Young Frankenstein Review

During the month of October, I had the incredible experience of viewing Mel Brook’s 1974 comedy classic Young Frankenstein on the big screen. Sitting in an almost completely empty theater, I watched in admiration as one of my favorite actors played out one of his most famous roles, just as people did in 1974.

The story, a comedic spoof based on various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, focuses in on the well-educated medical doctor Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder). Frederick discovers that he has just inherited the Transylvania castle of his famous grandfather, who conducted experiments in attempts to reanimate the dead. Initially hesitant, Frederick decides to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of an unlikely group of odd individuals.

If there exists a film that is so universally hailed as comedic and undeniably hilarious, then it was probably directed by Mel Brooks. Brooks utilizes every level of humor to its fullest effect, whether it be simple slapstick or a subtler humor that takes a couple of viewings to fully appreciate.

Discussing humor can be a difficult and daunting task, partly because of the subjective nature of comedy. There are only so many ways that I can say a scene from Young Frankenstein is funny, and only so many ways I can say entire films made in its image are not. Yet, with that established, I believe Young Frankenstein to be comedic genius. Brooks takes a beloved source material and handles it with such care, delicacy, and most of all, lunacy.

Pondering such questions as, “What if Igor was in denial that he had a hump?” Or even, “What if Frankenstein’s monster meeting the blind man had a more comedic punch to it?” It’s questions like these that any individual can conjure up in their heads, but only Brooks has the audacity to carry it out on the big screen.

Playing the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Gene Wilder gives what I would argue the best performance of his career. The frantic ravings and occasional lunacy of a mad scientist in denial about his family heritage is about as outlandish as imaginable, and Wilder fits the bill. Not only that, he becomes the character, going beyond the call of duty to give the audience an unforgettable experience. And is it surprising for me to say that whenever I hear somebody talk about Frankenstein, I first think of this movie, rather than the Universal classic?

One can hardly forget the enigmatic supporting cast, who help make this lovely masterpiece what we know it as today. My personal favorite would be Igor (Marty Feldman), a dimwitted wisecracker with a knack for making the situation worse. Something about Igor has always appealed to me unlike anyone else in the film. His onscreen presence alone is enough to elicit hysterical laughter from yours truly.

Young Frankenstein is a film I re-explore at least once a year, typically around the Halloween season, and for good reason. It’s listed as one of the greatest comedies of all time by the American Film Institute (14th), Bravo TV (56th), Rolling Stone (5th), and was even selected for the Library of Congress National Film Registry. It’s a beloved masterpiece that will hopefully be respected by moviegoers for years to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

 

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Review

It’s become a recent trend for online critics to go back to beloved films like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and label them as overrated or lackluster. Perhaps in some feeble attempt at sounding more intelligent than the rest of us blokes. I am not, for the most part, that critic.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory remains, after almost fifty years, a funny and entertaining film. One that I can continue to re-watch with the same level of enjoyment every time.

The film centers on a young boy named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), whose impoverished English family lives near a world famous chocolate factory. This factory, owned by the reclusive Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), sends out five golden tickets hidden inside its chocolate bars. These golden tickets give five lucky people the chance to see the inside of the factory. Charlie’s life changes forever when he obtains one of these coveted tickets, winning him and his grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) a tour of one of the strangest places in the world.

All the characters in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory are performed very well. I particularly liked how the main protagonist of Charlie was written and played like a normal boy. However, Gene Wilder really steals the show, as his terrific portrayal of Willy Wonka is by far the best aspect of the film.

Over time, I’ve come to highly respect the acting talent of Gene Wilder (from such films as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein), as I feel he brings a lot to every character he plays.  He’s overall a very mysterious character, as you really never understand his motives. Even in his introduction to the film, Wonka deceives the audience into thinking he is handicapped. Wonka is rude, but also polite. He likes to give the impression that he’s careless about the well-being of others, but ends up showing a much softer side to his personality.

The interior of the chocolate factory is truly a place of pure imagination. Everything about this place is fascinating, and in need of more exploration. From the wacky, nonsensical inventions, to the strange chocolate river flowing through the middle of the factory, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a visual wonder.

Since the first time I saw Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as a teen, it has increasingly grown on me with each viewing. It’s pure family-fun entertainment that I’m sure just about anyone could enjoy. Gene Wilder’s sarcastic (yet lovable) performance as Willy Wonka remains one of my favorite film characters to date. Despite a few dated aspects (most notably, the music), this is a film I’m sure I will continue to revisit time and time again.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint