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