“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
- Madeline Kahn Films
- Mel Brooks Films
- Richard Haydn Films
- Satires and Spoofs
- Teri Garr Films
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)
2 thoughts on “Young Frankenstein (1974)”
A no-brainer must, as a genuine comedy/cult classic, and Brooks’ only completely polished film.
What else can one say about ‘YF’ except ‘See it!’? 😉 There is definitely a lot more control here than Brooks has shown in any other film. And, working with Wilder, it’s his best script. Clearly that’s where Brooks has gone wrong too many times in too many other films. Who’s to say how many other films of his could have been improved if he had applied to them what he applies here (and had worked in conjunction with writers who complimented him)?
This movie is a genuine laugh riot – I still remember when I first saw it in NYC (the black and white photography in the print was so sharp, it could almost cut! 😉 ) and, even now, it has not lost any of its power.
One could go point by point with the plus factors here – but why bother? This is simply a comic gem that holds up quite well with repeat viewings (and no doubt those who take to it will take to it multiple times).
Together with The Producers (1968) Mel Brooks’ finest effort. A loving spoof of the first three Universal Frankenstein films and it looks a peach. Hilarious from first frame to last.
(Whinnying sounds abound!)