31 Days of Horror lightens things up with the Mel Brooks comedy, Young Frankenstein. Back in 1974, Mel Brooks was the king of zany comedies. Two of his most well-known and quoted films came out that year: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Both films were huge comedy hits and continue to be enjoyed my young and old alike.
Young Frankenstein is a quintessential comedy masterpiece that should be required viewing for anyone who wants to learn the art of satire or parody. This send-up of the Frankenstein films, directed by James Whale, stars Gene Wilder who also co-wrote the film with Mel Brooks. Wilder also co-starred in Blazing Saddles the same year and played Willy Wonka in the family classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory three years earlier in 1971.
It’s included on this list for two main reasons: it’s a classic spoof of monster movies, and it’s a great alternative to the gory, bloody, and dark films that populate this and other horror movie lists. Young Frankenstein has the Brooks comedy edge, but with a PG-rating it’s safe to watch with the whole family.
Shot in black-and-white and using the same sets as the original Frankenstein films, the movie follows Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-shteen) as he travels to Transylvania where his grandfather’s castle resides. While there, he too becomes obsessed with the possibility of man playing god, and what follows is sheer lunacy.
Co-starring Marty Feldman (Silent Movie), Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), Madeline Khan (also in Blazing Saddles), Teri Garr (Mr. Mom), Cloris Leachman (Scary Movie 4), Kenneth Mars (Malcolm in the Middle), and Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums), Young Frankenstein showcases the comedic talents of these actors, but the brilliance of Mel Brooks as a director and comedy writer.
It wouldn’t be until 21 years later that Brooks would return to spoofing the horror genre with the underrated Dracula: Dead and Loving It starring Leslie Nielsen (more about this movie later in the month).
If you haven’t seen Young Frankenstein, I highly recommend it. For anyone who wants to write or direct comedy, it’s always best to learn from the masters; and Brooks is certainly one of the 20th century’s comedic geniuses.