In the month of October, there are countless horror films and scary shows available to get you into the Halloween spirit. But not all of the great Halloween films are particularly scary (I’m looking at you Charlie Brown) and there are a lot of great films that look to the lighter side of the horror genre. One of my favorites to do just that is the Mel Brooks classic, Young Frankenstein.
For a little history, Gene Wilder developed Young Frankenstein from the idea of doing a Frankenstein movie that wasn’t just a son of/bride of/etc. He wanted to explore the idea of there being a relative who inherits the Frankenstein estate but thinks his grandfather was a nut. It was this premise that appealed to Mel Brooks, and he agreed to co-write and direct it after completing the filming of Blazing Saddles. Young Frankenstein was written as a direct parody of classic 1930s Universal Monster movies, and is shot in the same style.
To bring even more authenticity to the parody, the entire film was shot in black and white and they were even able to secure laboratory props from the original Frankenstein films. Gene Wilder is terrific in the lead role as Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen) as scientist and matter-of-fact grandson of the mad Dr. Frankenstein. The supporting cast of characters includes Marty Feldman in a brilliant portrayal of Igor, Peter Boyle as “The Monster”, Teri Garr as Inga the lab assistant, and of course, Cloris Leachman as Frau Blücher (neehhhhh).
So what is it about this movie that I love so much? For starters, the film is full of outstanding cinematography and the overall style of the film really helps sell the parody. The juxtaposition of the slapstick humor and silly jokes against a dark and dreary castle only makes those moments funnier to me. There are so many memorable lines throughout the film that stick with me year after year. I almost always think of “Abby Normal” when I hear the word abnormal and Putting on the Ritz is my go-to song whenever someone mentions tap dancing.
The way Gene Wilder shouts emphatic lines from scene to scene as he fully sells the “mad scientist” persona while also selling gags like a mid-strangulation game of charades gets me every time.
While lots of horror film satires have come along since Young Frankenstein including Shaun of the Dead and more Scary Movie sequels than I have time to count, this film will always be one of my favorites. So while you are spending the next week looking for thrillers and horrors to get you in the Halloween spirit, don’t forget the funny films. What are some of your favorite scenes from Young Frankenstein? Are there other horror parodies that you like to watch around Halloween? Let me know in the comments or share it on social media using the hashtag #31DOH!
Travis Menard is the co-host of the Apathetic Enthusiasm podcast, and can be seen on our YouTube channel on The Walking Dead Fantasy League.