Young Frankenstein
directed by Mel Brooks
(20th Century Fox, 1974)

Director Mel Brooks has had his share of hits and misses in his cinematic career. Young Frankenstein, his spoof on classic horror films, is an unquestionable hit.

Dr. Friedrich von Frankenstein, the grandson of the infamous monster-making madman, reluctantly assumes his ancestor's mantle after inheriting his Transylvanian castle, laboratory and library. There, he perfects the science of reanimation, but the brilliant brain he intended for his creature was squooshed and replaced -- without the doctor's knowledge, of course -- with an abnormal speciman ... with predictably chaotic results.

The casting of Young Frankenstein is perfect, beginning with Gene Wilder at his pseudo-serious comedic best in the melodramatic title role. Assisting him are Marty Feldman as the bug-eyed, hunchbacked henchman Igor, Teri Garr as the magnificently cleavaged lab assistant Inga, and Cloris Leachman as the cigar-smoking, fiddle-playing and horse-frightening housekeeper Frau Blucher. Peter Boyle is exceptional as the mindless but sensitive and hugely endowed creature, and Madeline Kahn adds extra quirkiness as Frankenstein's fickle fiancee Elizabeth.

Filmed entirely in black and white, Young Frankenstein does a fantastic job of recreating the atmosphere of classic horror cinema, with such predictable elements as the rioting townsfolk, a blind peasant, secret passages behind a rotating bookcase and the like. Brooks went so far as to construct Frankenstein's lab using props from the original Frankenstein set from 1931.

There are plenty of unpredictables, too ... from the classroom experiment in the movie's opening scene to the doctor's first public unveiling of his reanimated creature.

Young Frankenstein brings to life more than just a monster. Even after all these years, it remains among the best of Brooks' work, and it's a movie worth watching over and over again -- I guarantee you'll laugh each time.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002

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