one of the most quoted movies of all time, At Least in my Circle.
It is Halloween and that could only mean one film. A masterpiece of black and white. It only seemed fitting that we would start with one of my favorite movies of all time. It is not a horror movie in the slightest, but it does ring true for Halloween. The best parody ever made. Many have tried and all have failed to live up to this film, no insult implied to the other films or film makers, they understand. The director, a legend in his own mind and in ours. Today is all about The Mel Brooks film, Young Frankenstein!
Masterfully written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks. Legend has it that Mel was asked if he would Direct the film, helping it to get greenlit at the studio. Gene Wilder had just helped Mel out of a big jam when his lead in Blazing Saddles had a heart attack on day one of shooting and had to be replaced. Hopping on a plane a few hours later, Gene filled in the role in a legendary way just hours later, making another comedy classic come to life. Mel owed him one, but Gene had one condition. Mel could not star in the film due to his over the top fourth wall breaking. Mel said sure and cast Marty Feldman as Igor and the rest is cinematic history.
This is one of the most quoted and beloved movies of all time in my circle. A lot of my family and friends as well as people I have worked with over the years. Many late-night discussions and laughter brought on from this movie even now, 45 years later. What other film can you say that about? Is the other one you are thinking about also Mel Brooks or is it Monty Python? Thought so. There is handful, but you know what I mean.
Anyway. Let us start with the casting of this movie. It is simply Brilliant. One of the best ensemble casts ever put to film in my opinion, at least for comedy.
Gene Wilder as Doctor Baron Von Fronkenschtein. Captured on film remarkably similar to Errol Flynn at times, Gene Wilder just eats the scenery when he falls into the hysterical Doctor. The bullshitting Doctor is just fun to watch as he fights to turn into the generation before him. Everyone’s battle. But in the end, he seems to have find himself less intelligent and a little bit of happiness.
Terri Garr as Inga. This is the movie that solidified my love for her when I was 5 years old. Terri’s comedic timing and innocent presented by the 1970s version of the all-American girl. Her charm just rolled off the screen. Without her, the movie would not have worked as well as it did. She represented the mew works, the dumb American. Working against the blonde stereotype of the time but some people missed that.
WHAT KNOCKERS! ...OH... Sank You Docktah
Peter Boyle as the Monster. The heart of the film. Boyle delivered a subdues comedy breaking the fourth wall and involving the audience in on the stupidity as well as the joke. The audience felt sorry for him and rooted for him as his face just oozed the need to be understood and not frightening the locals. Performed with an elegant charm at times, making the monster an easily loveable guy even when he catapulted that girl into the lake or banged the shit out of Madeline Kahn making her sing to high heaven.
Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. From the moment she hits the screen behind a creepy door, to her Ovaltine scene, then on to her scene longing for love as she plays her weeping tribute, while enjoying a good cigar. Why the horses did not like her, we never understood. But we still got it. I am sure there is a dark joke there somewhere. Leachman’s mastery of timing and her subtle undercurrent of sadomasochistic intentions, she delivers an unforgettable performance and decades of people yelling Blucher at her daily. When Cloris shows up to work, she always brings a sledgehammer. UNTOUCHABLE.
Marty Feldman as the ever-hilarious Egor. Are you kidding me? Talk about stealing the show. From the first lightning crack Igor captures the audience’s attention as he becomes the entry way into the story. From his physical oddity to his comedic brilliance, Feldman delivered and would be forever known by this at least in America as his most famous role. No one would ever look at a brain again without at least thinking about Abby Normal.
Here, walk this way...
The great Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth Lavenza. Perhaps the best comedic actress ever to grace our screens next to Lucille Ball. She is that good. Better. The camera loves her and the steamy under current of turn of the century unbridled and unrequited horniness that lit a generation of men on fire. Especially for the monster, now a regular Joe and enjoying his new home life. From the way she is singing you can imagine she is enjoying hers as well. Madeline would always give incredible performances for Mel Brooks and America fell in love with her for more than one reason. Talent being at the top and to be fair, she oozed sexuality and the mastery of on screen comedy.
The Supporting Cast was even incredible with Kenneth Mars as Richard Hapten rounding out the casts second tier of hilariousness. Who can forget the darts scene? Brilliant! Of course, we cannot forget the extended cameo from Gene Hackman as the old hermit, the monster meets over a cup tea on the balls. That Earl Grey, I tell ya.
Shot entirely on black and white film, raising the production casts a bit compared to contemporary films being made at the same time. That experience would fit to be fruitful when The Elephant Man came around and who better to produce a modern black and white drama? Who would of thought Mel Brooks? Brooks films started from that and in a way Young Frankenstein is responsible for that getting made the way that it was.
Making the list at number thirteen of the American Film Institutes list of the funniest 100 movies of all time. Some like it Hot made the number one spot, a good film. It is funny but not Mel Brooks funny.
When Mel Brooks celebrated its fortieth anniversary of Young Frankenstein he said he considered it not to be his funniest film, but his finest film. I am sure Blazing Saddles was his funniest, which is also number six on AFI’s Funniest movies of all time. Not bad.
If you are looking for something hilarious to watch and do not have to worry about the kids seeing it.
Don’t worry, we turned out fine! I think. A great watch no matter what time of year. I have seen this film more than one hundred times and that’s probably a low number. Every time I see it on, I stop. It is that good. A fine example on how one can try to make his family proud and wind up destroying it all in the process while finding love, loyalty and friendship. In the end they not only wound up saving the monster from the public but in the process, they saved themselves.
Thank you, Mel Brooks, for making this film.