Thursday, February 24, 2011
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974). Director: Mel Brooks. Written by Brooks and Gene Wilder.
Teacher Frederick von Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is trying to live down the fact that he's a descendant of the notorious Henry Frankenstein and even pronounces his name FronkenSteen. However he travels to the ancient castle of his ancestor and becomes fascinated by his work, eventually creating his own equally imperfect monster (Peter Boyle), with the usual complications concerning angry villagers and the like. Frankenstein -- the man, that is -- is also involved with two women: Inga (Teri Garr) and his fiancee Elizabeth (Madelyn Kahn). Many, many gags in this essentially good-natured movie are old and "borrowed," the picture doesn't always work, but it's often amusing and clever. The cast is stellar, including Wilder, Kahn, Marty Feldman as the eye-popping Igor, Boyle as a sympathetic monster, Gene Hackman as a blind man, and especially Cloris Leachman in a scene-stealing turn as Frau Blucher [pictured]. "Stay close to the candles," she says, "these stairs can be treacherous:" -- but the candles aren't lit! Kenneth Mars seems to be doing a take on Peter Sellers' Dr. Strangelove, and Teri Garr, while okay, is not quite in the same league as the others. Nice opening theme music, and excellent scenic design. The funniest scene has to do with the monster and the little girl on the seesaw, although some may prefer the business with "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life!" The pace drags at times. To read more about the making of the film check out a fine new bio on Gene Wilder.
Verdict: It's not Night at the Opera but it has its moments.