Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy stars the late, great Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, who insists that it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen” and that he’s not mad like his grandfather – until he goes to Transylvania…
Like The Man With Two Brains, this is a sci-fi/comedy about a brilliant scientist with an unusually pronounced name, and it has a similar mixture of hilarity and eccentricity. It feels like a Frankensteinian combination of Hammer Horror, Blackadder and Marx (Groucho, not Karl).
Shooting in black and white, Brooks completely recreates Hammer’s style with affectionate attention to detail, like Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit as opposed to Van Helsing. Stand-out scenes include a hilarious routine involving a corpse’s hand, and an unforgettable song-and-dance number featuring the Monster (Peter Boyle) himself.
Continuing the mad-scientist streak he started in Willy Wonka, Wilder’s performance is wonderfully, well, wild. The supporting characters are equally memorable, notably Marty Feldman’s bug-eyed, fourth wall-breaking Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor”); Kenneth Mars’ absurdly accented Inspector Kemp; and Gene Hackman as a comedy blind character to rival Blind Pew from Muppet Treasure Island.
The result is not just a great parody, but arguably the best Frankenstein picture too. It’s like Frankenstein meets King Kong meets Monty Python. And if Max Landis happens to be reading this – please don’t go pitching that to Netflix.