Release Date(s)1974 (September 9, 2014)
Studio(s)20th Century Fox
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
Every year around this time, I review a lot of movies that are, shall we say, not for everybody. I understand and appreciate that many people do not share my love of horror. That’s OK, we can still be friends. But if you don’t like Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, that’s where I draw the line. Seriously, you may want to seek professional help because there may be something wrong with you.
Young Frankenstein is a miracle of a movie, one of those too rare examples of every single creative element coming together in perfect harmony. Mel Brooks’ best films aren’t mere parodies. They’re tributes to movies and moviemakers that Brooks genuinely idolizes. In Young Frankenstein, the love of James Whale’s original Frankenstein and Bride Of Frankenstein radiates off the screen. The use of Kenneth Strickfaden’s original laboratory equipment is only the most obvious and tactile example. Director of photography Gerald Hirschfeld does everything short of shooting in Academy ratio to convince us that it’s 1931. This may be the most exquisitely shot comedy ever filmed.
It also seems like a bit of a miracle that Brooks got any usable footage. With the most extraordinary comedy ensemble ever assembled, it’s amazing that every take didn’t just collapse into helpless laughter. Gene Wilder (who co-wrote with Brooks) gave himself his best role as Dr. Frankenstein (and the fact that you all know exactly how he prefers his name to be pronounced is a testament to the film’s undying popularity). Marty Feldman was never better and anybody who says women aren’t funny clearly has never seen Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman in this (or anything, for that matter).
But the movie’s best performance is very possibly Peter Boyle’s turn as the Monster. Not only is Boyle incredibly funny (his looks directly into the camera rank with some of the best breaking-the-fourth-wall moments in cinema), his interpretation of the creature ranks up there with Karloff’s. Wilder and Boyle invest the relationship between Frankenstein and his creation with more genuine emotion than any other version of the story. It’s an incredible accomplishment made even more impressive by the fact that it never gets in the way of the laughs.
Young Frankenstein is no stranger to Blu-ray. Fox has released it in one form or another several times prior to this version and if you have any of those discs, you should consider yourself satisfied. The 40th Anniversary edition brings nothing new to the table other than a new cover and a slipcover that opens up to reveal some photos. Yay.
But if you don’t already own it on Blu-ray, by all means pick this up. The transfer is pretty terrific and the disc is packed with extras, including a fun commentary by Brooks, a pop-up trivia track and the picture-in-picture featurettes Inside The Lab (which you don’t absolutely have to watch picture-in-picture, thank God). The two mini-documentaries, 1996’s Making Frankensense Of Young Frankenstein and 2008’s It’s Alive! Creating A Monster Classic, feature different interviewees, so both are welcome additions. John Morris’ outstanding score is spotlighted in the featurette Transylvanian Lullaby and in a most-appreciated isolated score track. There’s a large number of deleted scenes, some of them in HD, five minutes of outtakes, a large still gallery, and several trailers and TV spots (the best of which are narrated by Brooks himself). There’s even odd vintage interviews with Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder and Cloris Leachman conducted by a bilingual Mexican TV host, translating on the fly for his Spanish-speaking audience. Oh, and there’s the Blucher Button, one of those goofy gag features that you might play with once for two seconds but probably not.
Young Frankenstein is an undeniable classic and everybody who loves movies should own a copy. The 40th Anniversary Blu-ray is nothing more than a cash-grab but considering how much had already been done with the movie, I’m not sure what else could have been added. It’s a fine release that most of the movie’s fans probably already own.
- Adam Jahnke
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