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Young Frankenstein

“Put ze candle back!”

Halloween may be freshly behind us, but there is never a bad time to review this Mel Brooks masterpiece.

One of the most quotable movies ever made, behind perhaps only Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Young Frankenstein is an absolute joy to watch, with only one issue that may put some people off, which I’ll mention later, as it’s late in the film. With gems like:

'Damn your eyes!'
'Too late!'

*Horse whinny*

'Abby someone.'
'Abby who?'
'Abby... Normal.'
'Abby normal?'
'I'm almost sure that was the name.'


'A riot is an ugly thing, und I think it’s just about time that we had one!'

... there’s a lot of amazing moments here.

Shot in black and white since it both pays homage and makes fun of the classic Universal monster films, it’s perhaps Mel Brooks’ finest movie, and he has several gems. This one even beats out the sublime Blazing Saddles from the top spot. This is one of those films that people think of when you say, 'Mel Brooks movie.'

The cast is a list of some of the greatest comedy actors ever. You have Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle and Cloris Leachman, and all of them are fantastic here. The supporting cast is great too, which only makes the movie that much better, but the main cast are so good that it's truly amazing. I want to give Kenneth Mars a shoutout as Inspector Kemp, as he isn't quite as well known as the main cast I list above, but he’s brilliant in every scene, and my favorite character in this film which considering how great the others are, speaks volumes.

I'll avoid getting too spoiler-y here, but the basic idea is that Frederick Frankenstein ('That’s fronk-en-steen,' at least early on), who has no interest in his grandfather Victor’s work on reanimation, ends up in their ancestral home and does just that. The fun of course is in how they take a kind of conglomeration of classic horror (some scenes are from the original classic Frankenstein, but the movie also features aspects of Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, and others), and then lampoon them all so well that it makes a marvelous blend of homage and parody. The fact that Brooks was even able to get the original lab equipment for his movie adds that little extra touch of authenticity to this charming comedic gem.

Some of the scenes are lifted almost verbatim from the classics, even if they do take some humorous twists as well. From the underrated Son of Frankenstein (which stars Basil Rathbone), we have the scene with the inspector who wishes to find out if the current Frankenstein is up to no good, but Inspector Kemp’s wooden arm and a rather chaotic game of darts give the scene an irreverence that always brings a smile to my face. The blind man becoming the monster’s friend, a scene that goes tragic once hunters arrive (one of which is John Carradine, although he isn't always credited) in the original Bride of Frankenstein, has a much more humorous turn in this film, one I won't ruin here, but it's a moment that gets laughter every time.

If you haven't seen clips of Frankenstein and his monster on stage, then you have an even better reason to watch this film, as that scene is one that I don’t want to ruin for anyone that has not caught this movie. There are so many great scenes here, that it’s hard not to spoil at least some of them, as I want to share in the many jokes this movie contains that those in the know will nod and smile at.

The ending is humorous and uplifting, something I again won't spoil here, but I want to stress that it takes someone of Mel Brooks' caliber to make a movie like this: funny, clever, and rather sweet in its own crazy way, and only a cast this good could make it work so well. What I will say is that you’ll want to experience for yourself.

-The only real negative I feel the film has is the scene where Madeline Kahn as Frederick’s fiancĂ©e, Elizabeth, is sexually accosted by the monster. They make it into a joke, it’s not graphic, and ends up alright, but it might justifiably bother some folks.

-Gene Hackman is the blind man that welcomes the monster into his hovel. It may not be all that obvious at first. He is, like the rest of the cast, wonderful.

-Sadly, a large portion of the cast are gone now. I especially miss Gene Wilder (who is from my hometown Milwaukee), and Madeline Kahn. We lost Kahn's brilliance far too early as well, she died young.

-The town has a brain depository. How convenient for mad scientists.

Four abnormal brains out of four.

Morella is a Gen Xer who likes strange things a bit too much.


  1. "Igor?"

    Excellent review, Morella. Don't really care for the other Mel Brooks spoofs I've seen, but I've always loved this movie. And I agree, Madeline Kahn was gone too soon; she was next-level.

  2. I love this movie. So many quotable quotes. I'm a huge fan of Blazing Saddles, too, but that might be because it also features Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn.

    1. Blazing Saddles is a close second. It has Harvey Korman too, who I've always loved as well.

      'I'm tired of being admired!'


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