Young Frankenstein

by Alan Rapp on August 4, 2005

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: Young Frankenstein
  • IMDB: link

young-frankenstein-dvdYoung Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’ most complete work.  Though not his funniest movie (The Producers) the movie works from beginning to end and doesn’t fall apart during the last act (Blazing Saddles); it remains as the hallmark of his career and his one truly flawless film.

The brainchild of Gene Wilder entertains and enthralls the audience for every single frame.  Wilder was a huge fan of the Frankenstein movie franchise and his love for the characters is palpable in this delicious satire.  Brooks would return to satirize other works such as Star Wars and Dracula, but those films lack the emotional connection to the originals that this one produces so effortlessly.

Baron Boford Von Frankenstein, father of the infamous Victor Von Frankenstein, dies and leaves a will that entrusts the Frankenstein castle and land to his great grandson a young American doctor named Fredrick (Gene Wilder).  After learning of his inheritance Fredrick says farewell to his fiance (Madeline Kahn) and travels to Transylvania.  There he is met at the train station by his new assistants Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr).  At the castle he meets the caretaker Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman).  Fredrick has always shunned the Frankenstein name and legacy, but his time in the castle begins to change his mind.  After finding his grandfather’s private library Fredrick accepts his destiny willingly and decides to continue his grandfather’s experiments and create his own monster (Peter Boyle).

The film is wonderfully shot in black and white giving the feel of the original Frankenstein movies.  The decision wasn’t supported by the studio but Wilder and Brooks fought hard to make sure the movie would not only have the look but also the feel of the movies it was satirizing.  The darkness and shadow is perfect, and it makes the impact of the jokes themselves even stronger against such a dreary setting.  What is even more amazing is the set itself.  The movie was made well before advancements in CGI nor was it filmed on location.  These sets were designed and built on sound stages on studio lots.  Because of the now old fashioned way the movie was created it has many wonderful personal touches and just feels more real and accessible to the viewer.

young-frankenstein-pic1

The performances are outstanding.  Wilder is wonderful as the manic doctor who insists that his name be pronounced Fr-awnk-on-steen.  Leachman is terrific as in her role as Frau Blucher, which provides one of the many inside jokes to the film as the horses can not bear hearing her name.  Boyle is perfect as the monster with the might of a giant but the soul and wonder of a small child.  Feldman provides us with constant funny moments as Igor (pronounced Eye-gore).  Even the smaller parts such as the role of the blind man (Gene Hackman) and the inspector (Kenneth Mars) are such wonderfully full and funny characters that the film has no chance to bog down or fail.

The collection of extra features for the disc includes trailers and television spots, deleted scenes, outtakes, and production photographs.  Also included are Mexican interviews with Wilder, Leachman, and Feldman which were filmed in black and white are just bizarrely funny.  Mel Brooks supplies a director commentary for the film providing some interesting history of the project and short reminisces of the experience.  The best feature is Making Frankensense of Young Frankenstein, a 36 minute documentary which includes a lengthy interview with Gene Wilder and his experience writing, acting, and working with Mel Brooks.  The documentary also talks about the decision to film in black and white and the use of the original Frankenstein laboratory equipment.

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