Filmsite Movie Review
Young Frankenstein (1974)
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Background

Young Frankenstein (1974) is 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)). Later, co-writer and actor Wilder attempted his own Old Dark House genre spoof, Haunted Honeymoon (1986).

Although the film had two Academy Awards nominations (that didn't win), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Mel Brooks and star Gene Wilder) and Best Sound, two deserving cast members, Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn, were un-nominated, as was the wonderfully crisp black-and-white cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld. The film ranges from slapstick and farce to dirty, bawdy humor to irreverent satire.

It was shot in the same castle and with the same props and lab equipment as the original 1931 Frankenstein film. Kenneth Mars' character, Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friederich Kemp, has mannerisms and a mechanical arm/hand that resemble Peter Sellers' Dr. Strangelove character from Dr. Strangelove, Or... (1964), and Lionel Atwill's local police Inspector Krogh character with a mechanical wooden arm in Son of Frankenstein (1939).

As happened with Brooks' earlier work The Producers (1968), this film was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2007, with a cast including Roger Bart (as Frederick "Frahnkensteen") and TV's Will & Grace's Megan Mullally as his fiancee Elizabeth.

The Story

The main character, young brain surgeon and med-school professor, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene 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") (Marty Feldman) with a shifting hunchback, an old housekeeper Frau Bleucher (Cloris Leachman) who inspires horses to whinny, and a pretty, dim-witted, voluptuous assistant from the village named Inga (Teri Garr). His sexually-repressed, spoiled fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) later joins him as he repeats his grandfather's famous experiments and recreates the Monster (Peter Boyle). Igor is instructed to steal the brain of Hans Delbruck, a "scientist and saint," but mistakenly gets the wrong brain - an abnormal one.

Various memorable hilarious moments, among others, include:

- the scene in which Frankenstein, Inga, and Igor discover that the Monster has come to life, and then violently reacts to Igor's lighted match; Frankenstein (unable to speak while being choked by the Monster) must act out the three-syllable word "Sed-a-tive" ("Give him the sedative" - Sedagive?!) using the game of charades, to have them calm the Monster with an injection of a sedative to make him unconscious.

- then, Frankenstein learns that Igor has mistakenly given him the brain of a woman named "Abby Normal"; he reacts hysterically: "Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-a-half-foot-long, 54 inch-wide...gorilla?! Is that what you're telling me?" - causing Igor to shout to Inga to "Quick, give him the ---" -- the charades game starts again.

- the Monster and creator Frederick perform a soft-shoe dancing duet, "Puttin' on the Ritz," complete with tuxedos, canes, and top hats. During this show, a stage lamp explodes and the frightened Monster attacks the audience and is soon captured by the police, but then escapes.

- Elizabeth encounters the Monster and his "enormous schwanstucker" (while singing "O Sweet Mystery of Life").

- the Monster encounters a bearded, blind, clumsy hermit (Gene Hackman in a cameo role), a parody of the same scene in Bride of Frankenstein (1935). He spills hot soup in the creature's lap, accidentally breaks their wine glasses during a toast, and lights the monster's thumb instead of his cigar.

- a parody of the little girl drowning scene, taken from Frankenstein (1931); however, in this version, the girl is catapulted from a see-saw into her bedroom, where her parents peek in to wish her good night before she falls asleep.