The second to last review! How quickly the season has flown.
On the thirtieth day of Halloween, the inimitable, irreplaceable, and greatly missed Gene Wilder game to me: Young Frankenstein ( Mel Brooks, 1974)
This movie isn’t scary, so let’s get that out of the way. But this movie is a classic for any season, and the fact that it’s about Frankenstein is just the icing on the cake. Young Frankenstein is about as goofy as they come, and features some of the best writing, physical comedy, and actors film has ever seen. This movie is a ridiculous romp, replete with sex jokes, horse noises, and absolutely no dignity. But this isn’t some sophomoric gross-out spectacle, but rather a playful, well-constructed comedy that will leave even modern viewers giggling.
The infamous Baron von Frankenstein has died, and his estate needs to be passed to his only living heir: his grandson, a doctor named Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), who wants to distance himself from the dramatic reputation of his family. Convinced to at least see his grandfather’s estate, Frankenstein travels to Transylvania, where he is met by Igor (Marty Feldman), and his beautiful new lab assistant, Inga (Terri Farr). Invited into his grandfather’s gloomy castle by the bizarre caretaker Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), Frankenstein begins to unravel his family’s secrets, in a way that only Mel Brooks could have written.
HE VAS MY BOYFRIEND
This movie is so goddamn funny. Though it was made in 1974, Young Frankenstein is filmed like an old-school horror movie of the 30s: it’s in black and white, with weird wipes and over-dramatic sound effects. Mel Brooks is at his prime here, and between him and his cast, this movie oozes talent.
In fact, I want to focus on a few performances here, because they’re amazing.
There wolf….There castle.
Marty Feldman (Igor) is the comedic relief in a movie that is primarily funny: if that’s not a rousing endorsement of this man’s humorous talents, I don’t know what is. Feldman is a weird-looking dude- but he owns it, and has some of the greatest fourth-wall breaking lines in the film. He also has a Cockney accent, because why not.
THROW THE SWITCH!
Young Frankenstein himself. What is there to be said? Wilder was a giant. He plays the younger Frankenstein with a certain gravity- because he is a Scientist and doing Important Things- but also with his classic physical comedy and deadpan delivery.
Shtay close too de candles. De shtairvays kan be….treacherous.
Frau Blucher is my favorite part of this film. The horse gag is my favorite joke in cinema history, simply because it’s so damn simple. Cloris Leachman gives lends an absolutely ridiculous sternness to the role that is positively endearing.
The movie literally shows a train going from New York to Transylvania without missing a beat
If you haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, get a copy. It’s a good break from some of the heavier fare that rolls around Halloween time, and is a fantastic time no matter which way you slice it. It’s a good watch year-round, and this year’s viewing was particularly poignant, for obvious reasons.
Gene Wilder, you crafty bastard. You are missed.
Featured image source: https://www.nytimes.com/store/young-frankenstein-original-movie-poster-1974.html