The Sci-Fi Chronicles book has been very enjoyable so far, and I’m still at the beginning of the massive tome! It was with great joy that I settled in to watch Mel Brook’s homage and send-up of the Universal Frankenstein films. Gene Wilder headlines a laugh-infused cast, that is just a joy to watch, and this one proves to be one of those films that lets you catch something new each time you see it. I don’t think I’ve laughed louder at a movie recently, and I think it was because I’ve watched so many Frankenstein films of late that I was in the perfect mental space to get the most out of this film.
Shot in black and white, like the films its meant to emulate, this version of the tale follows young Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder), who, much like every other member of his cinematic family it seems is a talented doctor, obsessed with the brain. When he learns he is the benefactor of his great-grandfather’s estate, he packs up, leaving behind his fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) and heads to Transylvania.
Once there, the laughs really start rolling, as Marty Feldman’s Igor and Teri Garr’s lovely Inga, join in the hilarity. Running the household is Frau Blucher (insert horse whinny here) (Cloris Leachman), who has a few dark secrets of her own that will be outed through the course of the film. Discovering his ancestor’s research, conveniently titled How I Did It, Frankenstein takes up the mantle of mad scientist as his forefathers did, and creates The Monster (Peter Boyle).
There is so much going on in this film, the word play, the visual gags, the incredibly brilliant dialogue… all of these things combine as the perfect homage to the genre as well as, easily, one of the funniest comedies ever made.
There are villagers, ready to set things alight should Frankenstein be seen returning to his family ways, led by Kenneth Mars’ Inspector Kemp, outfitted with a wooden arm, like one of his predecessors, there’s a blind man (Gene Hackman), who shares a brilliantly funny seen with the Monster, and of course, there is the much-loved musical number, presented for a sold-out audience of locals.
From then on, the film ventures into new territory, but a landscape that seems quite at home in a Frankenstein film; the Monster falls for Elizabeth when she arrives, things develop between Frankenstein and Inga, and one final experiment may result in a happier ending for some.
There isn’t a missed joke, a missed beat, or missed homage in the entire film, and it is obviously very lovingly made by both Brooks and Wilder, putting a hilarious bent on all things Frankenstein, while still staying true to its origins.
If you’ve never seen it, I can’t recommend this one enough. And if you have seen it, isn’t it time to watch it again?