Film Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)
If you’ve read my previous post on the genius that was the first season of Scream Queens, you probably know that a lot of what made that show so great was the balance of comedy and horror achieved by Ryan Murphy & Co. Horror, for the faint of heart, is honestly just too much to handle sometimes, and no one’s got time for that (unless it’s really good, which, it’s usually not). But mixing horror… with comedy! Fucking genius. And nothing captures that genius mix more than Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein from 1974. It’s an adaptation of the OG horror monster from Frankenstein (ahem, from Mary Shelley, the queen of sci-fi and horror) - it follows the story of Dr. Frederick “Fronkonsteen” (Gene Wilder), as he attempts to remove himself from the monstrous legacy created by his grandfather, Victor Frankenstein, only to be warped back into it because genes (get it? Haha). With the help of his hunchbacked servant Igor (an American treasure, played by Marty Feldman) and his assistant Inga (Teri Garr), and avoiding the creeps of his grandfather’s housekeeper Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), Frederick clearly fell extremely close to the tree as he follows in his grandfather’s footsteps to re-animate another dead corpse.
This movie is so, so clever. I wish there was a better word than simply genius, but that’s the only way to describe Young Frankenstein. Having premiered in 1974, a time when there definitely was color film, not to mention a wide plethora of experimental styles of film, Young Frankenstein is purposely put under the restraint of the specific style of the horror movies of the 1930s (see: Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) It’s in black and white, it uses classic swipe transitions, and is deeply inspired by the German Expressionist style that took over those earlier films. The classic elements that make up the formative style of The Horror Movie, paired with Brooks’ and Wilder’s unending comedy, makes for just SUCH a good parody. A parody that not only makes fun of, but also looks back fondly, the monster movies of yesteryear.
With impeccable performances by its star actors, the humor in the writing is elevated that much more. Gene Wilder, I mean come on, not only was he made for this role, this is essentially HIS role (his credits also include screenwriter). He’s way better here than in something like Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Even as a character who’s hellbent on removing himself from his family legacy by purposely mispronouncing his name, Frederick is so damn funny. Marty Feldman as Igor is a breakout star in this film - from deliberately moving his hump from shoulder to shoulder to mess with Frederick, to accidentally grabbing “Abby Normal’s” brain (read: abnormal brain), Igor is utter perfection. With other standout performances by the rest of the cast, I can’t not mention Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, who claims Victor “vas her BOYFRIEND!”, she’s perhaps the funniest of them all (and in such a subtle role).
Young Frankenstein is a must-see Halloween classic. It’s got all the elements to a perfect horror movie, but all the comedy to keep you laughing literally throughout all 105 minutes of it. Wildly enough, it’s got all the necessary plot elements as the original, but tossed in with 200% more jokes, 200% more musical acts, and that much more love and affection towards its source material. And I hope to God they never remake this movie.