Young Frankenstein (1974)


Young Frankenstein is a personal favourite of mine. Filmed in black and white, not out of economic necessity, but in order to keep true to the original 1930s film Frankenstein, this classic turns the well known story on its head. It gracefully negotiates dry, pun-based, and absurdist humour to create a uniquely entertaining film.

Young Frankenstein is the story of a second generation of monster-makers. Young Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder)—grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein and initially anxious to distance himself from his family legacy— is willed the house, grounds, and works of his great-grandfather upon his death. Using the notes bequeathed to him, conveniently bound into a legible narrative—How I Did It by Victor Frankenstein—and with the helping hands of Igor’s grandson, also called Igor (Marty Feldman), the young Dr. Frankenstein succeeds in replicating the infamous experiment.

Many instances lend themselves to the unfaltering humour of this film, like the accidental selection of an abnormal brain as a means of accounting for the brutishness and ignorance of the monster. Or the running gag of Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman), the housekeeper whose name inspires fear in horses—even when they hear it spoken from miles and miles away.

But the real genius of this film rests with Igor.

Igor, the only person in Transylvania with a decidedly English accent, is the embodiment of wit. His very name is an underhanded jab at our protagonist, for when the shame-faced Dr. Frederick Frankenstein introduces himself as a Dr. Fron-ken-STEEN, Igor insists that his own name is Eye-gor, and maintains that pretence. He is always there for the punchline. And not only will he make bad jokes about his own hump (which moves from shoulder to shoulder throughout the film), but he is also proud enough to happily verbalize what should technically be an insult.

Romance in the film is also a humorous device. While Frankenstein falls head-over-heels for the brand new lab assistant (Teri Garr), his fiancée (Madeline Kahn) is abducted by his creature (Peter Boyle), with whom she promptly falls in love. There is a great deal of innuendo in the progress of these courtships, and many of the jokes are lewd and obvious. This makes them among the less successful gags in the film, even though they do avoid falling altogether flat.

Taken altogether, this is the ideal film for anyone who loves to laugh. It ranks, in my estimation, among the comedy greats like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I cannot but recommend it.