The Third Hundred
Greatest Films

Summaries - Part 8





The Third Hundred Greatest Films
Summaries - Part 8
(Links to Comprehensive Film Reviews)
Selection Criteria

T (continued)

The Thing (From Another World) (1951)
Starring: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James Arness
Directors: Christian Nyby (with Howard Hawks)
An influential and taut horror and science-fiction B-film hybrid based on John W. Campbell's 1938 story Who Goes There? This alien invasion film was director Hawks' sole science-fiction effort. A group of isolated scientists led by military pilot Captain Patrick Hendry (Tobey) and lead researcher Dr. Carrington (Cornthwaite) are stationed in a remote Arctic base. They discover a flying saucer UFO buried deep in the tundra, along with an eight-foot alien body (Arness) in a block of ice. After removing the frozen spaceman from the craft and bringing it back to their research station headquarters, the Thing creature (a chlorophyll-based humanoid) accidentally thaws and escapes, and proceeds to kill the sled dogs and hunt down the scientists themselves for their blood. The film effectively focuses on character interaction, with natural and rapid-fire dialogue, appropriate scientific jargon, and a strong-willed female character named Nikki Nicholson (Sheridan). The three most memorable moments are the discovery of the shape of the spacecraft, the scene of the alien set ablaze with kerosene, and the final warning/bulletin radioed by reporter Ned "Scotty" Scott (Spencer) from the North Pole: "...Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking, keep watching the skies!" (the warning foreshadowed Dr. Miles Bennell's (Kevin McCarthy) similar: "They're here already! You're next! You're next, you're next..." in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)). Remade by John Carpenter as the moody The Thing (1982) with Kurt Russell, and paid homage to with Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). No Academy Award Nominations.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Starring: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, David Kaff, Tony Hendra, June Chadwick
Director: Rob Reiner
One of the funniest, improvisational parodies and satirical mockumentaries ever made, a typical concert film about the ill-fated, 1982 Tap Across America tour by Spinal Tap - one of Europe's loudest bands, in their first US tour in six years. Fictional director Marty DiBergi (Reiner, the film's actual director with his debut film) follows the members of the second-rate, fictitious heavy metal band as they promote their new LP album Smell the Glove: blonde lead singer David St. Hubbins (McKean), the cucumber-wearing bass player Derek Smalls (Shearer), lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Guest) - who seems to long for St. Hubbins, Viv Savage (Kaff) - a strange troll-like keyboardist, and their shifty-eyed, cricket stick-wielding manager Ian Faith (Hendra). There's also an endless string of mortal drummers (one is remembered as having choked to death on someone else's vomit, while another spontaneously combusted). The group has numerous tour misadventures: they can't find the amphitheatre stage for a performance in Cleveland, are stopped at security for wearing "artificial limbs," experience show cancellations, non-existent hotel accommodations, mechanical failures, second billing to a puppet show, an 18" Stonehenge props debacle, failed promotional appearances, and David's Yoko Ono-like girlfriend Jeanine Pettibone (Chadwick) attempts to break up the band. The film's most famous scene is of Tufnel trying to explain how the band's Marshall amplifier is special: "These go to 11." The film features non-stop hilarity, mixing both obvious gags and lampooning in-jokes, as well as many brief star cameos, like Billy Crystal as angry head waiter Morty the Mime, Fran Drescher as tough record company publicist Bobbi Flekman ("Money talks, and bulls--t walks!"), Bruno Kirby as a limo driver, and Patrick MacNee as the vacuous Sir Denis Eton-Hogg, head of Polymer Records and Hoggwood, a camp for pale young boys. The film had a very quiet theatrical release, but quickly became a cult favorite on videotape, leading Guest to direct a string of other mockumentaries (Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), and A Mighty Wind (2003), which reunited all three Spinal Tap actors as folk singers). No Academy Award Nominations.
Titanic (1997)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Frances Fisher
Director: James Cameron
Writer/director James Cameron's three-plus hour, epic mega-blockbuster with the most expensive budget of any film up to its time, and extravagant visual and digital effects. Its story centered around an infamous part of history (the fateful night of April 15, 1912 for White Star Line's R.M.S. Titanic) with a doomed, fictional romance at its core. It begins with treasure-seekers in a salvage expedition at the submerged ship led by Brock Lovett (Paxton), who discover a safebox with a drawing of a woman wearing a 56-carat blue diamond necklace. They connect it to 102 year-old survivor Rose Dawson Calvert (Stuart) who revisits the site of the sinking, and reminisces, in flashback, about an ill-fated, forbidden romance she had when she was a seventeen year-old society girl. with lower-class, starving artist Jack Dawson (DiCaprio). Earlier a debutante named Rose DeWitt Bukater (Winslet), she had been forced by her mother Ruth (Fisher) to become engaged to rich, arrogant socialite Cal Hockley (Zane) and was on her way to Philadelphia to marry. Feeling hopelessly trapped, she tried to commit suicide from the aft deck rather than accept the arranged marriage, but was rescued by Jack. Although Jack was slighted by her upper-class family, she forsook her future with Cal and asked Jack to sketch her in the nude wearing the invaluable blue diamond, and they fell in love. When the ship hit the iceberg in the frigid North Atlantic and split in two, Jack sacrificed himself and again saved her from sure death. The characters of Rose and Jack and their romance wisely dominate the film, although there are some secondary subplots. Fans (mostly female) returned many dozens of times to enjoy the tale over and over and helped the film become the highest grossing motion picture of all time. Although praised by critics and the viewing public, there was some backlash about its acting (especially DiCaprio's) and its screenplay - Titanic became the first Best Picture winner to not have a Best Screenplay nomination since The Sound of Music (1965). Academy Award Nominations: 14, including Best Actress--Kate Winslet, Best Supporting Actress--Gloria Stuart, Best Makeup. Academy Awards: 11, including Best Picture, Best Director--James Cameron, Best Cinematography--Russell Carpenter, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score--James Horner, Best Original Song--"My Heart Will Go On," Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing.
Toy Story (1995) and
Toy Story 2 (1999) (tie)
Starring: Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer
Director: John Lasseter
Toy Story (1995) was the first feature length film to be completely animated by computers, by pioneering CGI animation studio Pixar Studios, which had already experimented with quite a few short subject films, most noticebly the Oscar-nominated short Luxo Jr. (1986) (whose characters became the basis for their logo) and Oscar-winning short Tin Toy (1988). The film's amazing computer effects were surpassed only by the intelligent, thoughtful script that had adult themes that both parents and their kids could relate to. Toy Story is a fantasy in which toys are animated, living beings when humans aren't around. Cowboy Woody (voice by Tom Hanks) is the highest ranked bedroom toy (there's also Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Wallace Shawn as Rex, a meek dinosaur, Jim Varney as Slinky Dog, John Ratzenburger as Hamm the Pig, and Annie Potts as Woody's sweetheart, Bo Peep), because he's the favorite of master Andy. When Andy unwraps a birthday present and a new hi-tech space and action-toy Buzz Lightyear (voice by Tim Allen) appears, Woody fears his top place has been usurped by the new rival. The deluded Buzz believes he's on a mission to save the planet, until the two become trapped in the house of Sid, a sadistic bully in the neighborhood, and they are forced to overcome their differences. The sequel, Toy Story 2 (1999), far surpassed the original in terms of the quality of animation, voice acting and script, as the themes from the first film -- obsolescence and loyalty -- are explored even more deeply. Woody faces the reality that not only do toys get damaged, but that children inevitably grow up and forsake their childhood playthings. While Andy is at cowboy camp, Woody (regarded as a valuable collectible) is kidnapped by greedy toy collector Al (of Al's Toy Barn). He soon discovers that he was once a legend in the 60's, on a TV show called Woody's Roundup, complete with the usual wide array of merchandising tie-ins. He also realizes that he's the final missing piece in the collector's Woody's Roundup set, with fellow toys Cowgirl Jessie (voice by Joan Cusack), prospector Stinky Pete (voice by Kelsey Grammer), and Woody's faithful horse Bullseye. Woody faces the choice of living forever with them in a museum display in Tokyo, or leaving and returning to Andy, thereby dooming his newfound friends to be sent back into abandonment and storage, and facing his own dilemma that he won't last another year as Andy's favored toy. Academy Award Nominations (1995): 3, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Musical or Comedy Score--Randy Newman, Best Song--"You've Got a Friend." Academy Award Nominations (1999): 1, Best Song--"When She Loved Me" by Randy Newman. Toy Story 2 and Chicken Run (2000) would influence the Academy to finally take animated films more seriously with the new Best Animated Feature Film category that debuted with Oscar-winning Shrek (2001), another CGI-animated feature.
 

U

The Usual Suspects (1995)
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, Suzy Amis
Director: Bryan Singer
A convoluted, darkly comedic film noir, Bryan Singer's intriguing film (his second feature film) is set in a police interrogation room with slow-witted, chatty con-man Roger "Verbal" Kint (Spacey in a breakthrough role) who has been offered immunity, if he talks and provides testimony. He attempts to convince his captor, tough U.S. Customs Special Agent federal investigator Dave Kujan (Palminteri) about the enigmatic existence of Keyser Soze, a semi-mythical "devil", and almost supernatural Hungarian crime lord and mastermind. (Legend has it, according to Kint, that Soze was so willfully cold-blooded that when his family was threatened with rape and held hostage by Hungarian rivals, he killed his own family and then their captors and the rest of the mob - and "nobody's ever seen him since.") According to Kint (told in flashback), a group of tough and savvy criminals (the ones on all the film's posters, in an NYPD line-up hauled in after a Queens, NY truck hijacking), including crooked ex-cop Dean Keaton (Byrne), explosives specialist Todd Hockney (Pollak), entry man and sniper Michael McManus (Baldwin), Latino Fred Fenster (Del Toro), and Kint himself, pulled off a $3 million robbery of emeralds. Soze had also coerced the five thieves to go on a suicide mission to San Pedro harbor to commit a huge $91 million cocaine heist --an act of sabotage against one of Keyser's own competitors in the drug trade. Verbal insists that he and his gang dealt with Soze only through his legal representative, Kobayashi (Postlethwaite), who pressured them by threatening to kill Keaton's lawyer girlfriend Edie Finneran (Amis) and castrate McManus' young nephew. The weaselly, limping, club-footed Kint, a survivor of the explosion at the harbor, confesses truths, half-truths, double-crosses, and lies. His recounting, aided by the contents of a bulletin board in the interrogation office, forces the viewer to deduce what is real and what is fictional in the stories he tells, and who Soze really is. The non-linear, puzzling film is sometimes a bit too self-consciously twisted, clever, and predictable, but still a great crime thriller. Academy Awards: 2, including Best Supporting Actor--Kevin Spacey, Best Original Screenplay--Christopher McQuarrie.
 

V

 

W

Way Out West (1937)
Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynne, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence
Director: James W. Horne
One of the best Laurel and Hardy comedy films, and their only western spoof, with numerous slapstick antics and typical gags. Again, they reprise their most familiar roles - Stanley, the thin, meek simpleton, and Ollie, the fat, pompous one. The two arrive in the wild western town of Brushwood Gulch, searching for Mary Roberts (Lawrence), the orphaned daughter of their recently-deceased prospector partner. In Mickey Finn's Palace saloon run by a larcenous and unscrupulous innkeeper (Finlayson) and his brassy showgirl partner Lola (Lynne), they mistakenly let it slip that they have a deed to a gold mine for Mary. Finn substitutes Lola for Mary, his demure kitchen maid, to acquire the valuable deed for himself. When the pair meet the real Mary and realize she is being victimized and exploited by the other two crooked con-artists, they attempt to get the deed back. The film contains many memorable scenes and bits by the comedic twosome, such as the scene of Stan and Ollie's discussion about the deed to the gold mine - delivered to the wrong woman ("That's the first mistake we've made since that guy sold us the Brooklyn Bridge"), their soft-shoe dance routine while singing "The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia," the scene of Stan being wrestled and tortured -- by tickling -- to give up the gold mine deed, Stan biting - chewing - and gulping pieces of his hat after losing a bet ("now you're taking me illiterally"), Stan lighting his finger like a cigarette lighter, and the rope-pulley sequences with Ollie and then a mule. Aside from their classic Sons of the Desert (1933), Laurel and Hardy appeared in many films, notably The Flying Deuces (1939), A Chump At Oxford (1940), and the comedy short The Music Box (1932). Academy Award Nominations: 1, Best Score.
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono
Director: Robert Aldrich
A great psychological thriller, black comedy, and over-the-top camp classic is this great trashy melodrama - with the bizarre (and sole) pairing of two legendary -- and rival -- screen legends in a gothic, macabre, Grand Guignol horror film. The screenplay, by Lukas Heller, was based on Henry Farrell's novel Baby Jane (who also authored the novel Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte). A grotesque Baby Jane Hudson (Davis at 54 years of age), a former vaudeville child star, and paralyzed invalid sister Blanche (Crawford) from a mysterious, career-ending car accident (for which Jane was blamed but never charged), also a former movie star, live together in a gloomy, crumbling mansion in Los Angeles. Pasty white-faced Jane, whose career faded long ago, is now a deranged alcoholic, and vengefully bitter and jealous toward her wheelchair-bound sister secluded in an upstairs bedroom. Enmity worsens when a local TV network airs a marathon tribute to Blanche Hudson movies, and Jane learns that Blanche is planning to sell the mansion and put her in a sanitarium. There are many stunning scenes and excessive performances, particularly Jane's relentless tormenting of Blanche by serving an ex-pet and roasted rat for "din-din," Jane garishly dressed up as a little girl as she is being coached by impoverished pianist and musical director Edwin Flagg (Buono in his film debut) for an improbable comeback as she croaks, "I've Written a Letter to Daddy." And the concluding beach scene finale, when a past secret is revealed to Jane and she replies, "You mean, all this time we could've been friends?" The film's ending echoes the beginning when Jane purchases two strawberry ice cream cones and then insanely spins, pirouettes and dances, drawing a curious circle of people around her to fulfill her craving desires. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Actress--Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actor--Victor Buono, Best B/W Cinematography, Best Sound. Academy Awards: 1, Best B/W Costume Design.
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby
Director: Rob Reiner
This witty and likeable, lightweight, old-fashioned romantic comedy was intended to answer the sexual politics question, "Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?" Director Rob Reiner directed this smart, modern-day 'screwball comedy' (his fifth film) of the semi-autobiographical tale - it was compiled from the shared recollections of actual romances, and sometimes resembles a sitcom. The engaging, episodic film keenly observes romance, relationships between males and females, friendship and sex. Two long-time acquaintances, often pessimistic, fast-talking and controlling Harry Burns (Crystal) and bubbly Sally Albright (Ryan) grapple with this question over a 12-year period (beginning in the spring of 1977 as students when they share a drive to New York from Chicago), as their relationship grows and matures. Their love is not "at first sight" but takes years to develop as the reluctant two often bump into each other and reconnect. The leads' best friends, Marie (Fisher) and Jess (Kirby), help Harry's and Sally's friendship to evolve, and actually fall in love and get married themselves. The summer of 1989's 'sleeper' film has a number of startling resemblances to Woody Allen's witty, urban romance Annie Hall (1977): the black and white titles and the film's title song "It Had to Be You" (sung by Diane Keaton in Allen's film), direct camera interviews-testimonials, split-screen techniques, the Manhattan backdrop, evocative George Gershwin tunes, obsessive talk about sex and death, and Harry and Sally's first meeting in 1977 - is the year the similar film was released. The film's ending parallels Allen's Manhattan (1979). However, the two films also differed: When Harry Met Sally... illustrated how friends can ultimately realize that they're better as lovers, while Annie Hall showed how lovers may end up better as friends. Academy Award Nominations: 1, Best Original Screenplay--Nora Ephron.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Stubby Kaye
Director: Robert Zemeckis
A technically-marvelous film blending animated, ink-and-paint cartoon characters and flesh-and-blood live actors, in a convincing comedy/mystery noir thriller, set in Los Angeles in 1947. Very loosely based on Gary Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (with comic-book and newspaper strip characters who speak with word balloons instead of voices) -- in a very sanitized version. The film is a delightful spoof of the hard-boiled Sam Spade films and reminiscent of Chinatown (1974), complete with a sultry, femme fatale humanoid Toon named Jessica Rabbit (Turner, uncredited, with singing voice by Amy Irving, Amblin Entertainment executive producer Steven Spielberg's wife at the time), and a case involving alleged marital infidelity ("pattycake"), murder, a missing will, blackmail, and a conspiracy hatched by evil, Toon-hating Judge Doom (Lloyd) (of Cloverleaf Industries). Doom's plan is to bring freeways to LA, thereby ruining the existing Pacific & Electric Red Car public transport electric trolley system. The film revolves around the murder of Marvin Acme (Kaye), a gag-gift promoter and props supplier (Acme Novelty Co.) for all Toon productions and the owner of the ghetto-ized Toon-town where the Toons, regarded as a segregated minority group, live just outside Hollywood. Framed for the murder, zany Maroon Cartoon Studios actor Roger Rabbit (Fleischer), a stuttering, disaster-prone 'Toon,' solicits help from reluctant, hard-boiled, boozing private eye Eddie Valiant (Hoskins) to clear his name. Valiant is still grief-stricken over the death of brother Ted by a falling cartoon piano, but is financially - and emotionally - supported by girlfriend Dolores (Cassidy), as he solves the case. Earlier efforts to combine humans and ink-and-paint cartoon characters side-by-side in a film (Disney's Song of the South (1946) and Mary Poppins (1964), for example) are considered primitive next to this film, which used computers to precisely repeat camera movements and calculate shading, to allow them to cast shadows and have complex lighting. Unprecedented cooperation from Warner Brothers and Disney allowed for classic cartoon characters to be seen together for the first time, such as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny parachuting together, having both Tinkerbell and Porky Pig end the movie, and, of course, the famous piano duel between Daffy and Donald Duck in a Cotton Club-style nightclub, the Ink & Paint Club. Academy Award Nominations: 6, including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing. Academy Awards: 3, including Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing (and a Special Achievement Award to Richard Williams for animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters).
The Wind (1928)
Starring: Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Dorothy Cumming, Edward Earle, William Orlamond
Director: Victor Sjöström
Swedish director Victor Sjöström's visually poetic, melodramatic silent western film, from Frances Marion's adapted screenplay based on the novel by Dorothy Scarborough. This is the dust bowl tale of a vulnerable young woman's plight in an alien and fearful environment (of ever-present sexual advances and the wind). One of the film's titles announces, "Man, puny but irresistible, encroaching forever on Nature's Fortresses." A "proper," fragile, and young Southern belle, Letty Mason (Gish in her fourth and last MGM film, and final silent film) travels from Virginia to live with her coarse male cousin Beverly (Earle) in the frontier West, where the howling, inhospitable Texas prairie wind relentlessly blows severe sandstorms. Beverly's suspicious, hardened pioneer wife Cora (Cumming) becomes intensely jealous of the young, pretty, and demure Eastern lady. The delicate Letty is immediately courted for marriage by two ranch cowboys: the clumsy, comic buffoon Lige (Hanson), and his dim-witted sidekick Sourdough (Orlamond). Also, an amoral, smooth-talking, flirtatious, already-married salesman from Fort Worth named Roddy Wirt (Love) who first met her on the train journey, arrives in town and wants her to be his mistress. Desperate because she has received an ultimatum to leave Cora's household when regarded as a sexual threat, Letty accepts a marriage proposal from Lige, but rebuffs consummation of her marriage with him on their wedding night. When Roddy finds the still-virginal Letty alone and half-crazy in her isolated cabin due to the constantly howling, remorseless wind, he attempts a brutal attack and rape. He insists on taking her away with him, but she resiliently resists and shoots him dead, in self-defense, and guiltily attempts to bury his body in the uncooperative, shifting sand. She wanders, blindly, into the middle of the sandstorm and disappears - to presumably die, in the film's original ending. MGM reshot the film's downbeat ending to change the film's mood. In the edited version, Letty reconciles with Lige - she confesses the killing to him and how the sand has justly covered up the corpse. She also reaffirms her love and they lovingly embrace in the doorway of their cabin. The film was a box-office failure, due to the advent of the "talkies" a year before, but its indelible images yet remain. John Arnold's impressive cinematography was taken under difficult circumstances - the temperature during the shoot in the Mojave Desert was often 120 F in the shade. Sjöström (billed as Victor Seastrom in his American films) was a longtime Swedish film director whom MGM signed to do films, such as The Scarlet Letter (1924), He Who Gets Slapped (1924), with Lon Chaney, and The Divine Woman (1928), with Greta Garbo. This was his final American film. He later returned to Sweden to act, most notably in Bergman's classic Wild Strawberries (1957) as lead character Professor Isak Borg, an elderly professor facing his mortality and revisiting his past. No Academy Award Nominations.
Witness For the Prosecution (1957)
Starring: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Henry Daniell, Norma Varden
Director: Billy Wilder
Co-writer and director Billy Wilder's brilliant film, a convoluted, twisting courtroom mystery based on Agatha Christie's 1933 four-character short story and celebrated 1947 stage play about an aging, distinguished, near-retirement age London barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton), with his overbearing housekeeper/nurse Miss Plimsoll (Lanchester, Laughton's real-life wife) tending to his near-failing health. The intelligently clever and incorrigible attorney is asked by solicitor Mayhew (Daniell) to take on a perplexing case, the defense of the prime suspect - an unemployed, American expatriate inventor named Leonard Stephen Vole (Tyrone Power in his final film role) in the murder of wealthy widow Emily Jane French (Varden). The testimony -- and true identity -- of the mysterious, beautiful German-born 'wife' of the accused, Christine "Helm" Vole (Dietrich), holds the key to solving the case involving marital infidelities and deceit. She is his only alibi - but cannot as the defendant's wife be considered a credible witness, but she IS called as a 'witness for the prosecution' to testify against him and cold-heartedly betray her husband. When a mysterious Cockney woman calls Sir Wilfrid saying she has information to help his client, the film sets up the surprise ending. After Leonard has been acquitted (although he actually committed the crime), Christine shockingly stabs him to death for his double-crossing philandering! The film has crisp dialogue, a complicated and intriguing plot, unique characters and excellent acting performances. A remade, 1982 TV movie based on the original Wilder screenplay starred the venerable Ralph Richardson in the Laughton role, with Deborah Kerr as his nurse, Beau Bridges as the accused Leonard Vole, and Diana Rigg as his wife Christine. Academy Award Nominations: 6, including Best Picture, Best Director--Billy Wilder, Best Actor--Charles Laughton, Best Supporting Actress--Elsa Lanchester, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing.
 

Y

Young Frankenstein (1974)
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars
Director: Mel Brooks
One of writer/producer/director Mel Brooks' best films - a nostalgic, hilarious spoof-tribute to classic horror films (with its authentic black and white cinematography and production design/set decoration), and in particular, of Mary Shelley's classic novel. This was his follow-up film to his westerns-spoof (Blazing Saddles (1974)). The main character, young brain surgeon and med-school professor, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) is in denial about his heritage, and must continually and defiantly correct people about the pronunciation of his name: "That's Frahnk-en-steen". The reluctant scientist returns to Transylvania when he inherits his infamous grandfather Victor's castle, and is inspired to finish his ancestor's mad work to create life after he finds the journal book/diary "How I Did It" in his private library. In the castle and town, he finds a bug-eyed Igor ("That's Eye-gor") (Feldman) with a shifting hunchback, an old housekeeper Frau Bleucher (Leachman) who inspires horses to whinny, and a pretty, dim-witted, voluptuous assistant from the village named Inga (Garr). His sexually-repressed, spoiled fiancee Elizabeth (Kahn) later joins him as he repeats his grandfather's famous experiments and recreates the Monster (Boyle). The film ranges from slapstick and farce to dirty, bawdy humor to irreverent satire (e.g., a parody of the little girl drowning scene that was taken from Frankenstein (1931), and the blind hermit scene from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Gene Hackman in a cameo role.) Some of the more memorable images are Elizabeth's encounter with the Monster and his "enormous schwanstucker" (singing "O Sweet Mystery of Life"), and the soft-shoe dancing duet of "Puttin' on the Ritz" by the Monster and creator Frederick, complete with tuxedos, canes, and top hats. Later, co-writer and actor Wilder attempted his own Old Dark House horror genre spoof, Haunted Honeymoon (1986). Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best Adapted Screenplay (Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder), Best Sound.


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