Young Frankenstein is a film directed by Mel Brooks and released in 1974 with Gene Wilder as the protagonist. I think that it’s one of the best comedies ever made and, probably, also the best film by the American director. This is a perfect parody of a classic Frankenstein movie which, if you think about it, is also one of the best Frankenstein movies ever made.
Let’s start with the plot. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (a superlative Gene Wilder who also wrote the script together with the director) goes to his father’s castle to take care of the family’s assets after his death. He isn’t proud of his family, though! As a matter of fact, he wants people to think that his surname should be pronounced “Frankensteen“… After a ridiculous farewell scene between him and his fiancée Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) at the train station, he arrives at the remote station of Transylvania (!) where he’s welcomed by Igor (Marty Feldman), who decides to be called Eye-Gore, in order to mock his new master (and joking about his eyes’ condition). The professor also meets the beautiful and blonde Inga (Teri Garr), the laboratory assistant of the deceased father. And finally here comes Frau Büchler (Cloris Leachman), please insert here the obligatory horses’ neighing.
Obviously, Frederick will soon forget his hatred for his father and his experiments when he discovers that they were more than just stupid fantasies. He will in fact adore his creature (played by Peter Boyle) even if equipped with an abnormal (A.B. Normal…) brain due to a mistake made by Igor.
I don’t want to go further with the plot to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen the film because one of its strengths is to tell a great story on Frankenstein’s monster while at the same time being a perfect parody of the Mary Shelley’s classic. Yes, you heard me right: despite the endless amount of gags and jokes that Mel Brooks managed to put into this hour and forty-five minutes of film, there’s an impeccably developed story. This is considered a cult movie, it’s cited everywhere and it deserves every bit of its success!
Sometimes the Young Frankenstein scenes are as memorable as their counterparts in the Universal Pictures movies that inspired Mel Brooks, namely the original Frankenstein released in 1931, his sequel Bride Of Frankenstein of 1935, both directed by James Whale, and then Son Of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost Of Frankenstein (1942). For example, both the “It’s alive!” line and the encounter of the creature with the child exist both in the original Frankenstein and in the parody, but Mel Brooks changed a single element in each scene to make everything irresistibly comical.
The University lesson with the old man cruelly used by Professor Frankenstein, the train journey to Transylvania, the meeting with Igor and his moving hump, the character of Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) who speaks incomprehensibly (and who’s greatly skilled at darts!), the scene of the old blind man (Gene Hackman!), the finale in which Frederick exchanges his intelligence with the prowess in using his… ehm, schwanzstucker… in short, this movie contains infinite amazing moments!
The rhythm never drops from start to finish, and both the scenes which are 100% comical (like that of the discovery of the secret passage or that of the sedative) and those with just one comic element (like Igor playing three notes to accompany Frederick’s violin on the castle walls) all work perfectly. The black and white chosen by Mel Brooks is stylistically in line both with the story and with the films to which it pays homage, although I believe that Brooks had to struggle to make the producers accept such a choice in the Seventies in which black and white movies were rare. And John Morris’ soundtrack could very well work in a classic Universal monster film of the Thirties. The fact that the cinematography and the music are in tune with the original Frankenstein films makes this film objectively beautiful to look at and at the same time increases its comic potential. How to explain this? It’s a bit like Leslie Nielsen being serious all the time in Airplane! (1980), something that makes everything ridiculous. Mel Brooks’ intuition to shoot the film as if it were serious makes it even more fun!
In short, if you haven’t got it yet, this film is crazy and I’m crazy about this film. Every time I see it I laugh a lot, I recommend watching it without even thinking about it. Ciao!