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Review: Young Frankenstein

September 30, 2011

An affectionate parody of the classic horror genre, and especially the various 30’s adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein takes a look at one of the later descendants.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein is a lecturer at an unnamed American med school where he tries desperately (most of the time in vain) to dissociate himself from his infamous grandfather and his experiments with human reanimation, insisting that his surname be pronounced Fronk-en-steen. He learns from a lawyer that he has inherited his family estate in Transylvania, and the plot gets underway as he goes to Europe to inspect the property.

At the train station, he meets up with Igor (which turns into Eyegore after riffing on Frederick Froderick’s insistent terminology surname), a servant of the family who is there to take him to the castle, along with fellow servant and beautiful young lass Inga. And at the castle, they meet the housekeeper for the property, Frau Blücher, the setup to a running gag about horses rearing up in fright every time she’s mentioned.

After arriving, Frederick becomes increasingly intrigued by his grandfather’s experiments, and with Inga’s help, finds the secret passage to his laboratory (using the same set from the 1931 film) and his grandfather’s diary, How I Did It. After this, Frederick decides to own up to his heritage and resume his grandfather’s reanimation experiments. He and Igor (who has been shifting his hump from side-to-side the entire movie) go grave robbing to dig up a recently buried criminal. Frederick sends Igor to get the brain of a recently deceased scientist. Unfortunately, a bolt of lightning startles him into dropping the correct brain, so he grabs an abnormal brain instead.

Frederick brings his monster to life, where after a match is lit, the monster attacks and has to be sedated (“SedaGIVE?!”). Frederick and Igor then have a chat about what exactly went wrong:

Dr. Frankenstein[To Igor] Igor, may I speak to you for a moment?
Igor: Of course.
Dr. Frankenstein: Sit down, won’t you?
Igor: Thank you. [sits on the floor]
Dr. Frankenstein: No no, up here.
Igor: Thank you. [sits on a chair]
Dr. Frankenstein: Now… that brain that you gave me… was it Hans Delbruck’s?
Igor[Crosses arms] No.
Dr. Frankenstein[Holds up hand] Ah. Good. Uh… would you mind telling me… whose brain… I did put in?
Igor: And you won’t be angry?
Dr. Frankenstein: I will not be angry.
Igor[Shrugs] Abby…someone.
Dr. Frankenstein: Abby someone? Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
Dr. Frankenstein[Slightly angry] Abby Normal?
Igor: I’m almost sure that was the name. [He and Dr. Frankenstein laugh]
Dr. Frankenstein: Are you saying… [Stands] that I put an abnormal brain… [Puts hand on Igor’s hump] into a 7 and a half foot long… 54- inch wide… [Grabs Igor by throat]GORILLA?!?!?! [Strangling Igor] IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME!?!

Long story short, the monster escapes, is captured by the police, trained by Dr. Frankenstein, presented at a theater (with an epic performance of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”), escapes again, is captured by the police again, escapes a third time, and exchanges his…uh..um…schwanzstück with the doctor for some of his intelligence.

This movie is hilarious, but as was the case with Spaceballs, a lot of the humor is made of sight gags, although there is significantly more wordplay. It also manages to capture the feel of the 1931 Frankenstein, mainly by using the same lab set. It’s one of the best of American comedy, check it out sometime. Maybe over the weekend?

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