“For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius!”
Part spoof, part homage, all comedy, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, released in 1974, did for old-fashioned horror what his Blazing Saddles had done for westerns earlier that year. Shot in black and white, with a spooky score from John Morris, and even using the lab set from 1931′s original Frankenstein, Brooks’ film looked and sounded every bit the serious horror film … at least until the first slapstick gag. Let’s take a look back at this classic 70s comedy.
The star of the show is young scientist Frederick von Frankenstein, grandson of the famed Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. Frederick would like to forget his heritage, insisting that his university students pronounce his last name “Fronkensteen,” but when news arrives that Frederick has inherited his grandfather’s Transylvanian estate, the young Frankenstein travels to see his new digs.
In Transylvania, Frederick meets Igor (call him “Eye-gore”), whose grandfather worked for Frederick’s grandfather. With the voluptuous blonde Inga in tow, Frederick and Igor travel to the Castle Frankenstein. At the castle, the group is greeted by the terrifying Frau Blucher, whose very name causes horses to whinny. Despite Frederick’s insistence that he wants no part of his grandfather’s experiments, the young Frankenstein is drawn by strange music to the old lab, where he finds a conveniently-placed copy of How I Did It, by Victor von Frankenstein. Inspired, Frederick builds a body and dispatches Igor to retrieve a brain.
Unfortunately, the hunchbacked assistant returns with an abnormal brain, and the resulting monster is impossible to control. The Monster escapes into the nearby village, first encountering a young girl, then a blind man with a clumsy streak. Frederick gets his creation back for a spell, training him for a tandem “Puttin’ on the Ritz” soft shoe, but when even that fails, Frederick must consider drastic measures to save the creature he has created and come to love.
With a nod not only to Frankenstein, but also Bride of Frankenstein and even Son of Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein brought back fond memories of the creature features of yore, then gave then a winking tweak on the nose. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s screenplay earned the pair an Oscar nomination (for Best Adapted Screenplay, giving novelist Mary Shelley her due), and audiences across the country agreed with the Academy’s recommendation.
The film was one of the biggest hits of the year, trailing only The Towering Inferno and Blazing Saddles. And like the films that inspired it, Young Frankenstein remains a treasured classic today, still putting audiences in stitches after more than 25 years.
If you are a fan of this timeless film, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to Mr. Brooks for showing us how funny a horror film could be.