Young Frankenstein


Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’ satirical salute to 1930's classic horror (in particular the 1931 Hollywood version of Mary Shelly’s novel) was his first movie to be hailed by so-called 'serious’ critics. The Producers and Blazing Saddles had brought him fame and money, but critical reactions had been divided. Many critics didn't know what to think of Brooks. Like the influential Roger Ebert wrote: "His movies weren’t just funny, they were aggressive and subversive, making us laugh even when we really should have been offended." 

Young Frankenstein changed everything - at least for a while. There are a few irreverent jokes plus a couple of references to the seize of the monster’s sexual apparatus (monstrous!), but otherwise it’s almost family entertainment.

Gene Wilder (who co-wrote the script with Brooks) is Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, who insists on being called Fronk-en-steen because he doesn’t want to be confused with the notorious mad doctor. But he’s lured back to Transylvania and when confronted with a written account of his grandfather’s experiments, he discovers his true Frankenstein nature. With the help of a hunchback called Igor (it’s pronounced Eye-gor, and if you know the type is played by Marty Feldman you also know why) and a curvaceous laboratory assistant, the young doctor creates his own monster - with results that are both hilarious and devastating.

Young Frankenstein is every bit as funny as some of Brooks’ other achievements but it’s a less anarchic, more controlled effort and therefore probably even works better. It was Wilder who had come up with the idea for the movie and he had also convinced Brooks to forego his usual cameo-appearances and remain off-camera. It seems to have worked in the movie’s favour*. It is shot in a warm black & white and on magnificent studio sets: many props were copies of the lab equipment used in the 1931 movie. Not all jokes work, but most of them do and some are hilarious. Among the highlights: inspector Kemp lighting a cigarette in an uncanny way, the interpretation by the doctor and his creation of Puttin’ on the Ritz and above all the scene set in the cabin of the blind man.


* For this reason there has been some discussion whether the movie should be called a Brooks movie, a Gene Wilder movie or a Brooks-Wilder movie. Gene Wilder was no doubt the spiritual father of it (when he first spoke to Brooks about his ideas, Brooks seemed not interested in them), but on the set and during post-production Brooks was in controll of things: he removed and abridged a couple of sequences because he felt they didn’t work properly and Wilder had to do his utmost best to prevent him from removing the 'Puttin’ on the Ritz’ sequence. More than any of Brook’s movies, Young Frankenstein was a collective effort: Marty Feldman improvised a lot of jokes and Cloris Leachman wrote some of her own lines, such as the 'ovaltine question'.


Dir: Mel Brooks - Cast: Gene Wilder (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Marty Feldman (Igor), Peter Boyle (Monster), Teri Garr (Inga), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blücher), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Kenneth Mars (Inspector Kemp), Gene Hackman (Blind Man)


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