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April 02, 2009



Mel Brooks caught comic lightning in a bottle with his appropriately black-and-white spoof of James Whale's 1931 classic horror film. Brooks was on a tear with his hugely popular film "Blazing Saddles" when he unleashed the innuendo-laced "Young Frankenstein" on unsuspecting audiences who found themselves with stomachaches from sustained fits of laughter.

With a twinkle and a wink Gene Wilder plays the semi-mad college lecturer Frederick Frankenstein who insists on the proper pronunciation of his name as "Fron-ken-schteen." There’s more than a little of Groucho Marx’s zany influence in Wilder’s slippery comic performance. His sense of comic timing and phrasing is exquisite. As the grandson of the more famous mad scientist, Wilder's kooky doctor inherits his family's Transylvanian estate that he visits for an extended stay. He is soon inspired to pick up with his grandfather's failed experiments of creating life from parts of corpses. The demented doctor gets assistance from the very funny Marty Feldman as Igor (pronounced Eyegor). Soon Wilder's goofball character makes a Frankenstein monster of his very own.


Dr. Frankenstein's comely blonde lab assistant Inga (played by the lovely Teri Garr) distracts the doctor from his sex-withholding fiancé Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn). When he tries to kiss Elizabeth goodbye at a train station she tells him, “not on the lips.” This is funny, funny stuff. Still, Elizabeth can’t control her libido around the monster once he comes to life. It turns out the larger-than-life creature has an enormous “shvanshutker,” you see. Elizabeth may be fated to be a Frankenstein bride, but not to the one originally intended. Her habit of singing in an operatic voice during sex lets the hilarious Madeline Kahn show off her pipes.


Peter Boyle fills the oversized creature's clunky dancing shoes during a comical song-and-dance-rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” that co-writer Gene Wilder famously convinced Mel Brooks to include in the movie. Cloris Leachman strikes many a funny chord as Frau Blucher, whose name excites the nays of horses whenever it's mentioned. Gene Hackman’s unrecognizable cameo, as a lonely bearded blind man who invites the Frankenstein monster into his cottage, provides the movie with one of many priceless scenes.

As part of his hysterical homage, Brooks used many of the actual props created by Kenneth Strickfaden for James Whale's original film to give "Young Frankenstein" an authentic atmosphere of reverent delight beneath its bawdy puns and outrageous physical humor.

"Young Frankenstein" remains one of the most beloved comedies of all time for plenty of darned good reasons.


Rated PG. 106 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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