“With such a magnificent body, all we need now is an equally magnificent brain.”
A neuroscientist (Gene Wilder) returns to the home of his infamous great-grandfather, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, where he enlists the help of two loyal assistants — hunchbacked Igor (Marty Feldman) and busty Inga (Teri Garr) — in resurrecting a corpse and bringing a Creature (Peter Boyle) to life.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Gene Hackman Films
- Gene Wilder Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Mel Brooks Films
- Richard Haydn Films
- Satires and Spoofs
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “this spoof of Universal’s 1931 version of Frankenstein (1931)” — as well as its two direct sequels, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1942) — “is the only Mel Brooks film that almost everyone likes”. He notes that “for a change, Brooks remains tasteful throughout; keeps his actors under reasonable control…; maintains the picture’s tone by including only one ‘burlesque’ interlude (Frankenstein and the Monster perform a hilarious rendition of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’)…; and, while the humor is outrageous, it is subtly played”. He further points out the critical fact that “Brooks shows a knowledge and affection for both Frankenstein and the horror genre that he would not display for the western in Blazing Saddles,” and notes that “the use of lab props from the 1931 movie, the use of black-and-white film, and an atmospheric score by John Morris contribute greatly to Brooks’s attempt to recapture the ambiance of the old Universal horror pictures”. Finally, he points out that all the actors “do justice to the clever Brooks-Wilder script”.
I agree with Peary: Young Frankenstein remains a remarkably restrained and respectful homage to the films it’s satirizing. Fine attention is paid to recreating the overall feel and look of Universal’s classic flicks, whose fans — at least those willing to allow their beloved films to be poked fun at — will have a field day seeing scene after iconic scene tweaked for humorous effect (i.e., the Monster’s encounter with a young girl [Anne Beasley] near a well; the Monster’s not-so-comfortable encounter with a well-meaning blind hermit [Gene Hackman]; etc.). Meanwhile, the cast is indeed game throughout, with “wild-eyed” Wilder giving an appropriately impassioned performance as the conflicted Dr. Frankenstein (he fills the shoes of his classic thespian predecessors quite nicely), and Feldman wonderfully over-the-top as his wily assistant. I don’t quite agree with Peary that Brooks “remains tasteful throughout”, though I suppose the term “tasteful” is relative — and it’s definitely kept mostly in check here. In sum, this is one of a small handful of Brooks films that all film fanatics should be familiar with, and will enjoy revisiting from time to time.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein (nominated as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Peary’s Alternate Oscars)
- Marty Feldman as Igor
- Fine supporting performances by the rest of the cast
- Wonderfully recreated Gothic sets
- Gerald Hirschfeld’s b&w cinematography
Yes, as one of Brooks’ most beloved comedy classics.
- Cult Movie
- Important Director
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)