1974 Gene Wilder, Directed by Mel Brooks
Mary Shelley, then only 19 years old, wrote the novel, "Frankenstein," while spending a summer in Switzerland with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and another great Romantic poet, Lord Byron. The weather was inclement and the novel really developed from efforts at self-entertainment by the trio.
That was over 150 years ago, but the story so casually conceived has endured through innumerable printings and all kinds of analyses by literary critics, psychiatrists and the like. It also has been the subject of at least 26 motion pictures, beginning in 1910 and carrying through 1974 with Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein for 20th Century-Fox
release which premiered in 1974.
Young Frankenstein is described by its writers, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks as "a salute to the great horror movies of the '3 0's" and for that reason it was shot in black and white and in the 1:85 frame size conventional in that era.
Those familiar with Mel Brooks' work, particularly the smash hit, "Blazing Saddles," might expect a no-holds-barred approach to
the Frankenstein legend, but the humor is never directed at the story: the turns and twists of plot are there all right, but channeled into laughter. The frightening element is not neglected either.
Gene Wilder, as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, played his role as a sort of wide-eyed innocent seduced into horror rather than as a diabolically-inspired scientist. Wilder has to be one of the most versatile practitioners of his art. In addition to the recent and raucous "Blazing Saddles," he has forthcoming, the film version of Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" and the gentle fable, "The Little Prince."
Peter Boyle, as the Monster, in this story is pathetic at times and at others terrifying. Five-inch lifts make him six feet, seven inches tall and padding adds the appearance of 125 pounds to Boyle's weight. His make-
up is more restrained than the usual movie monster. Boyle burst into the consciousness of movie audiences with his portrayal of a middle-American bigot in "Joe."
Marty Feldman, as the hunchback, Igor, an ominous kind of jester, is one of the most famous comedians in his native England, in Germany and most of the rest of Europe.
Clois Leachman, as Frau Blucher, is the housekeeper in the Castle Frankenstein, enigmatic until it is revealed she has an affinity for monsters. This strange obsession creates terrifying problems. One of Hollywood's busiest actresses, Miss Leach-man has won an Oscar for a movie role; a Daniel Blum Award for her work on Broadway and she was nominated for Emmys in two categories in 1974.
Madeline Kahn, as Elizabeth, Dr. Frankenstein's socialite fiancee, is glacially brittle until her passions are finally aroused - then, WOW! An Academy Award nominee for her work in "Paper Moon," only her second film, she gave a memorable impersonation of Marlene Dietrich in "Blazing Saddles."
Teri Garr, as the predominantly innocent rough sensual, Inga, is Dr. Frankenstein's assistant. The daughter of an actor and a dancer, Miss Garr was born to show business and made her professional debut at
13. As a dancer she had countless credits in movies and television.
Kenneth Mars, as Inspector Kemp, has appeared in many films including "What's Up, Doe?", "Viva, Max", "The Dark Tower", "Desperate Characters" and "The Producers", also with Mel Brooks.