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Of all the film parodies Mel Brooks has made in his career, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN ($30) stands out as a triumph. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a film that lovingly recreates the atmosphere of the 1930’s Universal Frankenstein movies, while at the same time, skewering the horror genre with Marx Brothers like precision.

Gene Wilder, who originated the idea for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and shares the screenplay credit with Mel Brooks, stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Frederick is the grandson of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Frederick is so ashamed of his heritage that he purposely mispronounces the family name and forces every one else to do the same. While teaching at an American medical school, Frederick learns that he is the sole air of the family estate and must travel to Transylvania to claim his inheritance. Upon his arrival at his ancestral home, Frederick discovers his grandfather’s notes and becomes convinced that "it could work!" Thus, Frederick sets forth to carry on the family tradition and bring a creation to life. Of course, Frederick meets with the same mixed results that damned his grandfather. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN follows the basic premise of the Universal horror classics, as well as Mary Shelley’s novel. However, Wilder and Brooks never miss a single opportunity for humor, whether it is high or low.

While the screenplay for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is filled with jokes, the film would be nothing without its brilliant cast. The late Marty Feldman is the heart and soul of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Feldman was truly a comic genius and his performance as Igor is out and out hilarious. Peter Boyle brings a childlike quality to the role of The Monster, however his facial expressions are priceless. One tends to forget that Cloris Leachman is an Academy Award winning actress, however her performance as the housekeeper Frau Bluecher truly deserved an award of its own. Teri Garr is sexy, sweet and very funny as Inga, the naïve laboratory assistant. Madeline Kahn steals every scene she’s in as Frederick’s spoiled self-centered fiancée Elizabeth. As Inspector Kemp, Kenneth Mars does an amazing parody of Lionel Atwill’s one-armed policeman from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. Mars has seldom been better, except as the author of "Springtime For Hitler" in Mel Brook’s brilliant THE PRODUCERS. Special credit has to go to Gene Hackman, who proves with the role of The Blind Hermit that he could have had a long and fruitful career in comedy.

Other than the lack of the anamorphic enhancement, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a super job with their DVD release of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. The film is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with well balanced compositions. The black and white image has strong deep blacks and superior contrast. Gerald Hirschfeld’s cinematography is well served by the sharp, detailed transfer. MPEG-2 compression artifacts never seemed troublesome on this well authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack had crisp clear dialogue and John Morris’ great score sounded super. French and Spanish language tracks, as well as English subtitles have been encoded into the DVD.

The simple interactive menus give one access to the DVD’s nice compliment of supplemental features. A full-length audio commentary, featuring director Mel Brooks, is the discs main supplement and well worth listening to for Brooks’ recollections about the creation of this comedy masterwork. A recently produced 36-minute documentary looks back on the production of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. However, other than Gene Wilder, the major players in the film are noticeably absent. Still, the documentary is worth seeing. The DVD also features footage that belonged on the cutting room floor, theatrical trailers, television spots, outtakes and production photographs.

I have been a fan of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN since I saw the film for the first time in the theater. This DVD is the best video incarnation of the film that I’ve ever seen. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is still hilarious and will make a worthwhile addition to almost every DVD collection. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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