USER REVIEW: ‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974)

User review provided by Film Misery reader Brandon Cooley:

Both Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder wrote this parody that works well as a comedy and at the same time creates an artistic tribute to the 1930’s horror films. Mary Shelly would have been horrified if she saw the messy adaptation, but that’s okay, because even though it’s messy its also funny in a way that only Brooks could pull off.

The story takes the idea of the classic novel and makes references to the numerous sequels and spin-offs made after the original 1931 film with Boris Karloff. Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein, played by Gene Wilder, is ashamed to be related to his mad scientist grandfather. He even wants his students to pronounce his last name as “Fronkensteen.” Soon he discovers that he has inherited his grandfather’s castle and the retelling of the original story begins from there. Mel Brooks takes the story in Young Frankenstein somewhat seriously. Their main intent was to probably poke fun at the stereotypical elements of the Frankenstein films while at the same time telling a story that resembled one of them. Unlike his other films, he doesn’t try to make us laugh, but instead he and Wilder focus on making all of the aspects of the film creative and funny. The film doesn’t go for very many cheap thrills.

However the real focus of the film aren’t the characters, but instead the setting in Transylvania. I was surprised at how well they were able to mimic the set design and atmosphere of the early horror movies. Some of the props were actually from the 1931 film. After watching it, I wanted to compare it to one of the old Frankenstein movies. There are many comparisons. At the opening credits it refers to the actors as The Players, the conversations between the characters are done in the melodramatic style, and the whole movie is done in black and white, making it very authentic. Some of the shots of the castle and environment look identical to the original film. After being rejected by Columbia Pictures for wanting to put it in black and white, Brooks brought it to 20th Century Fox and the executives there agreed that the film should be in Mel Brook‘s vision.

There are two very good performances that are worth mentioning. Marty Feldman is great as the recognizable Igor. He is responsible for a lot of the laughs in the movie and the character’s introduction in Transylvania is perfect. Then of course there’s the symbolic monster who is hilariously played by Peter Boyle. The performance is original and he deserves a lot of acclaim for it.

Young Frankenstein will always be timeless, due to its visual style and the succeeded goal in taking the audience back in time by making it look forty years older than it should. When I was watching it I didn’t laugh out loud, but I did smile a few times at the jokes. In a film buff’s point of view this film isn’t enjoyed for the comedy, but instead for the authenticity. Mel Brooks has said that out of all of the movies he has directed Young Frankenstein is his favorite. I know some people who do not like Mel Brooks from watching Space Balls, a movie that had a great idea but failed because it was trying to be funny with weak jokes and from this it made the audience feel stupid. The intentions of both movies are the same and I am urging those people to check out Young Frankenstein, so that they can see what Mel Brooks is capable of. Some people might not consider it to be funny, but it is impossible to deny its artistic value.

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  • http://ramblingsofg1000.blogspot.com G1000

    I’m glad to see that you didn’t laugh out loud at this movie. Everyone seems to think it’s so funny, and I was wondering what was wrong with me because I hardly laughed at all. This is so far removed from the brilliance of “The Producers”.

  • Isaac Richter

    I read Frankenstein before watching this movie, and it made me very aware of Victor Frankenstein’s one tragic flaw. He wasn’t compassionate. He hates his creation as soon as he sees it, while Frederick Frankenstein is way more compassionate and he learns to love his creation (he even shows him off in that brilliant Fred Astaire-type dance show). I think Brooks and Wilder wanted to show us what would happen if Frankenstien hadn’t given up on his creation.

    By the way, I think the film is really funny. I love the scene with Gene Hackman as the blind hermit (that always makes me laugh) and Madelein Kahn is sheer perfection (I actually liked her here better than in Blazing Saddles). There are still a lot of Brooks’ films I need to see, but this is so far my favorite.

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