[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 21 – Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Madeline Khan

Screenplay: Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks

106 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Materials
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound

 

Tonight, I need a laugh, so I did what any smart person would do in the middle of October looking for a spooky-good laugh: I took out my copy of Young Frankenstein.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Producers) is struggling to escape his family’s horrible legacy. Supposedly, his grandfather notoriously created life from dead tissue, and all his life, Frederick has never been able to get out from under the family shadow, but when he is personally invited to Transylvania to his grandfather’s castle, he discovers that maybe his family wasn’t so crazy after all, or maybe they were…

Young Frankenstein is absolutely brilliant, a perfect movie experience built around a career-best performance from Gene Wilder. Wilder also co-wrote the script with director Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), so it very much is his baby. His portrayal of Frederick flip-flops between nuance and over-the-top insanity. He also has perfect comedic timing. Scenes that shouldn’t work end up brilliant. This is a comedy genius at the height of his power.

The entire supporting cast is amazing as well, from Marty Feldman (In God We Trust (or Gimme That Prime Time Religion), The Last Remake of Beau Geste) as the eccentric and odd Igor to Cloris Leachman (The Last Picture Show, The Croods) as Frau Blucher, the housekeeper of the castle. Both characters would be iconic enough as stars of the film, but both combined with Wilder’s Frankenstein make for a unique and original comedic gem.

Mel Brooks apparently had a rough cut approximately twice the finished run time, and he went through the film, removing the least funny scenes as he came to them. It’s a great idea and good info for practicing comedy directors. Shoot a shit-ton of footage and then just cut out the worst stuff. He was even able to get the original Universal Frankenstein props from a prop designer who worked on the 1931 film to create that authenticity.

Mel Brooks once said that in order to parody something well, you have to love it. That love is especially apparent for both Brooks and Wilder in Young Frankenstein. Two master storytellers combining their efforts to create something truly special. This is a rarity of a film, one that I think is absolutely perfect and only gets better with time. See it. See it now, again and again.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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