I recently attended an sold out special engagement, of Young Frankenstein, it was consequentially shortly after Gene Wilder passed on, and previously only seen the movie privately at home it was a special treat, sharing the endless laughter with many other fans. If one has dismissed the movie because of it being in black and white, a sincere sin on your part been committed and needs an immediate rectifying, as the humor presents itself with visual gags, sexual innuendos, and horror humor. Director by comedy maestro Mel Brooks, hot off his western comedy film Blazing Saddles earlier the same year as this film, who co-wrote it with Wilder, and obviously based off Mary Shelley’s novel. Brooks took wonderful care in making the proper references and digs at Universal Studios’ monster flicks, making sure it build an outrageously hilarious science experiment gone awry. In fact, Young Frankenstein often gets mentioned in the same breath as James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), for achieving wonderful cinematic design and passion, it contains tight focus, perfect pacing and a full cast of talent. As many know the story of Frankenstein, binds many emotions together, except for humor, and Brooks’ movie more than anything fills that void very well, especially with Wilder’s character going zany one moment and fatherly the next. This movie contains a rich history, after all made on a budget of $2.8 million went on to gross $86.3 million in United States alone, and doesn’t include $38.8 million in rentals, nor unknown riches from VHS & DVD sales, or other merchandise, needless to say, in 2003 Young Frankenstein found itself added to the prestigious National Film Registry.
The film opens with hands on a clock at exactly 12, but with 13-chimes, automatically showing the ridiculous portions of the movie. Frederick, who’s also a scientist, isn’t exactly proud of his lineage, going so far as to change the pronunciation of his last name insisting he be called Fronk-en-steen to distance him from his notorious grandfather Victor. He inherits the family castle in Transylvania, thereby leaving his primadonna fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn), at the train station, as he travels to the home of his ancestors, meeting Igor (Marty Feldman) pronounced as EYE-gore and his sexy assistant Inga (Teri Garr). Fret not; more odd characters soon present themselves such as cigar smoking Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman), Victor’s girlfriend, who when saying her name makes the horses whine. Once there, he inadvertently stumbles upon Victor’s research journals, through a funny sequence involving a secret passage and Igor, Frederick’s frenzied personality starts, and sets out to prove his grandfather’s theory was correct, note the change in portrait paintings. Peter Boyle stars as the monster, with an actual zipper in his neck, ready to terrorize the countryside looking for friends and later a goodtime. Many times the actors make a deadpan look at the camera, giving a knowing glance, especially with Igor and later the monster when it comes to the infamous little girl scene.
For those that recall the movie vividly, understand the many memorable sequences and lines, such as the brain depository and rendition of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ sung by Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. The Marty Feldman almost steals every scene he finds himself in, making fun of his own real life eye condition, and not a special effects trick. His deliveries positively wonderful, with the phrases “walk this way” and his conversation about using an abnormal brain give the film a bold style to the comedy. In addition, look for the switching hump he wears, which even the crew missed for a while.
A wonderful supporting cast of actors rounds out the movie, Kahn and Leachman make the most of their limited screen-time, with Kahn noting a reference to the Bride of Frankenstein. Kenneth Mars plays Inspector Kemp, the local constable with the wooden arm and thick accent, wears a monocle over his eye patch, no reason just because. Although, most fans of the horror cinema and the fans of movie in general do agree that the blind hermit, portrayed by Gene Hackman delivers one of the funniest scenes possible with Boyle’s expressions, which make for great entertainment.
Mel Brooks’ sought to use the original Frankenstein equipment for the laboratory sequences and located special effects creator Ken Strickfaden, in the Los Angeles area. Ken saved all the pieces and stored them in garage Brooks rented and gave him a special thanks credit in his movie, as Universal Studios never credited him, for his work on the original 1931 or 1935 films. However, an interesting side note, Ken received credit for the usage of lab equipment when used in the Blackenstein (1973). In addition, Cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld did his best to make the film resemble the style and shadow play like the of horror films of yesteryear, along the transition slides commonplace older cinema (recently used in movie Dead Road 79). The production staff worked to honor the original creation, so much that they even use the classic “Castle Thunder” sound effect in their movie to homage the previous Frankenstein movies.
Young Frankenstein, truly more than just a parody movie, in fact rather a tribute to the Universal Studios monster films, and while in the horror genre leaves lasting impression on all its fans, but this flick implants the lines of dialogue to replay often. A thoroughly entertaining horror comedy, from Mel Brooks, which earned a Broadway play, a great companion book and a very nice steel-book Blu-ray for fans to savor, while knowing the laughter is ALIVE!