Year of Release: 1974 Directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn, and Peter Boyle.
“It could be worse. It could be raining.” And on cue thunder and lightning strike and it begins pouring. This is a typical joke in Mel Brooks’ zany horror movie spoof, Young Frankenstein.
Gene Wilder plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. That’s pronounced Fronkensteen, NOT Frankenstein. His relation to his crazy grandfather is purely accidental and he need to be remembered for his own unique contributions to science. It is strange, then, that upon receiving his grandfather’s will, Frederick travels to the Transylvanian estate and his path there strangely mirrors the scientific path of his famous/infamous grandfather.
Mel Brooks creates hysterical jokes while mocking the original Frankenstein monster movies. The opening music sets a somber and creepy mood, yet it contains a humorously clichéd sound that sets up much of the humor in the film. Naturally the film is shot in black and white, as old horror films were, and in order to add to the dreary atmosphere. The dichotomy between the bleak sets and silly spoof only serves to highlight the jokes, making then even funnier.
Brooks does not miss an opportunity for a joke. From the name of the sinister maid to the construction of the monster to witty puns and to classical culture, Young Frankenstein contains it all. The right jokes reoccur throughout the movie with proper placement and results. The laughs are humorously foreshadowed, such as the entrance to the secret passageway. References to the monster’s very large size and his consequent popularity, which initially occurred at the inception of the action, the creation of the monster, return towards the very end of the film as the story climaxes. Puns such as: “Werewolf!” “Where wolf?” “There wolf.” abound throughout the entire movie. In addition to the homage to old monster movies, Brooks pays tribute to early musicals, with an hilarious rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Nothing in the film is ever taken seriously. When the villagers attempt to destroy the kind monster, any threat that may have arisen is mitigated by their leader: the irate town constable. (Kenneth Mars in a very similar role to his irate Nazi playwright in The Producers) Gene Wilder is just as talented and impressive as the assertive and daring Dr. Frankenstein as he was as the nervous and shy Leo Bloom and as the reserved Waco Kid. Young Frankenstein is not only a technically successful film with good acting, directing and editing, it is also a comic gem that garners laughs with spoofs, absurdities, and clever word plays. It is arguably Mel Brooks’ best film.
Content Advisory: Some sexual humor, including humorously implied off-screen orgasms and references to abnormally large male anatomy, profanity, mildly crass language, and slapstick violence. MPAA rating: PG
Suggested Audience: Teens and up with discernment.
Personal Recommendation: A-