(director/writer: Mel Brooks; screenwriter: Gene Wilder/from the novel by Mary Shelley; cinematographer: Gerald Hirschfeld; editor: John C. Howard; music: John Morris/William Steffe; cast: Gene Wilder (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Peter Boyle (The Monster), Marty Feldman (Igor), Madeline Kahn (Elizabeth), Teri Garr (Inga), Cloris Leachman (Frau Blücher), Kenneth Mars (Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Friederich Kemp), Richard Haydn (Herr Falkenstein), Gene Hackman (Blind Hermit), Richard Haydn (Gerhard Falkstein); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Michael Gruskoff; CBS/Fox; 1974)

“Most of the gags were juvenile.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mel Brooks (“High Anxiety”/”Blazing Saddles”/”The Twelve Chairs”) directs Young Frankenstein as a parody homage to Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein and the other 1930’s horror genre films from Universal. Gene Wilder cowrites with Brooks, and keeps it smutty, filled with slapstick and irreverent satire. Gerald Hirschfeld’s black and white cinematography effectively works to keep it looking like those old films.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), an American medical lecturer and brain surgeon, is in denial about his Dr. Frankenstein heritage and the running gag has him correct almost everyone about the pronunciation of his name: “Frahnk-en-steen.” The young professor inherits his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania and when there (using the authentic sets) is inspired to finish his ancestor’s mad scientist creation experiment in the same laboratory after he finds his grandfather’s journal “How I Did It” in the castle library. In the castle he’s greeted by bug-eyed and shifting hunchbacked family servant Igor (Marty Feldman), who wishes to be called “Eye-gor;”an old housekeeper Frau Bleucher (Cloris Leachman) who can get horses to whinny and loves the Monster; and a daffy, voluptuous assistant from the village named Inga (Teri Garr). Frankenstein recreates the Monster (Peter Boyle) after stealing the body of a hanged man, but Igor drops the brain of a genius scientist and takes in its place an abnormal brain–thinking it’s the brain of a woman named “Abby Normal.” This leads to some complications when the Monster goes free in the village. At this time, Frankenstein’s spoiled and repressed fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) joins him at the castle just when he’s bedding down with Inga.

Most of the gags were juvenile and bombed, the funniest bit had Dr. Frankenstein performing a soft-shoe dancing duet with the Monster, of “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” while decked out in tuxedos, canes, and top hats. Other funny bits had Elizabeth attacked by the grunting Monster, but soon finds pleasure in his “enormous schwanstucker” and sings “O Sweet Mystery of Life” while enjoying the sexual romp and Kenneth Mars doing a Peter Sellers bit as a Dr. Strangelove sort of police inspector, who can’t keep his mechanical arm from saluting or doing something.

The best parody of Frankenstein is Whale’s own followup of The Bride of Frankenstein.