31 Nights of Halloween Horror: Part 9 in a 31 part series.
A different horror (or comedy) film review, every night for the month of October. Tonight we’re talking about:
Young Frankenstein | Dir. Mel Brooks | 1974/USA | 106 mins.
A Halloween treat.
Tonight we are going to take a break from the killers and stalkers, the blood and guts, the victims and terror and discuss a film that while has none of that, is still very much a Halloween movie. Tonight we go black and white and venture once more to the castle up on the hill to visit Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein.
The other night I had the opportunity to see Young Frankenstein in the theater amongst a full audience of fans and friends and while it was unfortunately not shown on film it did feature a live feed introduction by the man himself Mel Brooks. At 90 years old, this legend from a bygone era still has it. Still cracking jokes and still telling memorable stories. Sometimes the best way to rewatch some of your favorite films is along with an audience who loves them as much as you do.
It’s comedy genius.
I am not going to get into a synopsis here about Young Frankenstein. I’m sure we have all seen it a hundred times already. If not, go ahead and watch it right now. We’ll wait…some funny shit, isn’t it?
Coming right off the heels of his previous masterpiece Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, I think it is safe to say, is Mel Brooks funniest film. As good as History of the World Pt. 1 and Blazing Saddles were, Young Frankenstein just seemed to be firing on all cylinders and none of it would have been possible without the comedic talent of Gene Wilder. Gene co-wrote the movie with Mel Brooks and solidified himself as one of the greatest actors to portray the obsessive doctor, along with great Colin Clive and Peter Cushing.
Even though this was a comedic effort, Gene played Dr. Frankenstein with an intensity from being a loving fiancé and surgeon to a crazed mad doctor who wants to see his experiments come to fruition. But Wilder wasn’t alone in bringing this hysterical parody of the Universal classic to the screen. It probably would have never succeeded without the unquestionable talents of Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle and Cloris Leachman. Each one of them bringing in an outstanding performance and all delivering classic lines that are repeated over and over again 42 years later.
One of the other successes of the film is that it really pays tribute to its source material instead of mocking it. As I said even though it is a comedy, Gene Wilder is right up there with the greats who portrayed the mad doctor, as well as Marty Feldman with Dwight Frye portraying Igor, and Peter Boyle with Boris Karloff portraying the monster.
It is a perfect example of good comedic writing and acting as opposed to unflattering when stacked against Mel Brooks other classic horror spoof, Dracula, Dead and Loving It. Which while having the great Lesley Neilson in Brooks regular Harvey Korman in it, really came off as a lame spoof along the lines of the also disappointing Robin Hood: Men in Tights then anything else. While both movies had their moments, neither would ever come close to the genius of this film or even be remembered in the achievements of Mel Brooks.
We all have our favorite lines and scenes from the film, there are too many great classic ones to name. Mine might have to be the “Sed-A- Give” routine, but I could probably name about 10 others equally as funny.
As the people in the theater laughed and cheered, I was reminded that a truly great movie can still have the same impact, years later, no matter how many times someone’s seen it. I’m not one for clapping at the end of a movie, I hate doing it, but for Young Frankenstein, with a theater packed with real loving fans…it seemed appropriate.
So this Halloween season, you don’t always have to be scared, it’s ok to laugh too. Horror and comedy, two genres that try to get the opposite reactions from you, have a lot more in common than you think. Wether you’re laughing or screaming, you’re kicking up those endorphins, getting a high, a rush that only a good horror or comedy can only give you. A film that can stay with you and give you said reaction is a film to be remembered.
No matter how many times you have seen Young Frankenstein, it might be time to watch it again. Like its source material, it never gets old.
Don’t worry, tomorrow night we will get right back into the ghastly screams of Halloween.