Dir: Mel Brooks, 1974
With the sad passing of Gene Wilder, I thought it was only right to take a look at some of his best known films.
Gene Wilder’s and Mel Brooks perfect send up of James Whale’s 1931 screen adaptation of Mary Shelley’s horror classic and the sequels that follwed, is a semi-sequel of sorts.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the famous Victor Frankenstein.
However, Frederick is ashamed of his relation and gets increasingly irritated when it’s brought up. So embarrassed is he of his grandfather, that he has taken the liberty of changing the pronouncement of his name to “Fronkensteen”.
A lecturer at a medical school, he is informed by a lawyer that he has inherited his great grandfathers estate in Transylvania.
Arriving in Europe, he is greeted at the train station by Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor”) (Marty Feldman). He also meets busty blonde, Inga (Teri Garr).
Arriving at the castle, Frederick is greeted by the housekeeper, Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman).
Frederick finds his grandfathers laboratory and becomes fascinated with his work, finally deciding to recreate his father’s experiment.
He and Igor rob the grave of a recently executed criminal, and Igor is then given instructions to steal the brain of renowned historian Hans Delbruck.
Unfortunately, Igor scares himself and drops the brain, splattering it into mush.
Attempting to make matters right, he steals the brain of “Abbie Normal”, not realising that it actually says “abnormal”.
Frederick is successful in reviving the cadaver (Peter Boyle), but is attacked by the reanimated corpse. Igor informs him that the brain isn’t Delbruck’s.
The villagers are scared that Frederick will continue his grandfathers work so Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) visits the doctor to get his reassurance that he won’t do any experiments.
But, Blucher used to have a romatic relationship with Frederick’s grandfather and sets the creation free.
Running wild, the monster meets a blind man (Gene Hackman) who invites him to his home for coffe, soup and a cigar, and a blind girl.
The Creature is apprehended by the police and is freed by Frederick, where he finally acknowledges his heritage and declares his name as “Frankenstein”.
The doctor takes The Creature on stage to show his intelligence where the demonstration leads to the duo performing Puttin’ On The Ritz.
The show is put to an end when a stage light explodes and scares the monster, forcing him to run. The villagers chase The Creature.
Frederick’s fiancee, Elizabeth (Madeleine Kahn), arrives at the castle and falls in love with The Creature and his huge penis (schwanstuker).
Capturing The Creature, Frederick transfers part of his mind into the monsters rendering him clever and articulate.
Elizabeth marries the monster while Frederick marries Inga, revealing what he got in exchange for giving the monster part of his intellect; the monster’s huge penis.
The first half of the film is a riot.
It’s funny and intelligent, very imaginative and gracefully pays homage to the Universal classics.
Using the actual sets from the ’31 horror classic, Brooks does a wonderful job of recreating the look and feel of Whale’s masterpiece.
Clearly, Brooks’ sees this as his most ambitious work and has a real love for the original.
He goes to town with the special effects and pulls out all the stops with the set design.
Unfortunately, he puts so much effort into the look of the film, with it’s black and white cinematography and the vast expanse of sets, that he runs out of steam when it comes to the second half of the film.
It’s a brilliant pastiche right up until the Puttin’ On The Ritz scene where it loses momentum and has a distinct lack of humour.
This doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable but is disappointing when you consider how superb the first half is.
Brooks’ has always had trouble in this department. Blazing Saddles didn’t know where to go so it took the absurdist route.
Wisely, the film doesn’t follow that path and takes a more traditional course, keeping it in the same vein as the one it started with.
Young Frankenstein has some hilarious and memorable scenes that wil stay with you and keep you chuckling long after the film has finished.
Brooks and Wilder were an ideal match and it would have been great to have a bit more from them.
As it is, we have The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein to keep us amused for years to come