Starring: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman
Director: Mel Brooks
The grandson of Dr Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) tires to be taken seriously in America as a scientist, but finds it hard to escape the legacy of having a mad scientist in the family. When he’s informed that he’s inherited the family home in Transylvania, he travels there and uncovers the work of his ancestor in reanimating corpses. Soon he’s taking on the family business and hoping to make a name for himself in science.
Shot in black and white, and using some of the props and sets that were used in the original Frankenstein and monster movies of the 30’s, this film looks so much like the films it parodies that it is truly delightful.
I get the impression that this film was considered more subtle in it’s comedy and tone than some other Mel Brooks films, but that said, it still manages to have a song and dance number with the monster and his creator, and some really great moments. I love the sinister Frau Blucher, the sudden attraction between the young doctors fiancee and the creature, and the way Gene Wilder manages to make his young Dr Frankenstein (it’s pronounced Fronkenschteen!) so full of desperation and craziness. As someone who loves those old classic horrors, this was such a fun love letter to them as well as making fun of them in the best way. I also liked that unlike Mary Shelley’s story, and the film adaptations of her book, this film has a happier ending for all involved.
Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder were such a great pair together. Their sense of silliness and word play are always balanced by a wildness of humour and action. Although I love so many of their films, this one has something special about it. I’m not sure if it’s the black and white and mise en scene, or if it’s the great performances, but if you haven’t seen this film, and especially if you like classic movies this is one to watch.
See It If: you love Mel Brooks or Gene Wilder, it’s one of their great comedies. It’s also great if you like old films, because it parodies them so well.