31 Days of Halloween 2016 – #31 Young Frankenstein

franken1Young Frankenstein (1974) is the kind of movie crafted with joy and energy.  You can see Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman and cast really having fun with this one.  This is a light comedy, but it’s still fun to this day, mostly because of the script and the cast’s natural timing.  The whole thing is exactly my kind of understated, dry humor, where the smart jokes are the kind of silly funny enjoyed by everybody.

This kind of humor is old-school, outlandish fun.  The movie has elements of stupid-funny slapstick, plays on words, and in-jokes in reference to Frankenstein.  There’s a few gags where Teri Garr and Gene Wilder trade bumping into things and it’s really nothing, but little jokes like that set the tone for this light comedy.  The movie really shines in its satire of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, the best known Universal monster movies starring Frankenstein.  

franken4Gene Wilder’s performance carries this movie.  Sometimes an artist is great because their work is so technically good that it becomes inspired and I think Gene Wilder fits that mold.  His performance feels inspired and energetic throughout the whole movie.  What really works for Wilder is his ability to be an inescapable straight-man delivering a punch-line.  That’s what makes the dialogue work, because there really isn’t much to the story.  It’s the same Frankenstein story all over again.  The delivery and the pure physical and visceral input by the actors make most of the scenes work.  Gene Wilder is even dancing at one point.

The dance sequence is arguably the best scene in the whole movie and the funniest.  It’s the pinnacle of the monster’s approach to the human world and his training to become a Man, so he sings “Putting on the Ritz”, naturally.  Hilarious.  

franken6A lot of the sets and sequences remind me of the Universal series, including Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.  One of the most underrated scenes is Wilder on the street with the cop.  Igor (pronounced Eye-Gore hilariously) and Frankenschtein are stealing a corpse and rolling it down the road on a cart, but they hit a bump and the corpse careens out of the coffin.  Frankenschtein and Eye-Gore  stuff the corpse back in the coffin as a night watchman approaches them, but the corpse’s dead arm sticks out of the coffin accidentally, so Wilder has to pretend it’s his own arm.  It just works.  

franken2Teri Garr is great and Marty Feldman is just crazy enough to make the zany role work for him.  He slides in with some one-liners Monty Python style.  The actors themselves are not the joke, although Marty Feldman is dressed up like a comedic version of Igor, so there is that.  On the whole, it’s the performances which make the movie work.  The movie emphasizes its tone when Inspector Kemp joins in on the romp.  He plays with his fake arm for about ten minutes.    

Overall, this is a classic movie.  Some movies are great, but then others show artistic ability to rise above.  The satire works on one level, the slapstick works on its own level, and the dry humor works your brain on another level.  Like Monty Python, this comedy is smart and has great dialogue to prove it.  It pays tribute to the horror movies we love by poking fun at some of the old things we are all familiar with at this point, like old castles, mob mentality, and monster tropes.  At the heart of it, Mel Brooks masters mixing all kinds of comedy and still entertains us with wit.

31 Days of Halloween 2016
31. Young Frankenstein (1974) – This post
30. Jason X (2001)
29. Cloverfield (2008)
28. The Monster Squad (1987)
27. Bad Moon (1996)
26. The Haunting (1963)
25. Splinter (2008)
24. Frenzy (1972)
23. Aggression Scale (2012)
22. The Exorcist III
21. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
20. Silver Bullet (1985)
19. Joy Ride (2001)
18. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
17. The Funhouse (1981) by Tobe Hooper
16. Videodrome (1983)
15. Re-Animator (1985)
14. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
13. Cube (1997)
12. Evil Dead
11. Day of the Dead (1985)
10. Tales of Halloween (2015)
9. They Live (1988)
8. The Innocents (1961)
7. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
6. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
5. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)
4. Hatchet (2006)
3. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
2. Halloween II
1. Silence of the Lambs