(Not Young Einstein, we feel compelled to add, for those of you born within the last 15 years...)
Young Frankenstein is another Mel Brooks attempt to parody an entire genre of movies. This strategy of his yielded some great movies like Blazing Saddles, some amusing movies like High Anxiety and SpaceBalls, and some bad movies like Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Actually, we haven't seen Dracula: Dead and Loving It, but we're pretty sure it sucks. Ha! Get it!? Its a vampire movie, and we said it sucks, and vampires suck blood... Oh, never mind.
Back to Young Frankenstein. Once you've seen this movie, based on the old Universal horror movies starring the likes of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, your head will be swimming with great lines that you use at almost any social function. Or at least any social function where hip and cool people congregate. "I was going to make espresso!" "Not the lips!" "My name is Frahnkenshteen!" "Put... the candle... BACK!" There are also more big dick jokes than we can possibly fit into one review.
The premise of Young Frankenstein is that the original scientist's grandson, Froederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), has become a brilliant neurosurgeon and teacher. Unfortunately, he can't quite live down Grandpa Victor's legend -- namely, that the old coot brought a dead man back to life, creating a monster. When the family legacy comes to call on Froederick, he takes leave of his fiancee (Madeline Kahn) and travels to the ancestral castle in Transylvania.
He is met at the train station in Transylvania by Igor (pronounced "eye-gor"), the grandson of the original hunchbacked assistant. Igor (played by Marty Feldman) has hired a lab assistant for Froederick named Inga (Teri Garr), although Inga is much more tempt than temp. And then there's Frau Bluecher, who has been tending to the upkeep of the castle all these years gone.
That night Froederick has bad dreams ("Destiny, Destiny,... No escaping destiny!) brought on by strange music. The music leads him to his grandfather's secret library and secret diary ('How I Did It,' reads the title). Froederick is thus inspired to try to cross into God's domain and create life himself.
You won't win any money guessing whether he succeeds or not. He produces a monster which is actually Peter Boyle with a brow ridge. Which, it turns out, resembles Bob Newhart. Go figure. Because Igor managed to steal the wrong brain ("Abby Someone... Abby Normal."), the creature does what every incarnation of Frankenstein's creation has done: lumber about incoherently, grimacing and fearing fire. Meanwhile, the natives of the town grow restless and begin to sharpen their pitchforks.
Here is another instance of Wilder as the funniest man on film (as previously mentioned in our reviews of Blazing Saddles and Silver Streak). His Froederick is priceless. Wilder bounces from cold-as-ice genius to frenzied mad scientist, always skirting the edges of tongue-in-cheek comedy. It's no wonder Brooks cast him in these films, and they both won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Adapted from Other Material for Young Frankenstein.
To be fair, Wilder's supporting cast is equally talented: Madeline Kahn's operatic performance towards the end of the film will have you in stitches, as will Feldman as the wisecracking Igor. Kenneth Mars is very funny as he plays Inspector Kemp, the local police chief who's right arm is a mechanical fake, a character lifted almost directly from Son of Frankenstein (1939). Watch also for Gene Hackman as the blind man who just can't serve the creature that gourmet meal properly.
As Halloween approaches, there's probably no better way you could spend your video rental dollar than to pick up Young Frankenstein. You might even do yourself the favor of watching Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein first so you can pick up on all the references.