30 films to watch before you die, #4
"Young Frankenstein" was made in 1974, and I consider it to be Mel Brooks' biggest masterpiece, even though he's best remembered for "Blazing Saddles". It's a parody of the old Universal horror films, especially "Bride of Frankenstein". There are also references to the 1933 version of "King Kong".
I feel guilty for not including any of the classic horror films in my "30 films to watch before you die" list. "Bride of Frankenstein" made it into my top 50, but it was removed when I reduced my list to 30 films. Maybe that was a mistake. The 1931 version of "Dracula" should also have been in my list. 30 films just isn't enough. If I wait a year I'll probably make changes to this list.
I still remember when I first watched this film. It was the second day of my stay in West Berlin. Let me explain how it went. At my university in Birmingham there was a German assistant from Berlin called Sigrid Ruschmeier. She told me to contact a man called Boris Penth when I arrived. I spent my first night sleeping on his couch, but it was too inconvenient for me to stay longer, so the next day I went to his friends' apartment, whose names I've now forgotten. I only knew them briefly. On that same day I was given a room in a commune in Kreuzberg. Before I moved out one of the friends went to the cinema with his girlfriend. They invited me to go with them. It was this film, called "Frankenstein Junior" in Germany. It was the first film I had ever seen directed by Mel Brooks, but within a few weeks I managed to see all of his films. Most of the Berlin cinemas didn't show newly released films, they had theme weeks, such as a different film by a director every day. I was lucky enough to be able to catch a Mel Brooks week.
When I saw "Frankenstein Junior" aka "Young Frankenstein" I was blown away. The American horror films on which it was based were all still fresh in my mind, because they were frequently repeated on English television. I got all the jokes straight away.
The film is genius, pure genius. Including it in my list partially makes up for omitting the old horror films. Mel Brooks is the master of parody, nobody else even comes close. It's a shame that he's made so few films during his career as a director. Only 11 films from 1968 to 1995, and none since.
The DVD that I own (one of the first DVDs I ever bought) doesn't have a perfect transfer. There are occasional pops and specks of dirt on the picture. A remastered version was released on Blu-ray in 2013 and repackaged a year later as the 40th anniversary version. I've read a review praising the Blu-ray's quality, so I feel tempted to buy it again.
One last piece of trivia is that this film uses the same props that were used in the 1930's Frankenstein films. They'd all been well preserved for 40 years, and they were loaned to Mel Brooks to make the film.
If you like this film you should watch other Mel Brooks films such as