Young Frankenstein (Blu-ray)

September 11, 2014 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Inga: “He would have an enormous schwanzstucker.”
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: “That goes without saying.”

Plot: What’s it about?

1974 was a good year for Mel Brooks. Not only did he have a commercial and critical hit with one of my all-time favorite movies – Blazing Saddles, but he did it again with his knock on the horror genre with Young Frankenstein. Both films were (and still are) critically-priased, have earned high spots on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest films (Blazing Saddles is #6 and Young Frankenstein #13), but both made over $100 million dollars (and we’re talking 1974 dollars here, folks). The idea for the film actually came from star and co-writer Gene Wilder, a longtime collaborator of Brooks with parts in The Producers and Blazing Saddles. Audiences were also familiar with Wilder from the iconic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory a few years earlier. Wilder and Brooks co-wrote the script with Brooks to direct and Wilder in the title role. The film was originally to be a Columbia release, but they wanted a smaller set and the film to be in color. Brooks disagreed, went to Fox and the rest, as they say, is history.

Professor of Anatomy, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-shteen, Gene Wilder) has a sordid family history. His grandfather was known as a grave-robbing scientist who used his knowledge trying to bring the dead back to life. Dr. Frankenstein has spent his days trying to distance himself from that name. However things change when he finds out that he’s inherited the estate. Traveling to Transylvania, he’s immediately greeted by Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr), his lovely assistant. It’s not long after this that he discovers a hidden room with all of his grandfather’s research and, loyal to the family name, Frankenstein picks up where his grandfather left off. He manages to bring back a recently deceased man (Peter Boyle), though through a mishap at the brain depository, he’s literally given an abnormal brain. The locals don’t take kindly to Frankenstein and his experiments, so a lynch mob, led by Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), is formed to try and put a stop to the nonsense.

Young Frankenstein is a classic in every sense of the word. In the same way that Blazing Saddles lampooned the Western genre, this does the same to the classic Universal monster films of the 30’s and 40’s. I have to say that as much as I enjoyed it, I do prefer a few of Mel Brooks’ other films a bit more with Blazing Saddles leading the way, History of the World: Part I and Spaceballs up there as well. Wilder is in rare form, but the real scene-stealer is Marty Feldman in the role of Igor. It’s the eyes – it’s got to be the eyes! Of course, it’s a Mel Brooks movie so there’s a plethora of stars to be found with Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle and even a cameo by Gene Hackman as a blind man. Truthfully, there’s not a dull moment in the film and it’s proof that as highly-acclaimed as some of the films that inspired this are, Young Frankenstein might be the best of them all (though some would argue that Bride of Frankenstein might edge it out). No matter what your taste, this is a film that deserves to be seen and a spot on your shelf awaits. I’m sure that 40 years from now this will be as relevant as it is today. Highly recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

Presented in a 1.85:1 AVC HD image, Young Frankenstein looks every bit as good on Blu-ray as you’d think. I haven’t seen the film since its 1999 DVD release, though I realize that there have been two other Blu-ray editions released since then (one a 2008 stand-alone release and another as part of the Mel Books Collection). Compared to the DVD, the image is considerably cleaned up though the grain in the film is, thankfully, still there. “Thankfully?” Yes. This isn’t a film that would really benefit from a crystal clear transfer as I feel that it wouldn’t really be loyal to the films that inspired it otherwise. Detail has been improved, though, as the image is sharp and crisp throughout. The black and white image sports rich, dynamic contrast and black levels that appear to be rock solid. When compared to its DVD counterpart, this is a major step up.  Nice work.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Though the film contains a Dolby Surround mix, I chose the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 mix when watching the film. This won’t be a movie that’ll blow the speakers out, but then again it’s not supposed to. Vocals are clean and crisp, and while surround effects aren’t that prevalent, they are there. There are some obvious thunder and lighting effects for the big storm scene and John Morris’ score (also available as an isolated track) really sounds the part. This is a step up when compared to the Dolby Digital mix on the DVD. It’s a nice, solid mix and there’s really no other way to experience “Puttin’ on the Riiiiiiiiiiitz!”

Supplements: What are the extras?

Oh Fox. Fox, Fox, Fox. Why do you do this?  For someone like me that doesn’t have a previous Blu-ray of this in their collection, this is a great addition to any collection. But there is literally nothing new from the Mel Brooks Collection version of this other than some new cover art. Hell, even Warner put out a new documentary for their Blazing Saddles release. Still, the disc is loaded with supplements, so let’s check ’em out. Of note, I have no idea why Fox did this, but the stills on the back of the box are in color when the movie was presented in black and white. It’s a bit odd, but nothing to lose sleep over.

  • Audio Commentary – This is the same commentary from the 1999 DVD, but it’s a good one. Brooks is surprisingly technical in his comments here. He talks of lighting, using editing to speed up the bookcase (he removed every other frame to make the bookcase spin appear twice as fast) and production and set design. It’s a great track.
  • Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas in the Making of Young Frankenstein – This is a picture-in-picture feature that doesn’t run all the time, rather it’s some segments that appear in the corner of the screen offering some insight on the film, the cast and some tidbits here and there.
  •  The Franken-Track: A Monstrous Conglomeration of Trivia – I chose to watch the film with this on and it’s interesting, but the “facts” aren’t very technical. It kind of tangents to some of the facts about the classic Universal monster movies, but does focus on Gene Wilder’s idea for the film and so forth. It’s current to 2008 as it mentions the Young Frankenstein Broadway musical.
  • Isolated Score – John Morris’ score is here without the dialogue.
  • Making Frankensense of Young Frankenstein -This 43 minute documentary is one of the better features on the disc. It covers pretty much everything from beginning to end with plenty of cast and crew interviews, the back story and how they got the whole thing to work.
  • Transylvanian Lullaby: The Music of John Morris – One of the newer supplements as it’s presented in HD, this focuses on the work of composted John Morris and his multiple collaborations with Mel Brooks.
  • It’s Alive!: Creating a Monster Classic – Another newer feature, this is actually more of a history of Mary Shelley’s novel and the history of the Universal monster movies of the past. Brooks cites his work on the film, his work with Wilder as they wrote the film and more. It’s a nice supplement, though a bit redundant if you’ve seen everything else.
  • Deleted Scenes – Separated into both SD and HD, there are a few funny ones, but it’s hard to argue that they could have added anything to the final product.
  •  Blucher Button – I couldn’t seem to get this work, but I’m assuming that when “pushed” you’ll hear horses neigh in the background.
  • Outtakes – I’ve no idea how they did some of these takes with what we see here. It must have been hell to do these time and again. In the trivia track, the producer was asked to leave the set because he couldn’t stop laughing so hard. I believe it.
  • Mexican Interviews – Two in all, the first with Marty Feldman who played Igor and the second with Gene Wilder and Cloris Leachman as they’re interviewed by a Mexican man who asks them the question in English and then again in  Spanish.
  • TV Spots – 15, 30 and 60 second spots are included.
  • Trailers – A few trailers for the film are shown.
  • Production Photographs – Several stills from the film can be viewed here.

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