Comedy in film has been on a bit of a downward spiral of late, there really don’t seem to be any memorable, or really any good, mainstream comedies anymore. Even worse pickings come in the parody subgenre, where derivative pop-culture references and gross out gags replaced any wit or real humor. Television has picked up the slack, but for now, comedy in film is in a bit of a crisis.
In that vein, Classic Reviews rises from the dead to look at a parody of the old Universal monster movies, particularly the adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder cracked a story surrounding these kind of themes and really made it work. Now celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year, Young Frankenstein still stands as a comedy classic that should not be ignored, especially around Halloween.
Frederick Frankenstein (that’s pronounced “Fronk-en-steen” if you please) (Gene Wilder) is a professor at a medical school, teaching his students about the preservation of life and trying to ignore his infamous grandfather’s (Victor Frankenstein) work and legacy. He finds himself lured back to Transylvania however, when he is told he has inherited his ancestor’s estate. He leaves his girlfriend Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) and goes to see his inheritance. There he meets Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr) his two lab assistants, and soon Frederick finds himself lured into replicating his grandfather’s work, creating a monster (Peter Boyle) of his own…
The acting in the movie is top notch here, as co-screenwriter Wilder nails all of his scenes as well as the rest of the cast. Marty Feldman is lovable and delightful as the assistant Igor, Teri Garr shines as Inga with wit and character at every turn. Cloris Leachman is also very funny as Frau Blucher, the caretaker of the estate. Peter Boyle is part terrifying and funny as the monster, and finally Kenneth Mars nearly steals every scene he’s in as a wooden armed inspector.
Brooks direction and co-written script also receive good looks for letting his actors breath in every scene and getting as much fun out of it as possible. Brooks seamlessly ties the different plots together as well as the gags, all of which never get old or stale. The production value of this move can also be credited to Brooks, who shot the movie entirely in black and white as well as was able to get his hands on the original equipment from James Whale’s Frankenstein to dress his set. Brooks’ use of shadow and darkness also is a (no pun intended) bright spot that is better than even some horror directors use of it nowadays. It is truly something to behold when a film is both very funny and looks marvelous.
Overall, Young Frankenstein is a classic comedy masterpiece that should not be ignored, brought together by stitching parts of other well known classics alongside some original plot points and raucous humor, it can provide an easy respite for those searching for something funny to offset the horror of Halloween, and even could be enjoyed year round.