Director: Mel Brooks | 106 minutes | comedy | Actors: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn, Liam Dunn, Danny Goldman
What do you do when you are a serious scientist with a grandfather notorious for his insane science experiments? You dissociate yourself from your family in an extremely fierce way so as not to endanger your own reputation. Similarly, Dr. Von Frankenstein. But the blood creeps where it cannot go and the first night he spends in the castle of his ancestors, he is seduced by the ideas of his grandfather Victor as recorded in his diaries. Then he also brings dead matter to life and he also loses control of his creation (Peter Boyle) with major consequences for everyone.
What a wonderful comedy this is. The frenzied humor of Mel Brooks is nicely balanced here by the cooperation of Gene Wilder in the screenplay, which makes the jokes less out of control and therefore even more hilarious than in his other films. And good jokes are almost too many to list. One of the most fun is the running gag at the mention of the scary housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). Every time someone says it, the horses start to reared and neigh in fear. This also happens when her name is mentioned on the top floor of the castle, away from the horses. But Marty Feldman’s jokes with the hunchback and his many other idiotic tics may also be there.
The acting is phenomenal. Every role has been taken care of down to the smallest detail and the timing with which the jokes are performed is perfect. Even though you often feel the punch line coming miles away, playing it quietly creates a lot of giggles during the run-up, long before the joke itself is headed in. The mutual chemistry has been inimitably successful. In fact, it seems to have been so much fun on set that Mel Brooks kept spinning to avoid breaking up the get-together. That atmosphere definitely has an impact on the film, which is not only witty and corny, but also moving because of the generosity with which they give each other the space to shine.
Besides all the usual corny jokes of Mel Brooks, the film also does justice to the atmosphere of the book in a beautiful way, not only through the beautiful design, the enchanting music and the black and white images, but also through the compassion for the human aspects of the monster that is often forgotten in other film adaptations. Gene Wilder’s theater performance with the monster in a musical dance number is great. In a nutshell, it becomes clear how much he cares about his creation. That this affection is mutual is shown by the commitment with which the monster wants to fulfill the wishes of its creator. At the same time, this performance also shows the monster’s inability to adapt to what is socially acceptable and its tragedy that this is through no fault of his own.
A wonderful, utterly funny comedy that is a beautiful homage to its predecessors and to the wonderful book that underlies it.