Pin It

Take Two 

by Marty Demarest

If for no other reason, Young Frankenstein is a classic because, since its release in 1974, filmgoers have been unable to get some of the movie's scenes out of their heads. You can check it out at the Garland at midnight on Friday and Saturday.

That makes the movie sound like a bad horror film, but nothing could be further from the truth. It only looks like a bad horror film; the rest of Young Frankenstein is pure lunacy. The easily frightened needn't worry about unnatural acts, unless you count Gene Hackman doing comedy. And most of the activity in the movie seems to be based on nothing more volatile than sex and mispronunciation.

But there is a monster in the Frankenstein tradition. He's made of reanimated portions of dead people. An accident at the brain depository makes sure that he's strange. He's afraid of fire. And it goes without saying that he has an enormous scwansctuker.

It's that last detail that gives Young Frankenstein away as a Mel Brooks film. In much the same way that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas mined the movie-theater serials of their youth for ideas nearly a decade later, Brooks has drawn on the films of his youth -- westerns, musicals and classic horror -- to use as frameworks for his comedies.

And it would be wrong to dismiss the horror-movie roots of Young Frankenstein entirely. (It certainly has more to do with classic horror than Van Helsing.) The genre allows Mel Brooks to indulge in his darker side without giving up his sense of humor. At one point, the monster, accompanied by a rosy-faced, blonde-haired girl, tosses petals down a well. When they've all been sent to their watery grave, she looks up at the monster -- whom, Brooks has made sure, we don't really know at all -- and chirps innocently "What should we throw in now?" It's a dark joke, and Brooks only gets away with it under cover of Frankenstein.

This is nothing new from Brooks. In Blazing Saddles, he deftly linked that sacred symbol of Americana -- the western -- to racism and vulgarity. But here, Brooks' integration of comedy into the movie is seamless. He's helped, as he often has been, by Gene Wilder, who co-wrote the film. With nothing more than a semi-funny phrase and impeccable timing, Wilder takes charge of the onscreen mayhem, delivering several epic, all-encompassing freak-outs.

This frees Brooks to deal with the subtler parts of comedy -- the parts that too often go neglected by directors. In an early scene in which Wilder says goodbye to his fianc & eacute;e (Madeline Kahn) at a train station, the romantic dialogue gradually becomes more absurd, culminating with a passionate farewell elbow-rub. While this is going on, Brooks gradually cuts from a wide-angle shot to a close-up. As a result, the intimacy we feel with the couple increases as the jokes grow. Before you know it, there are characters -- albeit clowns -- onscreen. The better we know them, the easier it is for us to laugh at them for two hours -- or three decades.

Publication date: 05/27/04

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Odds And Ends
  • Odds And Ends

    Idaho lawmakers are pulled in lots of directions; plus, SPD weighs a "culture audit"
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Four Days A Week
  • Four Days A Week

    Idaho schools that dropped one day a week from their schedule are saving a little money — but at what cost?
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • A County Ombudsman?
  • A County Ombudsman?

    Weighing the costs and benefits of oversight at the Spokane County Sheriff's Office
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
MediaFest 2015

MediaFest 2015 @ KSPS Public TV

Wed., April 1

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Marty Demarest

  • The Cowboy's Cowboy
  • The Cowboy's Cowboy

    A Canadian sings about the life —  not just the lifestyle — of the new West
    • May 15, 2013
  • Completing the Trilogy
  • Completing the Trilogy

    Mass Effect has finally arrived
    • May 23, 2012
  • Minecraft
  • Minecraft

    Adventure and survival too often give way to mindless crafts in this building-block simulator.
    • Feb 8, 2012
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Why Idaho kids don't go to college

    And what that means for the Gem State
    • Mar 4, 2015
  • New Blood

    Candidates are launching bids for Spokane City Council and could bring big changes to city government
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment



Publisher's Note


long reads

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation