Young Frankenstein (1974) / Comedy-Horror
MPAA Rated: PG for innuendo and language
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeleine Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Kenneth Mars, Gene Hackman (cameo)
Director: Mel Brooks
Screenplay: Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks (partial spoof of the Mary Shelley book, "Frankenstein")
Review published January 1, 1997
Young Frankenstein represents a dilemma for me as a reviewer. I recognize the fact that many people consider it one of the best comedies ever made. I suppose if I had watched it as a child, I might have thought it funny, and may have retained a fondness for it today. However, watching it for the first time as an adult, I found it to be just a mildly amusing during most scenes, with the occasional moment of true inspiration. My sincerest apologies to those already outraged at the fact that I only give it modest praise.
Young Frankenstein is a spoof of the classic films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, involving a surgeon/professor (Wilder, Blazing Saddles) who is the grandson of the infamous Baron von Frankenstein. He is haunted by the reputation of his grandfather, who was best known for trying unsuccessfully to reanimate dead people back to life through electricity. After he receives his grandfather's diary, he travels to Transylvania to see his old castle, and soon becomes obsessed with his grandfather's experiments, recreating them himself successfully. However, a mishap causes him to put in an abnormal brain and soon he has a hulking monster (Boyle, The Candidate) with little intellect on his hands who proves to be very dangerous when provoked.
Young Frankenstein is one of Mel Brooks' (The Twelve Chairs, The Producers) classic spoofs, but much of it's humor is a bit dated by today's standards. There's a lot to like, there's a lot not to like, but all in all, there's enough hilarity to entertain through the duration. Let me try to spell out my reactions.
THE GOOD: Gene Wilder's masterfully funny performance, Peter Boyle's endearing portrayal of the monster, the lush black and white photography, a great song and dance number, Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Bonnie and Clyde) as the blind man, Mel Brooks' adept direction, and some genuinely hilarious sight gags and characters.
THE BAD: some horribly trite jokes liberally lifted from The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and other older and oft-used sources, film-flubs galore (the girl who falls into bed under the covers, several darts hitting a car when only one flew out the window, the monster's position changing while on the table, etc.), the Inspector Kemp (Mars, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and Frau Blucher (Leachman, The Last Picture Show) characters, and Madeleine Kahn's (High Anxiety, History of the World Part I) singing.
Young Frankenstein is still one of Mel Brooks' best as a director, and although Gene Wilder is a terrific comedic actor, as a writer he just isn't as funny. Certainly, it's hilarious in spots and the production is well-made, but for today's audiences, it offers only moderate entertainment. While some gags are inspired and funny, there are a few too many groaners in the mix. Young Frankenstein is recommended for those who loved it when first seeing it, Mel Brooks fans, and for younger viewers familiar with the old Frankenstein films.
©1997 Vince Leo