Film Diary: Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Young Frankenstein

Let me get one thing clear from the outset. I’m wary of cults; it’s in my nature to distrust them. There’s a big difference between enjoying a piece of off-the-wall genius, and using some artefact or other as a shibboleth to determine inclusion or exclusion into the ranks of the ‘cool’. Well, cool be damned; I’m a hot chick, myself, and if it’s just not done to criticise Mel Brooks, well, tough!

I felt some of this exclusion when I was a teenager. Now, I admire Marty Feldman as the comic genius behind Round the Horne, but there he had geniuses like Kenneth Horne and Kenneth Williams to work with who could take smutty innuendo and elevate it to a work of art. Feldman had a show of his own in the late 60s, and although it contained moments of comic brilliance, there were longeurs of elaborate, puerile, unfunniness. Unfortunately it was just not done not to think of it as the greatest show ever, and I was made to suffer.

As it happens, Young Frankenstein does have flashes of comic genius. Mel Brooks is like that – he can have one brilliant idea and then pad it out with banal, unsophisticated schoolboy smut. Bug-eyed, insouciant Feldman is wonderful here, in small doses. The scene in which Gene Wilder and the Monster do a musical turn, Putting on the Ritz, before an audience of scientists is a masterpiece worthy of standing alongside Springtime for Hitler. But the rest, well, I can imagine the Marx Brothers taking what ideas there were and doing something wonderful with it in half the length, but to me it was puerile. Slapstic mitteleuropeans all basically Nazis at heart (the police inspector’s prosthetic arm routine ripped shamelessly from Dr Strangelove. Scantily-clad young women with their boobs hanging out, and a central joke about the size of the Monster’s plonker; an adolescent schoolboy’s wankfest. The laughs were few and far between and the whole thing was ponderous.

I may risk social death but this one really dragged for me and I’d count it the least enjoyable film for me in this Diary. Sorry and all that but there it is.


2 Responses to “Film Diary: Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)”

  1. You’ve summed up completely why I love this movie. Because in my heart, I have a teenage boy’s sense of humour! The Late Bushwick introduced me to this movie and we used to do quotes from it, most noteably the “Frau Blucher!” *horse’s neigh* bit.

    Happy days.

  2. tvor Says:

    I never really *got* Marty Feldman and most of Mel Brooks’ movies left me flat for the most part.

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