More than thirty years after its original release, Young Frankenstein is still one of the greatest, if not the best, horror movie spoofs ever made. Shot in black and white, the film weaves a tale that parallels the classic Frankenstein movies of the 1930s while adding an almost constant stream of twists and gags to the formula.
Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the original mad scientist. Frederick is a surgeon who inherits his predecessor’s Transylvanian castle, where he meets his servant Igor (Marty Feldman) and beautiful lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr). It isn’t long before, after finding his ancestor’s private journal, Frankenstein becomes similarly obsessed with re-animating the dead.
Frankenstein’s eccentricities are bizarre and yet strangely endearing. “It’s pronounced Fronkensteen,” he insists over and over in his first meeting with Igor. When Frankenstein finally says Igor’s name, the hunchback is quick to reply: “No, it’s pronounced Eye-gor.” The way Wilder and Feldman quip and bicker at one another throughout the movie is a constant source of entertainment. Even their facial expressions as they bumble about their experiments are comedy gold.
Inevitably, Frankenstein bestows life to the Monster (Peter Boyle) when he digs up an enormous body in a graveyard and places in it a stolen brain. Things go wrong, of course, and writer/director Mel Brooks goes on to parody several scenes from the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie perfectly. Gene Hackman is particularly funny as a blind, bumbling priest the Monster meets as he roams the countryside.
What makes the humor in Young Frankenstein so enduring, though, is that Brooks and the actors play it straight rather than trying too hard to amuse. It doesn’t hurt that there’s barely a throwaway line in the entire film – the jokes are frequent, funny, and memorable. If you’re looking for a movie in the Halloween spirit that’s comic rather than scary, Young Frankenstein is sure to please.