YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. (1974) BASED ON MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN.’ DIRECTED BY MEL BROOKS. SCREENPLAY BY MEL BROOKS AND GENE WILDER. MUSIC BY JOHN MORRIS. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY GERALD HIRSCHFELD.
STARRING GENE WILDER, MARTY FELDMAN, TERI GARR, MADELINE KAHN, CLORIS LEACHMAN, KENNETH MARS, GENE HACKMAN AND PETER BOYLE AS ‘THE MONSTER.’
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
As I’m writing this, poor dear Gene Wilder hasn’t even been dead a month. His sad demise at the end of August this year (2016) of Alzheimers-related complications left an empty space in the entertainment industry that can never be filled.
I always liked him in whatever I saw him in. I loved his wispy, flyaway hair, his grin that could be by turns gentle and devastatingly cutting and his huge expressive eyes.
His films WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971) and BLAZING SADDLES (1974) were two of the most important films of my childhood. I’ve loved them both from the first moment I saw them and I re-watch ’em every Christmas, come hell or high water.
Though I didn’t find comedy horror spoof YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to be as laugh-out-loud funny as BLAZING SADDLES, I still thought it was brilliant. Gene Wilder does a top-notch job as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced ‘Fronk-en-steen…!’), the scientist who discovers he can’t escape his destiny as the grandson of the man who notoriously created a monster by reanimating the body parts of corpses.
After travelling to Transylvania (wasn’t that the home of Count Dracula as well…?) to take possession of the fabulous old castle in which his infamous relative made his ‘monster,’ Frederick feels an overwhelming urge to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
The discovery of the auld fella’s private laboratory and, in particular, the book his Grandpops had penned entitled ‘HOW I DID IT,’ in other words how he created his monster, spurs Frederick on to emulate his relative’s achievements.
A monster is created, with the help of Frankenstein’s sex-kitten assistant Inga (Teri Garr from TOOTSIE and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) and his servant Igor, a bug-eyed hunchback whose hump keeps switching from one side of his body to the other. Marty Feldman is brilliant as Igor. He, Gene Wilder and Teri Garr make a terrifically funny threesome together.
The rest of the film goes in roughly the same direction as the UNIVERSAL movies of the 1930s which they’re lovingly taking the mickey out of here. Frankenstein’s ungainly monster meets the little girl and the lonely old blind man, the townspeople get wind of the sinister doin’s that are a-transpirin’ up at the castle and an angry mob, complete with torches and pitchforks, etc., is formed to do the honours and march on the castle.
The scene where Gene Wilder and his monster, all tricked-out in top hats and tails, sing ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ for a bemused audience is probably the funniest one in the film. I also love the bit where Gene Wilder asks a young lad at the Transylvania train station for directions to the castle. He does it to the tune of the old ‘Forties song ‘Pardon me, boys, is that the Chattanooga choo-choo?’ and it’s just so funny.
Check out Madeline Kahn (Lili von Schtupp, the Germanic blonde bombshell/sex-pot in BLAZING SADDLES) as she’s objecting vociferously to being ravished by the monster, that is, until she discovers that his schlong is in perfect proportion to the rest of him, heh-heh-heh.
As the movie progresses Madeline Kahn, playing Gene Wilder’s socialite fiancée Elizabeth, takes on the appearance of the stunningly vampish Elsa Lanchester, the Bride of Frankenstein from those wonderful old UNIVERSAL films, which is heartwarming to see. Ms. Kahn’s a great- and very attractive- comic actress and I enjoyed watching her in this.
Grandma Ida from ‘Noughties sitcom MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, aka Cloris Leachman, has a small part in the film as the castle’s housekeeper and the former lover of Baron Victor Von Frankenstein. I used to love the way Grandma Ida, who was always such a bitch to her daughter Lois, perpetually rambled on about the tough old ways of her old Eastern European homeland. She herself was a tough old bird and no mistake.
Gene Wilder, of course, is the star of the show and he shines as brightly as you might expect. A Gene Wilder-Mel Brooks collaboration (just like BLAZING SADDLES was) was always going to be funny, and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN certainly is funny.
It’s always making it onto those list shows of BEST COMEDY FILMS EVER and, in 2003, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry, meaning that it’s been deemed by the United States National Film Preservation Board to be ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.’ Well, I should bloody well think so an’ all…!
No-one can say that Gene Wilder didn’t leave an irreproachable body of work behind him. Rest in peace, dear Gene, and also rest assured that your marvellous films will always be watched as long as people need to laugh.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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