Mini-Review Monday: Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

Release: December 15, 1974

Story: Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by Gene Wilder), the grandson of mad scientist Victor Frankenstein, wants nothing to do with his grandfather’s monster creating work. After the death of his great grandfather, Frederick inherits the Frankenstein mansion in Transylvania. The mysterious and spooky mansion is run by the creepy Frau Blucher (played by Cloris Leachman). Frederick stumbles upon his grandfather’s old laboratory and discovers how the original monster was brought to life. Frederick becomes obsessed with producing a creature of his own. With the help of the bug-eyed Marty Feldman playing the hunchbacked Igor (it’s pronounced EYE-GORE) and a silly but pretty laboratory assistant played by Terri Gar, Frederick turns to robbing graves and lying to police officials to accomplish his goals. The townsfolk are suspicious of another Frankenstein occupying the castle. They send Kemp, a police inspector played by Kenneth Mars, to investigate the strange goings-on up in the castle.The new monster (played by Peter Boyle) is more prone to singing and dancing in a tux than he is wreaking havoc through the village. But will Kemp, with his wooden arm and penchant for yelling incoherently, or the torch carrying townsfolk care or will they only seek to destroy him?

Thoughts: Young Frankenstein is close to perfection. Not only are its jokes written, timed and performed with skill not often seen in comedies and, especially, spoof movies, but its tone is excellent. When creating spoofs, directors, writers and actors often forget to take the story and characters seriously. Even Mel Brook’s later work is guilty of overdramatic and cheesy performances, with actors constantly winking at the camera. Everyone in Young Frankenstein treats the events of the film like they’re actually happening. The actors are behaving as if they are in a drama, it just so happens hilarious and ridiculous things are happening all around them. Feldman is far from a straight man but he even has a reality to him. Along with a terrific cast (including Madeline Kahn as Frederick’s melodramatic fiancee) and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography that homages and parodies the look of the old Universal monster movies, the tone helps make this one of the funniest comedies of all time.

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