When it comes to parodies, there’s a very strong hit or miss element but ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a very palpable hit.
Heavily reliant on the writing, direction and the hope that a wider audience will be able to tune in to the humour of those concerned, when they’re done well they can be hilarious and such is the case here. Thankfully, it benefits from the combined talents of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks.
Although often overshadowed by the director’s dig at the western genre, ‘Blazing Saddles’, Brooks himself has said this is actually his favourite among his own movies. It was certainly one in which he had a lot of faith, sticking to his guns when Columbia Pictures insisted it be filmed in colour rather than black and white and moving to 20th Century Fox when Columbia failed to allocate the budget he felt it merited.
Poking affectionate fun at the classic Universal horror films of the 1930s, the ‘Young Frankenstein’ in question is Dr Frederick Frankenstein - pronounced “Fronk-en-steen” - (Gene Wilder) who’s too embarrassed by his relations’ antics to own up to the name.
A brilliant surgeon, Frederick is drawn back to his ancestral home in Transylvania after becoming the beneficiary of his great grandfather’s will, leaving his socialite fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) behind. There he’s met by hunchback Igor (Marty Feldman), new lab assistant Inga (Terri Garr) and sinister housekeeper Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman).
Despite his genetic resistance, things change when Frederick finds his great grandfather’s private library and decides to follow the instructions. Chaos then ensues.
Full of visual and verbal gags clever, stupid and obvious, especially in its set-pieces, the film is true as it can be to its source material in terms of its story and visually which, combined with top-notch comedy talent, makes it all hugely enjoyable.