Young Frankenstein (1974)

Synopsis: An American grandson of the infamous scientist, struggling to prove that he is not as insane as people believe, is invited to Transylvania, where he discovers the process that reanimates a dead body.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here:

Who chose it: Brent

Why I chose it: I had seen this movie some time ago and recall it being quite funny. I suspected that Leah would enjoy it, so I thought it was a good choice on a list that didn’t include a lot of comedies.

Brent’s Review:

Mel Brooks never met a pun, double entendre, or sight gag he didn’t want to put on film. If comedy is a body of water, Brooks is just as happy to play around in the shallow water as he is in the deep end. Even when his comedy does highlight the lunacy of a situation (“Blazing Saddles” tackling race and racism is interesting, if hardly nuanced), the point for Brooks isn’t to make social commentary. It’s to make you laugh.

The king of one-liners, Mel Brooks films often feel like a barrage. They’re exhausting. Even at 100 minutes, “Young Frankenstein” feels 30 minutes too long because it is so dense with jokes. In a year where Brooks also released the aforementioned “Blazing Saddles”, the question must be asked: how do you get all this material?

One possible answer: Gene Wilder. Wilder is one of the most charismatic performers to ever produce comedy features in Hollywood. His sense of timing is pitch-perfect and he has incredible range. Wilder succeeds where many comedians fail, especially in his ability to run a riff of five dollar words and run-on sentences all the while crescendoing to a punchline.

“Young Frankenstein” boasts a great supporting cast as well, including Cloris Leachman, Madeline Khan, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, and even Gene Hackman for one scene. Each character has their moment in the sun, but it is truly Marty Feldman’s “Igor” who steals the show. Taking full advantage of his peculiar appearance, Feldman channels his background in sketch comedy to deliver zingers, one liners, and sight gags to great effect. Can you complain about a lack of comedic range when Feldman plays the notes he hits so well?

In terms of the Brooks canon (of which I’ve only seen this film, “Blazing Saddles”, and “Spaceballs”), “Young Frankenstein” is not his best work. It is by far his least over-the-top — the whackiness is more subtle, even when it’s beating you over the head. However, of all my favorite Brooks bits, “Young Frankenstein” has one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever watched. Near the midway point of the film, Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced FrAHnk-en-stEEn) puts on a stage show to demonstrate the reanimated creature’s abilities. It begins simply enough: walk heel-to-toe forwards and backwards. We then must ask, what’s the next logical conclusion for a Brooks film? A song and dance number to “Putting on the Ritz” of course!

“Young Frankenstein” isn’t a commentary on society. Even if you roll up your sleeves and try to pull that out, it’s simply not there. What you see is what you get: an uproariously funny picture for just over an hour and a half. You can put it on, shut your brain off, and laugh for a while. For me, it was more grinning than laughing: watching Wilder and Feldman do their thing is just delightful. And in that regard, Brooks has achieved his goal. He isn’t here to make you think, he’s here to make you laugh.

Leah’s Review:

There is a particular genre of movie that is a guilty pleasure for me: Comedy that is so-stupid-it’s-funny-but-you-still-have-to-be-smart-to-get-it. Whether it be “Airplane!”, the “Naked Gun” series, “Hot Fuzz”, or even “Zombieland”- I love a movie that can make me laugh easily (and hard) without doing so in a cheap way.

Mel Brooks is a director/writer that does this well. I saw “Spaceballs” in college, had recently watched “Blazing Saddles” for the first time (which was easily one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen), and was excited to see “Young Frankenstein” for another pairing-up of Brooks and Gene Wilder.

The premise of “Young Frankenstein” is one of the most ridiculous parts about it. An eccentric scientist inherits the castle of his grandfather (who happens to be the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein) and attempts to reanimate a dead body despite previously believing his grandfather crazy for trying to do the same. Throw in a beautiful assistant and a sassy hunchback, talented comedic actors, and a Fred Astaire number- and you’ve got 106 minutes of hilarity.

Two actors in particular make this comedy shine: Gene Wilder and Marty Feldmen. Wilder, of course, is famous for his performance as the title character in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Wilder is an expert at playing eccentric characters, going from calm to hysterical in an instant; making you laugh one minute, and wonder if he’s lost his mind another- all while still remaining likeable. The role of Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant and yet quite mad scientist, seems like it was made for Wilder. And since Wilder had a role in writing the screenplay- I’m sure he was able to write a character that truly fit both his humourous and deadpan acting. I’m looking forward to watching him in another Mel Brooks film on our list (The Producers) later this year.

While watching “Young Frankenstein” I couldn’t help but notice how talented and funny Marty Feldman is as Igor and wondered what else he had been in. Not much, it turns out. “Young Frankenstein” was really his only film-acting claim to fame. And it’s a shame. He clearly had a talent for subtle humor, one-liners, and poking fun at himself (those bulging eyes were not part of his costume). As Igor, Feldman nearly steals the show from every other actor in the film. I can only imagine what other comedy projects (in addition to his writing and work on television) he could have been a part of if his life had not been cut so short (he was only 48 when he died).

If you need a good laugh and you appreciate a well-done comedy, and especially if you enjoy Gene Wilder, I can’t help but recommend “Young Frankenstein”. It’s an entertaining film that will have you grabbing your sides- and you’ll never be able to hear the song “Puttin’ On The Ritz” the same way again.

Up next: A murder mystery and a British cast? It doesn’t get any better than that. We’ll be watching 2001’s Best Picture Winner “Gosford Park”.

Peace out, kids.


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