Apartment living can be surprising, annoying, and a hundred other similies. It can also be inadvertantly beneficial. I never saw the beat of our current apartment for getting other people’s stuff, and it’s happened the entire nine years we’ve been in the place. We gotten court orders from two different counties. Eight cases of Hopsy beer. And groceries, especially during the pandemic. Last year alone we got four orders. I managed to intercept two of them, but the other two were just left without a receipt so we couldn’t return them.
A couple of months ago an Amazon package showed up for someone named Mark from someone else named Amanda. Amazon said we could keep it if we wanted to, so my husband cut into the box and we peered inside with slight trepidation. Who knew what randomness we could get stuck with?
Well, it wasn’t so bad. Keto chocolate, a gray T-shirt reading, “World’s Greatest Grandpa,” Tillamook sausage, and Young Frankenstein on Blu-ray.
We chucked the chocolate (I can’t stand diet products), chomped at the sausage, made smiley faces at the T-shirt, and popped the Blu-ray into the player. As far as I was concerned, this was a found review. I’ve seen Young Frankenstein before, but it’s been years, and I was kind of excited about going back to it.
For those who aren’t familiar with the plot, this is it in a nutshell: Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is all about science. He wants to distance himself as much as possible from his famous grandfather because he thinks Grandpa Victor was nuts. Fredrick won’t even allow his last name to be pronounced the same way. People must say “Frahnken-steen” or know the reason why. He’s quite happy teaching physiology classes and debating with his students, thank you very much.
So when the opportunity arrives for Fredrick to head to his grandpa’s old stomping grounds, he’s thinking it’s going to be for scientific and historical purposes only. Heh. Famous last words.
A hunchback named Igor (Marty Feldman) meets him at the station (he likes to be called “Eye-gor.”), with Fredrick’s voluptuous new assistant, Inga (Teri Garr) in the back of the wagon. The three of them thunder off to the Frankenstein castle on top of the tall, craggy mountain, where secret passages, creaky doors, and windy staircases abound. And there’s a rather severe woman named Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman) who can play a mean violin and looks like death warmed over.
Fredrick tries to play all of this off as no big deal, but his famous ancestor’s life reaches out and grabs him. Anyone who knows anything about the Frankenstein universe probably has a slight idea where this is going, not that it’s any big mystery, but since it’s Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder we’re talking about, nothing is going to be normal.
So why is this movie worth seeing or revisiting? Let us count the ways…
Young Frankenstein works in all the standard Frankenstein and horror elements–the dark, stormy night, the lonely castle, the raspy yells of “It’s aliiiive!” Oh, and we can’t forget the torches and villagers, who seem remarkably amiable for fed-up locals. The look of the film is stark and spare; like the 1931 Universal movie, it’s shot in deep focus so that no detail is missed.
Speaking of the 1931 film, Young Frankenstein used the same props and sets as its famous predecessor. Their designer, Kenneth Strickfaden, was given a special credit when the movie opens.
The comedy is brilliant.
The humor in this movie is textbook vaudeville, where idioms became literal. A roll in the hay, for instance, really involves rolling in the hay. Igor telling Fredrick to “walk this way,” means Fredrick should hunch down and lope.
The lines are rapid-fire funny as well, and horror tropes are played for comedy, such as the scene in which the Monster meets a little girl. In every other version the girl and the Monster play happily until the Monster accidentally drowns the girl in the lake. In Young Frankenstein on the other hand, the Monster catapults the little girl off of a teeter-totter and she lands safely in her own bed.
What makes the scene so effective, though, is that there are shots of the Monster and the little girl peering down a well, which naturally causes the brain to hope the Monster won’t decide to chuck the little girl. But, thankfully, all he does is send her home. Whew.
The actors are brilliant.
Young Frankenstein is technically Gene Wilder’s movie, but one of the things that makes it work is that his fellow cast members play their parts absolutely straight, letting Wilder’s manic energy shine. Whatever he did, they had to take it in stride. There was apparently a lot of ad-libbing going on as well, such as the impromptu elbow bump between Fredrick and his fiancee, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) before he leaves for his grandfather’s castle.
Peter Boyle’s monster is so cute.
This version of Frankenstein’s monster is only misunderstood until people get to know him, He loves violin music. He can sing and tap dance in platform shoes, no less, which, as any runway model can attest, is just about impossible. The ladies love him because he’s blessed in a Freudian kind of way. And when certain other events transpire that, well, give him a certain edge, he becomes one of the guys. He also likes reading the Wall Street Journal before bedtime.
Mel Brooks, of course.
There’s a reason Mel Brooks is an American institution. He’s hard to quantify and equally hard to forget. He also knows a good thing when he sees it. Apparently he and the cast had so much fun shooting Young Frankenstein that Brooks kept adding more scenes to keep the party going. I can’t say I blame him.
The only thing about Young Frankenstein is that it can get a wee bit bawdy sometimes–the movie has double entendres that would make Mae West jealous, but grownups, of course, can handle it. It’s a classic film that’s not to be missed.
I’ll be participating in a surprise blogathon tomorrow. Thanks for reading, all…