Young Frankenstein - 1974

Young Frankenstein - Released Dec 15, 1974. Directed by Mel Brooks

Classic Universal monster movies collide with Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, and though the film is a comedy, it's also an affectionate homage to the 1930s Frankenstein films, with emphasis on borrowed plot from the Basil Rathbone Son of Frankenstein.

In Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein, an "other" son of the famous doctor, and member of an expansive family. If you're keeping count: "Henry" (Colin Clive) is in the original 1931 Frankenstein, "Baron Wolf von Frankenstein" (Basil) is in the 1939 Son of Frankenstein, "Ludwig Frankenstein" (Cedric Hardwicke) is in the 1942 Ghost of Frankenstein, and not exactly a son, there's also Ilona Massey as a daughter "Baroness Elsa Frankenstein" in the 1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman.

The story consists of the building of the monster, his running loose about the countryside, and then pacifying the angry villagers. The plot is identical to any number of the original Frankenstein movies, but the implausibilities of the science and the dated goofiness of the Gothic setting get roundly satirized by Wilder and Brooks.

Mel Brooks has said he had to fight to get the film made in black and white, and this meant studios eager to work with the team that made Blazing Saddles suddenly went cold when Brooks refused color (Brooks has also said that Gene Wilder's original idea for Young Frankenstein was discussed while making Blazing Saddles, and that Wilder and Brooks began the script on the set of that film).

This lack of color in Young Frankenstein keeps the film so closely imitative of the original 1930s films, that aside from the haircuts and humor style, Young Frankenstein would likely pass as belonging to the era it is parodying to the average moviegoer, something that is rarely accomplished in Hollywood where art directors tend to over-recreate when making historically accurate stories from the 20th century, an epoch where there is already a wealth of filmed material showing us what that time frame "really" looked like.

Another aspect of Young Frankenstein is that so many of the original 1930's films were made by recently naturalized Jews coming from Europe, and they informed the Frankenstein, Dracula, etc., films with an aura of heavy old world Gothicism, Young Frankenstein is a perfect offspring in that Brooks and Wilder's Jewish-tinged humor is a natural relation to the original, not just in the parodying of the stories. Another direct relation is that James Whale's Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein were both marinated in Whale's English sense of humor, and the UK born Marty Feldman (as "Igor") provides much of the same for Young Frankenstein.


Original Page October 2017

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