Young Frankenstein (1974)

Young Frankenstein – 1974

Director – Mel Brooks

Starring – Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, and Madeline Kahn

I grew up on Spaceballs.  Not only that, I co-grew up on History of the World, Part 1.  It would seem to be a no-brainer that anything Mel Brooks would do should appeal to my basest movie watching self, right?  Then, along came Blazing Saddles.  Everyone that I ever talked to about Blazing Saddles loved it.  It was the summit of comedy for a 10-year-old kid (not to mention a lot of 30 year olds that I know now), so why did I think it to be so, blah?  Was I wrong about Mel Brooks?  Are his other movies even funny?  Long story short, my so-so opinion of Blazing Saddles had managed to color my opinion of Brooks’ other films, such as Young Frankenstein, long before I ever even saw them.  It’s really too bad, because Young Frankenstein was a great piece of fond nostalgia.

The story is simple, it is essentially a campy, comedic, re-telling of the story of Frankenstein.  Gene Wilder plays the grandson of the famous Victor von Frankenstein, Frederick.  Embarrassed by the legacy his disgraced grandfather left behind, Frederick goes so far as to alter the pronunciation of his telltale last name to “Fronkunschteen”.  But after receiving the diary of his grandfather, he makes his way to the castle in which the original monster was created to put some of his theories to the test.

Along the way he picks up a sidekick, Igor (pronounced Eye-gor for obvious reasons) played by British comedian Marty Feldman, and a sexy lab assistant played by Teri Garr.  It is by this point the spoofs, and loving jabs begin to fly. Young Frankestein’s success is not so much because of how it points out the ridiculous nature of the original, but because of how lovingly it treats its source material.  In fact, most of the props and set pieces in the castle are actually props from the original 1931 Frankenstein.

Gene Wilder is perfect as the pseudo-serious mad scientist with Garr and Feldman both playing well comedically against his strait act.  Peter Boyle as the monster is able to combine the original humanity of the character, pioneered by Boris Karloff, and twist it just slightly to the bizarre side of things in order to make it funny.  His bit with the “lonely blind man” played by a young Gene Hackman is a particularly stand out moment. And finally, what Mel Brooks movie would be complete without the fantastic Madeline Kahn, as Frederick’s fiancée swept off her feet by the appropriately endowed monster.

Based on the films that I have seen thus far in my life, did Young Frankenstein cross any lines, or break down any borders for me?  No.  It did however, make me remember why it was that I enjoyed movies like that in my youth…they are fun.  I’m looking forward to giving Blazing Saddles another try.  Big thanks to my buddy Mike for recommending and lending this to me, good lookin’ out!

“Madeline Khan, the funniest ever!” – Ashley

3 thoughts on “Young Frankenstein (1974)

  1. Confession: When I saw your header, I wigged out, then launched immediately (and silently, because I’m supposed to be working right now) into Fronkensteen’s “I don’t want to live! I DO NOT WANT TO LIVE!” meltdown. Oh, the memories. How sweet they are.

    My parents turned me on to Mel Brooks at a tender age (probably too young, now that I think of it!), and “Young Frankenstein” resonates strongly with me as a piece of my childhood. But I’ve watched the film countless times since that first viewing, and every time I’m reminded why I love it so much. As a send-up to classic monster movies, it’s brilliantly done. As an ensemble piece, it’s aces. There simply is no part, no actor, that isn’t hilarious.

    I think it was James Berardinelli who said that time is the ultimate test for a great comedy. If the movie can withstand changing times and still seem fresh and new upon every viewing, that’s a great film. Judged on that standard, I’d say “Young Frankenstein” comes up a winner every time.

  2. Brooks’ work on “Young Frankenstein” was a breath of fresh air for me in his attempt to be respectful of the original source materials, the 1931 film has always been a favorite of mine. And I will never be able to hear the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” without injecting Madeliene Kahn’s vocals in my head. I’m rounding the corner on 51 and it still is on my list of the 20 best comedies on film. Peter Boyle work prior to “Young Frankenstein” seemed so serious, I was surprised to see him in the comedic role (of course, in retrospect, those familiar only with his work on “Everybody Loves Raymond” may be surprised by his dramatic work in “Joe”, Crazy Joe” and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”).

    I can remember going to see “Blazing Saddles” in theaters upon release at the age of 14 and being VERY UNCOMFORTABLE with my ability to laugh through all the off color (pun intended)jokes, bawdy humor and the campfire scene. The fact that it could poke fun at racial/cultural stereotypes and body functions cleared the way for many of the comedies/genre farces that are making their way into the mainstream.

  3. Pingback: 1001 Movies – The Complete List « 1001 Movies I Must Comment On Before I Die!

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