LAST NIGHT: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
Right, so maybe Young Frankenstein isn’t quite a scary movie, but it is a classic in every sense of the word. Before I ever saw Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, or Son of Frankenstein, I saw this.
The plot is actually straight from Universal Horror – which is what Brooks is going for, after all. Frederick von Frankenstein (It’s pronounced ‘Frahnk-en-steen) (Gene Wilder, insane) goes to Transylvania to take over his family castle. There he meets Igor (Marty Feldman, hilarious), his lovely assistant Inga (Teri Garr) and Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman, scaring the horses). Convinced to begin trying to build his own Creature, Frederick steals a corpse and sets about making his own little Monster. No way this could possibly go wrong.
It’s the plot of every Frankenstein movie, more or less. But this is a comedy. And what a comedy! Brooks is at his best when he’s parodying something he truly loves. His love of Frankenstein films comes through in every frame. Whole sections are lifted from Bride of Frankenstein and particularly Son of Frankenstein – like Gene Hackman’s Blindman and Kenneth Mars’s Inspector Kemp – but it never goes over into disrespect or derision. It’s hilarious because it’s so loving.
Not a little of this has to do with the cast. Gene Wilder is at his best – alternately wild and balanced, likable and pretentious, with hair that Einstein would have envied. But everyone is not only game for their roles, but also exceptional comedians. No one can inject humor into a small role like Madeleine Kahn; she’s resplendent and hilarious as Elizabeth, Frederick’s venal, virginal fiancée. Likewise Teri Garr, in a role that could have fallen into the ‘dumb blonde’ category. Then Marty Feldman, Kenneth Mars, Gene Hackman, Peter Boyle as the Monster, the villagers … they’re just all so good. Wilder and Brooks wrote the script, which might have something to do with this film being far and away Brooks’s best work.
In any case, if you haven’t seen it, you need to. You’ll never look at Franky the same way again.