Young Frankenstein is the story of Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson as he lives down his surname and revisits his grandfather’s experiments.
Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) leaves his fiance, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) and travels back to the estate in Transylvania owned by his family. There he meets his new assistants, Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr), and housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). Frederick becomes interested in his grandfather’s experiments and decides to re-animate the dead and creates his own Monster (Peter Boyle). As the townspeople grow uneasy of Frederick’s experiments, the Monster goes out on his own before being captured again. Frederick transfers part of his personality to the Monster and then in an effort to calm people, the two put on a show.
The plot synopsis of Young Frankenstein makes this seem like a continuation of the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein films from the 30s, but it’s a typical Mel Brooks spoof that is securely rooted in the original Frankenstein lore. It’s even shot in black and white and uses some of the original set pieces and props from the ’31 Karloff film. This lends Young Frankenstein an edge of seriousness that almost makes the dry wit of Wilder and Brooks strike like a bell at times or go completely unnoticed if you aren’t looking for it.
To fully understand Young Frankenstein, you almost need a firm grasp of Mel Brooks’ humor and how it works more than you need strong knowledge of the Frankenstein films. Young Frankenstein is one of the finest comedies ever in that it has an actual plot that is taken fairly seriously but is punctuated by lots of great gags to keep things interesting. This isn’t a spoof film like they make today, this was a funny take on a film where the source is clearly loved. The original films aren’t necessarily the butt of the joke, but comedic situations can be made from the source material.
Young Frankenstein is one of the finer comedies ever produced, for my money. It’s a fantastic blend of humor and the original Universal films in a way that only Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder could do. While I thought it took a while to really get going, once all the plot points are setup the film got more than a few “belly laughs” from me. Young Frankenstein is a film that I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, so most of the humor went right over my head. As an adult I can really appreciate the film for what it is, especially after having just seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, but Young Frankenstein is just as timeless.
I give it 5 Puttin’ On the Ritz out of 5.