Quick Hit: Comedy at a full-blown tilt.
I’ll be the first to come out and say that this is a movie that goes at a slapstick pace, constantly has humor hidden in different scenes and intonations, and has jokes hiding in the corners and crevices of the screen. For this very reason, I can’t recommend it to everyone, for the same reason that movies like Under the Skin or Manchester By the Sea aren’t for everyone – our tastes are very, very subjective in movies.
However, if you’re looking for a comedy (or a musical for that matter) that will find you laughing at least once within its running time (and probably more if you are someone like me that appreciates spoof humor), Young Frankenstein is one of the best out there. Allow me to shed some light onto why I think so.
First, spoof/parody humor hasn’t been around forever. I mean in some ways it has always been around – Charlie Chaplin was making films like The Tramp that capitalized on that type of humor in at least one way – but never to the degree that Mel Brooks started, where it is a complete and total spoof of a genre. This paved the way for the Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Epic Movie, Haunted House, Date Movie, etc. etc. movies (albeit, with some limited results there – talk about a formulaic movie trend!). In 1974, Mel Brooks released two movies in this vein, Blazing Saddles (which parodied the Westerns of the 50s) and Young Frankenstein (which parodied the horror movies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, particularly the Universal Frankenstein series).
Let’s talk about one of the reasons I love this movie – the attention to detail is astounding. That’s because the actual set was developed using the original props from the Frankenstein series. Mel Brooks found the set designer, who just had the stuff lying in his basement. That’s amazing, and it shows. The reality of the spoof is entirely on Brooks, Wilder, and Feldman. Wilder and Feldman are so strong delivering lines with sincerity and humor that would easily cause fits to anyone on set (and audience members as well). I can’t picture anyone else in these roles, so it makes it a little harder when I see the musical on stage. I think arguably Ygor is one of my favorite movie characters, and that's just because Feldman really sells the role. So much of his humor was ad libbed it's ridiculous.
The only thing that could be conceived wrong with this film is the pacing at times. Most moments are fully realized, but there are some that go flat, and some that drag on. As you continue through the film, there are some moments that last much longer than they need to… but are almost always redeemed with humor. Take “Putting on the Ritz” for example – it starts slower than necessary, but builds to a fun exciting climax.
Overall, I think this movie is classic comedy gold, and should be known as such. I’m giving it an “A-“.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"