#21: Young Frankenstein — dir. Mel Brooks
Man, was this a hard one. Early Mel Brooks has had so much of an influence on my life. History of the World, Part I. Spaceballs. Blazing Saddles. And his later films were a cautionary tale.
Quotable? On a Simpsons level. Genius performances? On a Simpsons level. Gene Wilder at his greatest. This, then Wonka, then Blazing Saddles. When Higginbottom and I met him at a book signing many moons ago, he was like a magical being. Even looking as savaged as he did by life.
It’s a spoof film — it truly is. So to come on the heels of my praising of BASEketball for killing the spoof is nothing if not hypocritical. But I look at it like Weird Al. Weird Al does gimmicky parody songs. Anyone can change the lyrics to something. And most of the time, they go blue or crude or sexual. But Weird Al elevates the art form. Sure, this is the man who his career saying “My Bologna” instead of My Sharona. But he does it well.
Mel Brooks did it well. Young Frankenstein mocks the conventions of the old horror movie, but has that vaudeville schtick to it that most of the new wave are missing. They make the jokes about schvanstuckers and what not. But, nowadays, the monster would have had a massive erection. That was green. And would have smashed people in the face with it. There’s classiness to this, even when it’s ridiculous. They take the joke seriously. And there are actual characters. Marty Feldman’s Igor isn’t a one note joke. His sassy attitude plays through, his horndog whistling plays. It’s so well constructed. And again, I could watch this on repeat.
Mel Brooks is finding new life putting his old films back on stage where they can reshine. And good for him for it.