Mel Brook’s classic spoof of an equally classic horror, allows a rough rehash of the story with almost each and every iconic scene ‘re-imagined’ through Brook’s comedic lens.
If the original movie wasn’t already pretty goofy, re-watching it following ‘Young Frankenstein’ certainly hasn’t helped it seem any less.
Set in the 1960s, the story opens as Fredrick Frankenstein, the descendent of the now infamous ‘Baron Von Frankenstein’, delivers a very grounded demonstration of the Central Nervous System. Despite his efforts to shrug off the family’s notoriety his students continue to press him regardless. At the end of his lecture and rather comedic demonstration of voluntary vs. non-voluntary nervous response, he is approached by an old guy with details of his inheritance.
With the old castle back in family hands, including his great-grandfather’s laboratory its not long before Fredrick’s picked up where Baron Von Frankenstein left off.
With an ensemble cast, and Book’s own comedic edge this film is every bit a classic as his other efforts. Spoofing scenes is one thing, and whilst this film is chock full of scenes which parody the original Universal classic (and its sequel) in all the obvious ways, this film is at its best when it goes further left-field and offers up tangents and skits which offer up opportunities for pure slapstick and original comedy moments. Standouts include a brief scene involving a policeman and the creature’s hand and a scene where the ‘creature’ finds himself on the end of some rather exuberant hospitality when unwittily visiting a blind clergyman (played by a very young Gene Hackman). Whilst much of the movie relies on almost loose hammy comedy, these scenes provide some genuine laugh out-loud moments.
Performances are fantastic with Gene Wielder carrying scene after scene as be balances cynic and eccentric as required. His character offers the most continuity with the original movie, which much of the supporting characters just play their parts as either puns or running gags.
Reviewing in 2023, I’d say the movie has stood the test of time, in the same way the charm of the original classics have.
Modern spoofs tend to include a lot of pop culture references, which inevitably dates them and see’s their comedy loose relevance, however as ‘Young Frankenstein’ sticks closely to its source material, it avoids this pitfall.
That said, one pitfall it doesn’t avoid is the run-time trap. At 105 minutes the movie falls foul of being not quite tight enough with its running gags beginning to loose steam as the film rushes to conclude in line with the original movies’ narrative. Filling up runtime with its own tangents the final half-hour or so struggles to mesh its own gags and direction, with the original movies iconic flash-mob ending, leaving us with abrupt editing and scenes of pure exposition hurting the films pace a little.
That said, overall, for fans of classic horror, Mel Brooks has proven himself time and time again a master – even archetype – of his craft and ‘Young Frankenstein’ is no exception. If you’re a fan of Brook’s other work, including his equally hilarious ‘Dead and Loving It’ Dracula spoof then you know what you’re getting. Just make sure you’ve seen the original Universal classic first otherwise references would be well and truly lost.