Young Frankenstein (1974)


   

Our rating: 3 out of 5

Rated: PG

 
reviewed by Charity Bishop

 

We've come to expect one thing from Mel Brooks: rampant sarcasm and satire. He never fails. One of his greatest achievements is Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor's great grandson as he attempts to live down the legacy of the infamous family name and is caught up in devious hilarity when he resurrects a monster.

 

At a prestigious medical school, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is an established professor and brain surgeon, but his students are more interested in his family tree than his brilliant scientific methods. When the family will leaves him a sinister estate in Transylvania, Frankenstein packs his bags and goes to investigate once and for all to discern if the stories about his infamous ancestor are true. Meeting the bug-eyed Igor (Marty Feldman) at a disreputable train station in the middle of the night, he is also joined by the flirtatious and dim-witted Inga (Teri Garr), who plans to become his lab assistant. Neither newcomer to the haunted old place is particularly impressed with the creepy atmosphere and mysterious Frau Blcher (Chloris Leechman). One night they hear violin music coming from the lower quarters and in their investigation, come upon Frankenstein's Lab.

 

Momentary insanity and the mood of the place cause Young Frankenstein to repeat his great grandfather's medical experiments, and bring to life the Monster (Peter Boyle). But a mix-up has been made. Igor was sent to steal a brilliant poet's brain from the lab so that their creation would have intelligence, but instead he chose the one titled "Abnormal." The seemingly gentle hulk has a darker side, likes to strangle people, and can only speak in disgruntled grunts. Matters are further complicated when the local constable with a mechanical arm (Kenneth Mars) begins to suspect the sins of the grandfathers are being repeated, and Frankenstein's wealthy and snobbish fiance Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) desires to pay him a visit. The result is a hodgepodge of cynical jibes at the classic novel by Mary Shelly, and a few sly winks at the horror films from the 1930's.

 

There are a lot of things going for the film, primarily riding on the comic genius of its two leading men. Gene Wilder is appropriately over-the-top, but it's really Mary Feldman whose dry wit and wandering eyes steal the show. Filmed in black and white to retain a creepy "horror" atmosphere, the loss of color only ads to the comic genius. The film has many outright hilarious moments, the best of which involving the Monster in the house of an old blind man. It wasn't as consistently humorous as I'd thought it would be; I anticipated more laughs overall. What detracted from the comedy was the crude sexual humor. Other than that the film would be suitable for all audiences, but innuendos and sexual implications make navigation murky. Frankenstein and Inga are shown laying bare-shouldered beneath a sheet. Elizabeth dissuades Frankenstein from a sexual tryst by telling him to leave (he passionately grabs her, and kisses her cleavage). 

 

An enormous deal is made of the Monster's "enlarged parts." Elizabeth sees them (implied) and is very impressed. He climbs on top of her, and she starts singing for joy. Frankenstein is envious, so he trades some of his brains for similar manly attributes, and when he goes to bed with Inga on their wedding night, she starts singing too. There is some violence, most of it comical (the Monster having his thumb lit on fire, people throwing vegetables at actors on a stage, and Frankenstein trying to strangle Igor) but a man is strangled after teasing the Monster. There are mild abuses of deity and a few profanities; Jesus' name is used once, as is GD, presented in a comical light. I expected more from this film, but the constant sexual references downplayed much of the genuine humor, such as the horses going wild whenever Frau Blcher's name is mentioned, or the blind man deftly pouring hot soup into the Monster's lap. It is funny, but could have been even funnier with a little less interest in smut.