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Young Frankenstein Movie Review

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1974 – Mel Brooks –

Mel Brooks is the master of some of the finest spoofs of serious movies ever done. High Anxiety lampoons Vertigo and Hitchcock, Spaceballs takes on Star Wars, Blazing Saddles skewers Virginia City and just about every western filmed between 1950 and 1970. Spoofing the original Karloffian Frankenstein as well as The Bride and other sequels, Young Frankenstein, which appeared after Blazing Saddles, ranks with it and The Producers among Brooks' very best films.

In it, young Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced FRONK-in-steen and played deftly by the very funny Gene Wilder) is teaching medicine in the U.S. when he is informed by Herr Falkstein (Richard Haydn) that he has inherited his grandfather's estate in Transylvania. He leaves to claim his inheritance, not believing his ancestor's conviction that the dead can be reanimated. Once there, he gives in to the physican's temptation to play God, reads in an old journal that dead flesh can be revived, and attempts it. But his random collection of living body parts produces a seven-foot monster (Peter Boyle) with a very weak brain. Brooks worked on the look of the film seemingly as much as on the jokes. Not only did the production get to use the laboratory equipment from the original Frankenstein film (the props having been stored, it seems, in a garage), but the black-and-white photography also beautifully captures the sheen of classic movies. This rich photography even contributes to the comic spirit; because the film looks so authentically classic, it becomes funnier to see the outrageous antics that erupt in such a setting. The introduction of the monster to the village and the unexpected dance number in formal attire that follows is just one scene that richly benefits from the carefully crafted photography and the long camera shots. This emphasis on style takes away any bitterness to the comedy and even makes the film a tribute of sorts to the classic horror films of the 1930s. Brooks has often acknowledged such to be his intention.

The heavy make-up assists the comically heavy acting. All of the performances are enjoyable, but Gene Hackman, in a scene inspired by a moment from The Bride of Frankenstein, makes his very lonely, blind hermit (with boiling soup and ladle at the ready) into one of the movie's most memorable moments.

Cast: Gene Wilder (Dr. Frankenstein), Peter Boyle (The Monster), Marty Feldman (Igor), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Cloris Leachman (Frau Bluecher), Teri Garr (Inga), Kenneth Marrs (Inspector Kemp), Richard Haydn (Herr Falkstein), Gene Hackman (Harold the Blind Hermit) Screenwriter: Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder Cinematographer: Gerald Hirschfeld Composer: John Morris Producer: Michael Gruskoff MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 98 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1974: Nominations: Adapted Screenplay, Sound Box Office: $38.8M (rentals).

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