene Wilder provides a series of interesting interviews, it never delves very deep, not offering any real analysis of his work. His heartbreaking relationship with Gilda Radner is discussed and his widow Karen Boyer reminisces about her life with Gene and offers some insights into his final years. While not the definitive documentary on Gene Wilder’s life, Remembering provides a well-produced, if surface look at one of the finest comic actors of his era.

Filled with archival footage from various sources and combined with newly recorded interviews, the result looks impressive. Detail is good as is contrast. Colors are vivid. Archival footage varies, as is to be expected.

Kino Lorber offers two audio options, 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, both encoded as DTS-HD MA. The 5.1 surround track offers more in the way of surround activity, while the 2.0 track offers fuller dialogue. Which ever is chosen, dialogue is clean, clear and concise.

English SDH subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • Additional interviews with Mel Brooks, Harry Connick Jr., Burton Gilliam, Carol Kane, Ben Mankiewicz, Peter Ostrum, Karen Wilder, and Alan Zweibel
  • Theatrical Trailer
Remembering Gene Wilder (2023)
3.5 Reviewer