It’s tough to imagine a better horror comedy for fans of golden age horror. Director Mel Brooks concocts a formula that’s almost impossible to duplicate, playing brilliant comedy with deadpan dramatic sincerity, and implements a wide cast of amazing comedy actors to perform what is a demented twist on “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.” One of my favorite memories about “Young Frankenstein” was when I was a kid and my mom brought home the VHS to watch for the night. For all intents and purposes, the movie looked like a horror film, and I went in to it convinced of the idea. Mid-way I was laughing so hard, it was impossible to hear the dialogue.
“Young Frankenstein” is classic Mel Brooks revisionism that twists the Shelly horror novel only to where it’s still her story, but belongs to Brooks. Filmed in black and white, and garnering all of the beautiful production value of the original Universal films, “Young Frankenstein” finds Gene Wilder plays Frankenstein’s grand son Frederick. Ashamed of his legacy, Frederick spends his life as a scientist obsessed with anatomy and is forced to argue against his grandfather’s lunacy. When he inherits his grandfather’s castle, he travels to Transylvania to discover the secrets within. Things go awry, when he’s tempted to build his own Frankenstein monster with the help of the hump backed caretaker Igor. Arguably director Mel Brooks’ best comedy, “Young Frankenstein” is a film that benefits from repeated viewings with endless jokes and sight gags that never wear thin.
Gene Wilder plays his role with immense zeal as a man reaching for dignity, oblivious to the fact that he’s bereft of any. There are numerous jokes presented here that completely destroy the Gothic atmosphere of Mary Shelley’s novel, and Brooks is never shy about poking fun at the devices of the novel. Marty Feldman is excellent as the sarcastic Igor, whose hump changes sides spontaneously throughout the movie. There’s also Teri Garr as Frederick’s busty sidekick Inga, and who can forget the turns by Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, and Madeline Kahn. “Young Frankenstein” is a must watch for any self respecting fan of horror, comedy, or just cinema in general. It’s consistently funny (often times hysterical), and a genius re-working of a horror classic. Brooks takes Shelley’s tale and just transforms it in to his own mad beast that hasn’t aged a bit.
Based on what I’ve read around websites, the 40th Anniversary simply ports over features from the 2008 release, except in High Definition. Featured is an audio commentary with director Mel Brooks. It’s a great track for fans of the film, as Brooks is personable and informative, discussing the film, and then his dealings with Paramount, his creation of the film, and his work with the cast. Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas in the Making of ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a picture in picture feature where director Brooks, in full color, discusses the film including the influences, the parallels between it and the Frankenstein films from the 30’s, the cast and their performances, and much more. It’s a fun and funny extra for fans willing to take in another viewing of the film. There are sixteen minutes of Deleted Scenes, followed by “It’s Alive! Creating a Monster Classic” a thirty one minute making of for “Young Frankenstein” exploring the origins of the film, the expansion of the cast over the course of production, a look at a lot of the improve on-screen, the high quality sets, and so much more. This is a brisk and fun Behind the Scenes.
“Making FrankenSense of Young Frankenstein” is a fifty one minute behind the scenes doc centering mostly on Gene Wilder. Here he discusses the origins of the film, the script development, the assembly of the great cast, the reasons for shooting in black and white, and much more. “Transylvanian Lullaby: The Music of John Morris” is a ten minute look at the great score by John Morris and the man himself. There’s “The Franken~Track: A Monstrous Conglomeration of Trivia” a fun pop up trivia feature that appears during the movie every now and then to give fun facts and anecdotes about the movie. The “Blücher Button” is a funny and great gag feature where you can press the button with Blücher’s name prompting the horses neighing instantly. There’s a five minute outtakes reel, the score for the film on its own, and Mexican Interviews with the cast including Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder, and Cloris Leachman. Finally, there’s a massive photo gallery, a series of TV Spots, and five trailers for the film.