Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boylem, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr
No matter how much we try to fight off the undesirable aspects of our family tree, we can never completely dissociate with the blood connection. You can change your name, deny any connection but in the end we may fall into the same trappings. In the case of Young Frankenstein, we have this truly potent story idea under the stewardship of true comedic geniuses.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) teaches on his expertise in physics while denying any relation to his infamous grandfather, Victor Frankenstein. He even goes as far as having his name pronounced “Fronkensteen” to avoid any connection. Upon the passing of his great-grandfather, he inherits the house in Transylvania, which tempts him to follow in the family’s footsteps and take up the attempt in reanimating the dead.
Starting out as my first experience with a Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein certainly did not disappoint in showing why he’s so revered as a storyteller. As biting as it is poignant, the comedic jokes play with meta moments in a manner only to the benefit of the story. It feels like a complete farce at times but the entire story tracks with its narrative and infusing so many witty and incredibly funny moments.
Frederick’s slow yet inevitable obsession with the work of his grandfather shows the power of genetics and how it dictates what we do. The physician spent his entire life denouncing any sort of connection between him and his grandfather, but once given the opportunity to learn more about his process, it demonstrated that he’s meant to complete the work and does so with no hesitation. The story takes several moments from the original Frankenstein story, including the moments where the monster roams free and runs into a little girl and a hermit. You brace yourself for what may occur, but Brooks obviously knows how to put a clever spin on the idea. So many moments made me laugh out loud because of this brilliant combination between the director and actor.
Co-writing and starting in the feature is Gene Wilder, who truly had a special gift in the world of comedy. He carries the story with how he manages the more dramatic moments but also landing every single joke. My initial experience with this actor was the same as many kids with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, where he had his eccentricities but ultimately led us through a heartwarming story. Wilder gets off the rocker with the character of Frederick Frankenstein and portrays such a grand character dropping adult jokes left and right. I’m truly excited to appreciate more of his work because he and Brooks are one of my biggest blind spots in regard to film. Young Frankenstein provided a good entryway and I will continue on this ludicrous journey with them.
Outside of Wilder’s Frankenstein, so many other characters had their wonderful moments to shine. Marty Feldman’s Igor probably comes in second place with the number of stellar jokes. Igor is the grandson of the very man who assisted Frederick’s grandfather. The two of them reuniting confirmed their destiny and his wisecracks landed every time. It felt at times he was winking at the audience not buying into this ideal Frederick built of not falling into the same trappings as his grandfather. He sneakily gets things done and does with a devilish smile on his face. He knows how to mock everyone else in the story with his interesting body and sharp sense of humor. No story about a Frankenstein can exist without the monster portrayed brilliantly by the great Peter Boyle. This gargantuan monster becomes a creation of almost the perfect man, which several of the characters note when putting together every part of his body. Emphasis on every part. His character has the mindlessness of the previous monster with a lot more humanity, which makes his interactions primal but also a bit more intellectual.
Young Frankenstein lives up to the hype with its sharp comedy bits willing to push the envelope of what can be accomplished with a Frankenstein story. A true collaboration between some truly brilliant comedians, as each joke, finds a way to make fun of the situation and the story preceding it. One that will certainly make you laugh but also gasp and the type of crude humor weaved throughout.