We all know the story of Frankenstein and his monster. The two have become solidified in movie history as movie icons. But what about his grandson? Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder attempt to answer this and more questions in the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein. Does it succeed? Let’s take a trip to the Frankenstein castle and see for ourselves!
Doctor Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) hates his ancestry, specifically his grandfather Victor Frankenstein. He even goes as far as altering the pronunciation to “Fronkensteen”. But when his grandfather’s will leaves him his castle in Transylvania, he cannot help but become entranced by his grandfather’s legacy. With the help of Igor (Marty Feldman) and assistant Inga (Teri Garr), Frankenstein looks to recreate the infamous experiment, much to the chagrin of the townspeople.
The film opens on dramatic credits with a black and white matte painting of a castle, mimicking the original monster movies. In fact, the entire movie is shot in black and white, with obvious sets and backgrounds like the 1930s. While the movie looks dark and atmospheric, Brooks does look to insert some cheesy humor by using some wacky zoom ins and cuts to maximize the humor.
Speaking of humor, this movie is top notch. It plays with a variety of comedy, from slapstick to visual gags to wordplay. I loved how the jokes were simple and effective. There was no need to push the same joke to the point of discomfort. They would say a joke, react to it, and move on. The perfect example of this is whenever Frau Blücher (*horse neighs in the distance*), is referenced by name. It appears out of nowhere and the plot resumes forward as planned. The comedy accents the story, emphasizing the fact that this is a parody.
And, of course, I cannot talk about this movie without talking about Gene Wilder (RIP). His performance as Frankenstein (wait- Fronkensteen) is nothing short of hilarious. He doesn’t succumb to “lead character syndrome”. This title I just made up is when the lead character is extremely generic in personality, only identified as “main character” or “leader”. Gene Wilder avoids this as much as possible. He has to be the lead, but he also is the source of great comedy, just through his facial expressions. And he’s got a personality. He defies his ancestry, embraces it, and begins to feel deeper about it. All in all, a fantastic performance.
Young Frankenstein is a hilarious parody of the Universal Studios Frankenstein movies. It makes a familiar story incredibly fresh and funny. I could not stop giggling at the weird jokes because it doesn’t fit into the Frankenstein canon, but like LEGO Batman, it somehow builds upon the legacy of an icon. I give Young Frankenstein an A. This is certainly a must-see movie that will electrify you from the first scene.
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