With the recent passing of the late great Gene Wilder I thought it high time to revisit the masterpiece that is Young Frankenstein. While definitely not a horror movie in the traditional sense, there’s enough love of the Frankenstein myth AND the genre in this film to make any horror fan proud – and it’s genius.
For the two of you who haven’t seen it, watch it immediately. But here’s a small plot synopsis anyways. Gene Wilder starts as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Franc-en-steen) who inherits a mysterious castle from his grandfather, the late Victor Von Frankenstein. He also inherits two assistants – a comely lass by name of Inga and a hunchback named Igor (pronounced Eye-gore), as well as a mysterious housekeeper, Frau Blücher. While exploring the castle he finds his grandfather’s late work and decides to dabble in making a monster himself.
I wasn’t lying when I said that this is a masterpiece.Filmed in crisp black and white, with set pieces that were taken from the original Frankenstein movie, the film is not only a loving tribute to Universal films but it is insanely goofy in the best possible way.
Young Frankenstein was written by both Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, who must have been cracking themselves up while they wrote it. There’s no joke that falls flat and although there are several recurring ones, they never get stale. It’s quite literally the perfect spoof, although you could have actually never seen the original Frankenstein and still enjoy it.
As for the cast, this is literally one of the best ensemble casts ever put onscreen. Gene Wilder’s makes his Frankenstein just teetering on the edge of unstable in one of his stand-out performances. Marty Feldman as Igor is pitch-perfect with his adroit physical comedy and sly asides to the audience. Teri Garr amuses as the innocent, but not so innocent Inga. Cloris Leachman is her usual hilarious self as the wretched Frau Blücher. And even with less screen time than the other members of the cast Madeline Kahn manages to steal every scene she’s in.
But special kudos must go to Peter Boyle. Even under pounds of make-up and padding, there’s a level of pathos there which makes you want to hug the big lug, except for the fact that you might get your neck broken in the process. His Frankenstein monster is both terrifying and heartfelt at the same time, and even though most of his dialogue is limited to grunts and groans, every emotion he goes through is conveyed perfectly.
I know, I know, no movie is perfect but this one really doesn’t seem to have many flaws and re-watching it again after not seeing it for years and years, was quite the campy treat. The make-up is pitch perfect, the black and white cinematography is beautiful, the theme song is haunting, and there’s not anything to really date this movie even though it was made in 1974.
So it if you haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, do yourself a favor and watch. And if you have, revisit and laugh along once more.
Fun fact kids! The medical student who taunts Dr. Frankenstein in the beginning is the voice of Brainy Smurf. That amused me for some reason.
Rating: 10 out of 10