Blu-ray Review: Young Frankenstein

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What hump?

Is there really any better way to begin a review of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein? I am admittedly not a huge fan of Mel Brooks and his films. I know many people love his work and while I don’t particularly mind Blazing Saddles, I tend to avoid anything with his name attached. However, with Young Frankenstein Mel is only heard as the howl of an off-screen werewolf and never seen. Instead, the attention is focused on Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein and Marty Feldman as Igor. The two, along with a slew of talent manage to put together one of the absolute best comedies of all-time, and I say that fully recognizing the meaning of the words.

As I watched this Blu-ray it felt like I was seeing the film for the first time. The greatest thing about Young Frankenstein is that it is a comedy without being a comedy. The acting is done with a total straight face allowing the audience to laugh because it is funny, not because it is supposed to be funny. Even such gags as Dr. Frankenstein stopping a revolving wall happen off screen. The comedy is implied as we see Wilder spinning and moving into position. The audience is left to imagine the impact and the aftermath is priceless. That scene makes me laugh every time and I don’t even see what I am laughing at.

The only copy of this film I had was a non-anamorphic DVD copy and it just wasn’t cutting it. Now, with this Blu-ray release I get an anamorphic widescreen transfer that fills every pixel of my plasma and it looks and sounds fantastic with a DTS-HD soundtrack and brand new features to add to the enjoyment.

Outside of the film itself, which is obviously the major treat, the best of the new features includes the all-new making of featurette “It’s Alive! Creating A Monster Classic” and the “Inside The Lab” picture-in-picture feature that can be played with the film or separately. Each includes all new onscreen interviews with the likes of Mel Brooks, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and composer John Morris. Everything is discussed from the film’s roots as it emerged from an idea Gene Wilder had on the set of Blazing Saddles, how Columbia lost the chance to release it to Fox and its lasting appeal as it is now an award-winning Broadway play. The only set back is that the late Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman aren’t still with us and Wilder himself is for some reason absent from the new interviews, only left to be seen and heard from in the archived featurettes. Has he gone into that drastic of seclusion?

Fans of John Morris’ score will be happy for the new featurette “Transylvanian Lullaby” as well as the isolated score track while watching the film. There is a trivia track that plays during the film with little factoids about everything having anything to do with the film and its source material, but it is, unfortunately, very difficult to read due to a red font on a very light background. They would have been far better off just going with black and forgoing style in this case because I had to turn it off as I was squinting too much to read what it said.

The outtakes have a few laughs and the 25 minutes of deleted scenes can be viewed in standard def and high def, not sure why anyone would decide standard over high, but that’s just me. Galleries, trailers and archived interviews make up the rest of the features outside of a “Blucher Button” Blu-ray exclusive feature that I never figured out what it did. Perhaps it isn’t compatible with the Playstation 3, but I had no luck with it.

None of these features matter though. They are an afterthought to the main attraction that is Young Frankenstein. Whether it is Igor’s crazy eyes, a horse’s whinny at the word Blucher, that puff of the cigarette Frau Blucher takes, Inga’s roll in the hay, “sedagive” or any number of quotable scenes from this flick (“I was going to make espresso”) you just have to watch it to become a fan. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this film. Gene Wilder is phenomenal and everything Marty Feldman does in this flick makes me smile. You may not be rolling on the floor with laughter, but the story, the music, the performances and the characters make this film a bonafide classic every movie fan should own. I am not a huge comedy fan, but that’s only because comedies nowadays are trying too hard. Young Frankenstein tries hard to make you laugh, but, unlike today’s comedies, it does it so well you can’t even tell. That is what makes it so good.

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