Sunday, March 21, 2010

'Young Frankenstein' is timeless spoof

Young Frankenstein (1974)
Starring: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Madeline Khan, and Cloris Leachman
Director: Mel Brooks
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder), after spending his youth trying to live down his family's reputation as a bunch of mad scientists and nutty monster-makers, inherits his grandfather's castle and original laboratory... and ends up trying his hand at being a mad scientist and creating monsters. With an illiterate hunchback (Feldman) and a nurse who is well-endowed in every department but brains (Garr), he creates a monster that his grandfather, father, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other mad-scientist relations would be envious of. But can the torch-wielding peasants be far off?

"Young Frankenstein" is one of the all-time classic comedies. Like "High Anxiety", Mel Brooks' spoof of Alfred Hitchcock movies, this film is shows a great affection and respect for the material it is poking fun at--the sequels to the original "Frankenstein" film from Universal, such as "Son of Frankenstein" and "The Ghost of Frankenstein". (And let's face it... as much as we may love those pictures, we've found it worthy of mockery that every single member of the Frankenstein family--with the exception of Baroness Eva Frankenstein in "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"--who comes into possession of the original monster-making recipe becomes obsessed with creating another one (or reviving the original creature).

And Brook makes fun of all the unintentional hilarious bits of the various Universal Frankentein sequels, makes some of the non-harlious bits--Inspector Krogh from "Son of Frankenstein", a very well-acted, well-written, if idiosyncratic character, that I think it the best part of that film--the objects of spot-on and hilarious lampooning.

While the film's success can be credited in a large part to its hilarious script--which provies a non-stop flow of puns, sight-gags, and insane nonsequitors within the frame of a story that could easily have been featured in a Frankenstein movie from the 1940s--and the best-of-their-careers performances from Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, and Teri Garr, the fact that Brooks took pains to match the sets, filming techniques, and lighting-styles of the Frankenstein films he's parodying makes this the truly exceptional and effective comedy that it is.

"Young Frankenstein" is a movie for fans of the classic Universal films and lovers of well-crafted satire alike. It is one of Mel Brooks' finest films, and every actor featured is likewise is at their very finest. (Also, where else are you going to see Frankenstein's Monster perform "Putting on the Ritz"?)

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