So, just fair warning, this one is gonna get a little bit deep, as so much of my connection to this involves my Dad, who passed away ten years ago, this very day (July 5th, 2012). To keep it simple, and not make things too heavy, he once told me that this was probably his favourite comedy of all time. It wasn't entirely surprising, but what stuck with me was that this was a movie we could share. This was something we could call "ours".
Truth be told, while he was still around, we didn't exactly match as far as various tastes were concerned. None of it stood out more than with film. I liked a lot of imagination and creativity in my movies and always saw their entertainment value. Dad was a little more on the classic side of things and enjoyed history, westerns, and war movies. This is not to say that we couldn't both be entertained by the same film, but we did reach a lot of conclusions of me being bored by his choices, and him thinking my choices were ridiculous (which, to be fair, a lot of them were). The TV show 'Community' was a massive example of this difference. I thought it had a lot of brilliance to its concept, and loved the episodes that would parody something familiar. Meanwhile, he honestly just thought it was terrible.
The underlying point I'm trying to make here is that with 'Young Frankenstein', I've claimed it as one of my all-time favourite comedies as well. So when I heard Dad mention this connection we had, it was a very warm and fuzzy feeling indeed. Truth be told, I often claim 'Men in Tights' to be my favourite among the Mel Brooks titles, but it was always a flip of the coin between this and that. Pushing this ahead, however, are both the connection with my father as well as some gags that 'Men in Tights' actually repeats - namely, the "walk this way" gag, and the "didn't you have that on the other side?" gag. Most would be familiar with the former, which this film actually came up with and inspired Aerosmith to write a song! Yes, that song!
When I first checked this out, I was still a kid. And despite generally having a solid memory of my past, I couldn't honestly tell you how old I was when I first saw this. Being a 1974 film, it was around eight years before I was even born, so we could have rented it at any time - especially with my Dad's feelings towards it, and the fact that it's actually quite family-friendly. Anyway, I had a good laugh right from the get-go, and just about 90% of that came from Marty Feldman's performance as Igor (pronounced "eye-gore"). This man was brand new to me, and I can still recall thinking to myself that he was a lot like a living Muppet.
Marty Feldman is still a man whose library I'm meaning to check out, and it all comes back to seeing this as a kid. The way he spoke so casually struck me because, at the time, I was familiar with 'Frankenstein's Igor (at least from cartoons) and how seemingly primitive and boring he was. But here was this guy with a British accent, and instead of saying things like "yes master", he was saying things like "you're puttin' me on". To this day, I consider him the best thing about this movie, but that's NOT at all to say that everyone else here wasn't any good. On the contrary, this whole cast is bloody hilarious, and the delivery of some of this dialogue while keeping straight faces is something to be admired.
Gene Wilder (who we have to thank for this movie's concept) is as likable as ever, going between casual and just plain mad. But then we have characters like Frau Blücher (*cue lightning crash and horses whinnying*) played by Cloris Leachman; one of the funniest women in the business' history, the Monster played by Peter Boyle (that's Frank from 'Everybody Loves Raymond' for anyone unfamiliar), the great Kenneth Mars as Inspector Kemp - a guy with a fake arm that just won't cooperate, the hilarious Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth; the Doctor's wife, and Teri Garr as Inga - the doctor's "roll-in-the-hay" assistant. Of course, I can't leave out Gene Hackman as a blind man trying to interact with the Monster - possibly the funniest part of the movie.
I think that to today's youth, a lot of the humour might be a bit lost on them. This is a lot of old-school humour that, while not necessarily offensive, might be a bit dated. For example, the "walk this way" gag has since been used time and time again so often that I think everyone knows exactly what the gag entails. But for me, this is still something I sort of treasure in a way. It was always one of my favourite comedies, but the connection I had between this and my father means a hell of a lot to me, and I'll think of him fondly every single time I give this a watch. I know this was a bit of a "share", and it might call for a pretty specific audience, but don't worry. The next film on the list is a little less Abbie Normal.