I don’t give out five-star ratings lightly. In fact, you probably won’t see me give them to more than a dozen times out of the 400 reviews i’m going to write. So, when I say that Young Frankenstein deserves one, I really mean it. From start to finish, the film was nothing but fantastic.
Young Frankenstein is a 1974 retelling/parody of the 1930s Frankenstein films. It is based on the premise that Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (portrayed by Gene Wilder, and pronounced FRONK-in-steen), a prominent neurosurgeon, wants nothing to do with his crazy ancestors, especially his infamous (and deceased) grandfather, Dr. Frankenstein. However, he inherits the latter’s castle, and by some strange twist of fate continues his grandfather’s work. The monster that he creates (the late Peter Boyle, better known as the grandfather from Everybody Loves Raymond) breaks loose and creates chaos. Villagers who remember the damage done by the Frankenstein family start a riot, and Frankenstein risks his own life in a last-ditch effort to save his creation from the villagers’ wrath.
The movie was filmed in black and white, an homage to the era that produced the original Frankenstein stories. Though this was an unusual choice for a film produced in the 1970s, I really couldn’t picture it any other way. The special effects are simple (I suspect this is intentional), which keeps the focus on the dialogue. The scenery also does justice to the original films. Most of the set for Frankenstein’s lab consisted of the original props used in the Frankenstein films, an excellent choice to provide consistency. Even the scene transitions were appropriate to the period.
As far as the script, I have nothing to criticize. The plot avoided unnecessary complications or loose ends, and was interesting throughout the entire film. The pacing was more or less even, so I didn’t find any parts where the plot became dull. The dialogue itself is wonderful; some of the humor is subtle and nuanced, and other parts are as blunt as Igor’s hump. Rather than the humor distracting audiences from the plot, the jokes here manage to enhance it in a perfect marriage of comedy and drama.
Mel Brooks once said that Young Frankenstein was the best movie he ever directed, and I can’t help but agree with him. I really can’t find any faults with it, and God knows I tried. As reluctant as I am to give out five-star ratings, this one earned it.