20th Century Fox
Gene Wilder - Fredrick Frankenstein
Marty Feldman - Igor
Madeline Kahn - Elizabeth
Peter Boyle - Monster
Terri Garr - Inga
Cloris Leachman - Frau Blucher
Mel Brooks - Director
Michael Gruskoff- Producer
Wilder / Brooks - Screenwriter
Gerald Hirschfeld - Cinematographer
William Tuttle - Make Up
John Morris - Film Score
Young Frankenstein begins on a dark and stormy night, with the camera panning lovingly over a torchlit courtyard, zooming slowly in to a dusty window, and dissolving as the clock strikes midnight into a caressing inspection of the gothic inscription on a coffin reposing within a dank and doom-laden crypt. A brilliant pastiche of the horror film's studied quest for atmospherics--including the reappearance of Kenneth Strickfaden's original designs for Frankenstein's laboratory equipment--the sequence suggests that Mel Brooks knows his genre and intends to use it as Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), grandson of the infamous Baron Victor, becomes involved in a repeat experiment on the monster.
Anything goes even more frantically than it did in Blazing Saddles (1974), in a ragbag jumble of slapdash smut, mugging from Marty Feldman, and mildly funny parodies that have nothing to do with horror movies. Two sequences, however, come very close to brilliance. One is the monster's game of throwing flowers into the water with the little girl, staged in the same tender, fragile charm as in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), but in which, as the little girl wails "Oh dear, nothing left, what shall we throw in now?", the monster turns to stare knowingly but doubtfully at the camera: he too has seen the movie.
The other is the monster's encounter with the blind hermit (Gene Hackman) who, in trying to be hospitable to his new friend, accidentally pours soup over him, showers him with wine and splinters of glass in drinking his health, and finally drives him out gibbering with terror and rage after setting fire to him in mistake for a cigar. In both these sequences, Brooks extends the spirit of the originals, confounds expectations, and creates a sort of poetry of his own very much in keeping with the spirit of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
There is also a delightful scene in which the monster and his creator--top-hatted, white-tied and tailed--do their best to do a Fred Astaire in "Puttin' on the Ritz", with the monster bellowing a marvellous phonetic equivalent to the lyrics. Peter Boyle as the monster is in fact one of the undiluted pleasures of the film (and the only actor ever to suggest that he might play the part as well as Boris Karloff). The other is Hirschfeld's lovingly and cleverly pastiched black-and-white photography.
--PHIL HARDY, ed. from The Encyclopedia of
Horror Films, 1986
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