Mel Brooks loves the movies. All the proof you need is right there in his filmography. Hitchcock, Sci-Fi, Historical Epics, silent films, and (of course) westerns have all been given the Mel Brooks treatment. There’s nary a genre that hasn’t received a Mel Brooks love-letter, and one of his greatest (if not THE greatest) was his 1974 homage to classic era monster movies, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Every frame of this movie is a loving re-creation of the look, feel, and rhythms of the classic Frankenstein films, while at the same time a deliriously hilarious ride. It is, without a doubt, the greatest Horror/Comedy ever made.
Mel Brooks crafted YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to directly recall the old movies. This was a very bold move in 1974. His insistence on shooting in black and white met with such resistance from Columbia Pictures that Brooks moved the production over to 20th Century Fox. Not only was the photography spot-on, but the sets and costumes were replicated from the original designs. When it came time to build the lab Brooks sought out Ken Strickfaden, the man who had built the machinery used to animate the monster in the original films. Turns out, Strickfaden had kept all of his creations and lent them out to Brooks for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. So the elaborate lab equipment that brings Peter Boyle’s monster to life are the exact machines that animated Boris Karloff.
A great comedy needs great comedians to work, of course, so Mel Brooks assembled a cast of comedic pros. Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced; FRONK-in-steen) is played by the great Gene Wilder, who is actually the one who came up with the YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN concept in the first place. Marty Feldman was never funnier than in his portrayal of the hunchback lab assistant Igor (pronounced; EYE-gore), and Cloris Leachman is brilliant as the creepy Frau Blucher (whiiiinnniiieeee). Rounding out the cast are Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, and Peter Boyle all of whom deliver some of the funniest lines ever written for the screen. This movie even contains an uncredited cameo by Gene Hackman as the blind hermit who befriends the creature.
Make no mistake, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a comedy. It never at any moment attempts to frighten the way some other Horror/Comedies do (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, for example). What gives YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN the right to wear the Horror label is in the way it unapologetically embraces the genre at which it is poking fun. When we watch this movie, at no moment do we feel any contempt for the original Frankenstein films. On the contrary, we feel a love for these movies that permeates every frame of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN fun facts - As an on-set gag, Marty Feldman shifted his fake hump from side to side each day until someone noticed. The gag was then incorporated into the film.
Mel Brooks wanted to cut the “Walk this Way“ gag, feeling it was too old a joke. He reconsidered after a test audience reacted so well to it (the gag also inspired Steven Tyler to write the Aerosmith song “Walk this Way” after seeing the film).
Much of the film is improvised. Some examples are Choris Leachman’s improvised “Varm milk?” exchange and Peter Boyle coming up with the monster’s garbled “Putnin onna Riiiiz”.
Dr. Frankenstein - “SEDAGIVE?!?!?”
Frau Blucher - (about Victor Frankenstein) “He vas…my BOYFRIEND!!!”
The Blind Man - “Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make espresso…”