Young Frankenstein (1974)
As a spoof of old horror movies and, more specifically, Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, Mel Brooks and co-writer/star Gene Wilder created one of the most successful and beloved comedies of the last century.
"Young Frankenstein" concerns the neurosurgeon grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein. The grandson, Frederick (Gene Wilder) , has entered into his profession to put a rest to all the rumors and stories of his ancestor. This Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Frank-en-shteen) is eager to make a name for himself, instead of being weighed down under all the gossip.
When Baron von Frankenstein's will is discovered, Frederick is sent back to Transylvania to confront the ghosts of the past, and the life therein.
On his trip he meets Igor (Marty Feldman), the grandson of the other Igor...the one that the Baron would have known. Frederick leaves behind his fiancee Elizabeth (Mel Brooks regular Madeline Kahn), but meets Inga (Teri Garr) who will be his new lab assistant.
The estate that comes to Frederick is the typical setting for a spook story—a mammoth castle-like structure that oozes smoke and cobwebs.
But all this describing doesn't truly do the picture justice because it's missing Brooks' zaniness and quirk.
Take for instance a scene that involves Igor driving Inga and Frederick back to the Frankenstein castle: from euphemistic puns to grammar jokes all ending in a comment about breasts and the reaction of horses to a name.
There is barely a minute that passes by that Brooks and Wilder don't throw in as much as possible...you see something new at every viewing.
The castle is ruled by Frau Blücher (cue the horses), who is a similar character to Mrs. Danvers from Hitchcock's "Rebecca". She is an odd woman with a dirty secret...but you'll have to wait to find out what it is.
The film's influence shouldn't be questioned...most every comedy since owes something to "Young Frankenstein". Aerosmith has claimed that their song "Walk This Way" stemmed from a gag pulling in the movie.
Frederick is launched into a tailspin as he confronts the knowledge of his grandfather's work...it slowly becomes an obsession, and a hilarious one at that.
The physical stunts are always funny, but Brooks has such eccentric characters that it's impossible not to chuckle at the film. Look at Inspector Kemp (played by the heavily accented Kenneth Mars). He has a fake arm that is very reminiscent to Peter Sellers' Dr. Strangelove improvisations.
Perhaps the funniest scene which contains an interesting take on the song "Puttin' on the Ritz" almost didn't make it into the movie. Brooks and Wilder fought about the sequence and eventually Wilder won...it wouldn't be the same without it.
The adult humor and side-puns make it evident that the film is Brooks' handiwork. He has a style that is pretty recognizable.
Gene Wilder is over-the-top and Marty Feldman is just plain funny—I found that the actor I appreciated the most was Teri Garr whose fake German accent and naiveté make her one of the funniest parts of "Young Frankenstein".
It's interesting because this is the middle ground for many films...it evolved from pictures like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and the original "Nosferatu"; but from here came films like "The Elephant Man" and even "Schindler's List". I'm perhaps making the film more iconic than it is, but I see similarities.
Filmed in black-and-white, not only is "Young Frankenstein" funny; but it also shows the daring of the director and team of film makers. The movie looks great and visual cues are used to make people look larger, smaller, thinner, fatter, etc. Here you can see the influence on Jackson and "The Lord of the Rings" franchise.
But all that aside, it's a fantastic movie.
"Young Frankenstein" is dark, fun, madness.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones