Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Mel Brooks Blogathon

This past Monday was Mel Brooks' 90th birthday and to celebrate, Louis of The Cinematic Frontier is hosting a blogathon on the director. I've seen the more famous of his films but which of them have I decided to cover?

(1974, dir. Mel Brooks)

You know it's going to be a funny movie when you read some of the production notes. Why? Apparently Brooks and the whole crew had to stuff handkerchiefs in their mouths so as to not ruin takes from laughing. And he added extra scenes to film since everyone enjoyed making it.

Released the same year as Brooks' other comedy hit Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein captures the ambiance of the films that immortalized James Whale. (Many of the laboratory props were from Frankenstein.) Of course with this being a Brooks film, it's damn funny and dirty jokes are everywhere. ("What knockers!" "Oh, thank you, doctor!")

Clearly Gene Wilder was at his best when he worked with Brooks. As well as the success of Blazing Saddles earlier in the year, he also got his lone Oscar nomination for The Producers. As Frederick Frankenstein ("That's 'Fronk-en-steen'."), he devours so much scenery it's a miracle there's any left for the other actors to indulge in.

Marty Feldman is clearly having a ball as Igor ("No, it's pronounced 'Eye-gor'.") Most of his lines were ad-libbed which of course makes the film even funnier. A shame he wasn't around much longer after this. (In 1982, he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 48.)

As Inga, Teri Garr also shows off her comedic chops. ("Roll, roll, roll in ze hay...") Eight years before her Oscar-nominated turn in Tootsie, she plays the ditzy blonde (an annoying character type nowadays) but it works.

As Frau Blücher (*WHINNY*), Cloris Leachman plays her role on a level of the comically serious. Naturally that detail makes her line deliveries hilarious. ("He...vas...MY BOYFRIEND!") Not bad for someone who won as Oscar for a much more serious production only a few years prior.

Kenneth Mars plays his role of Inspector Kemp with perhaps the most ridiculous accent humanly possible. ("To ze lumberyard!") Naturally, an absurd accent equates to comedy gold therefore Mars steals every scene he's in.

As the Monster is Peter Boyle, better known to modern audiences for Everybody Loves Raymond. Yes, his character isn't exactly one for words but the "Puttin' on the Ritz" scene gave him something to do, and it's a hoot. (And to think that scene almost didn't make it into the final result.)

Another star of Blazing Saddles in Young Frankenstein is Madeline Kahn. She's not in it much but boy, you certainly don't forget her. ("Ooohhh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found yoooou!") Thank you, Brooks, for getting the best out of Kahn's comedic abilities.

In perhaps the most random of all cameos, there's Gene Hackman as the blind hermit. You might be thinking, he just won an Oscar; what's he doing in this? Stealing the whole scene, that's what. ("I was going to make espresso!") To think all of that came to be because Wilder told Hackman about it.

Young Frankenstein is just a really funny film, the rare kind that holds up on (many) re-watches. So if you haven't seen it before or haven't seen in a while, it's easily one of those films that you have to see sometime in your lifetime. (Seriously, seek it out and savor it.)


  1. This is a very funny film, indeed. I love horror movies from the 1930s and, of course, the parodies. I haven't seen Young Frankenstein in a while, and I really need a rewatch!
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

    1. I hadn't re-watched it in a while either. God, the number of jokes I didn't get the first time around.


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