BluRay/DVD Reviews

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

By • Sep 5th, 2006 •

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1974

Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of infamous monster-maker Victor, a brilliant neurosurgeon living in America and who is so ashamed of his ancestor’s work he pronounces his name Fronkensteen. A mysterious visitor (delicately and delightfully underplayed by the great Richard (THE LOST WORLD) Haydn) arrives on the scene and informs Frederick that he has inherited his grandfather’s estate in Transylvania.

On arriving in Transylvania to claim his inheritance he encounters the hunchback Igor (Feldman), the voluptuous Inga (a never more alluring Teri Garr) and Castle Frankenstein’s Mrs. Danvers-type housekeeper Frau Blücher (Leachman). Exploring the castle Frederick discovers his grandfather’s old laboratory and secret library, which handily contains a book entitled ‘How I Did It’, and pretty soon the old Frankenstein family trait rears it’s ugly head, this time in the shape of Peter Boyle as the monster.

Needless to say, being a Brooks/Wilder movie this isn’t a straightforward Frankenstein monster romp, though it pays loving homage to the Universal Karloff movies of the 30s. Shot impeccably in black and white and borrowing it’s plot from 1939’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, it becomes a case of ‘spot the film reference’. Much of the laboratory’s electrical equipment is that designed by Kenneth Strickfaden for the original 1931 FRANKENSTEIN; the monster stumbles across the shelter of a blind hermit (at the time a surprising appearance by ordinarily tough-guy Hackman) in an hilarious parody of the same scenario in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN; Kenneth Mars (THE PRODUCERS) recreates Lionel Atwill’s role of the local Police Chief from SON OF complete with artificial arm into which he sticks his darts during a game with the young Frankenstein (as did Atwill), and who is concerned that this new Frankenstein may be ‘vallawink in his grandvadder’s vootshtaps – you know; Vootshtaps! Vootshtaps! ’; Madeline Kahn’s hair, after she is ravished by the monster takes on the same appearance as Elsa Lanchester’s in BRIDE OF and there’s even a scene with a little girl throwing petals into a well. When she runs out of petals she innocently asks the monster ‘What shall we throw in next?’ at which point Boyle’s monster turns Oliver Hardy-like to the camera and smiles knowingly. Add to all this of course the Brooks/Wilder trademark gags: Igor’s hump, which he denies having, keeps swapping shoulders; when his train arrives in Transylvania Frederick ask a passing shoeshine boy ‘Pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania station?’ ‘Ya, ya, track twenty-nine’ replies the boy, ‘Can I give you a shine?’; to demonstrate his brilliance to the scientific community Frederick has his monster join him in a rendition of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ complete with cane, top hat and tails; a brain stored in a jar with the label ‘Warning – Do Not Use This Brain’ (which of course they do); horses whinny whenever Frau Blücher’s name is mentioned, and Wilder’s Frederick Frankenstein, with his pencil thin moustache and mop of frizzy hair, appears just as if SON OF’s Basil Rathbone had stuck his fingers in a light socket.

As you would expect, the commentary by Mel Brooks is full of behind-the-scenes info and reminiscences, and also sounds spontaneous as though he were really seeing the film for the first time in a long while. The Mexican interviews with the cast are curious as they were obviously recorded for a Mexican TV show with the interviewer asking his questions in two languages for the benefit of his viewers. The documentary is also informative and the outtakes, again expectedly with this crowd, are a hoot and quite poignant when you remind yourself that the equally great Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman are no longer with us.

It’s obvious from every scene that Mel Brooks has great affection for those old monster movies which results in this being the best thing he’s ever done and, if I had one, it would certainly be amongst my all time top ten – just above BLAZING SADDLES. He also grants himself one of the best credit lines:

Mel Brooks – Werewolf/Cat Hit by Dart.


Special Features:
Outtakes, bloopers and deleted scenes
36 minute documentary ‘Making FrankenSense out of Young Frankenstein’ with behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews
Trailers and TV spots
Mexican interviews
Audio Commentaries: Running commentary by Mel Brooks

(Above details refer to the Special Edition Region 2 release)


Cast:
Gene Wilder
Marty Feldman
Teri Garr
Peter Boyle
Cloris Leachman
Kenneth Mars
Madeline Kahn
Gene Hackman
Richard Haydn

Written by Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder
Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Michael Gruskoff

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