Today, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein celebrates its 40th anniversary. As I wrote in my Stay Classy column commemorating the 40th anniversary of Blazing Saddles not that long ago, Young Frankenstein is a favourite of my dad’s, so I’ve seen it quite a few times. I can’t tell you how many times my dad has offered up his rendition of “Puttin on the Ritz” monster style. So to celebrate this huge milestone, let’s pay some respect to an American comedy classic (and my dad’s love of impressions).
Year released: 1974
How it fared back then: Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein was a bit of a rarity back in the 1970s. It used many of the lab equipment props used in the 1931 Frankenstein and as an homage to the earlier films, Brooks utilized 1930s-style opening credits and fade-to-black scene transitions. The film was a critical and box office success.
Why it’s lasted: Aside from the fact that it’s a Mel Brooks classic? Well the humour, while simple, is quite literally timeless. The “walk this way” pun has carried through the years throughout film and entertainment. The film was also made into a Broadway play in 2007, which opened to mixed reviews and lasted two years. Since hitting the box office fifty years ago, Young Frankenstein has been listed multiple times as one of the top American comedies of all time.
- Of course, the oh-so-well-known “walk this way” pun
- Baron von Frankenstein’s castle at the top of the hill, lit by “atmospheric discharges”
- Hilltop hopping up onto his feet to demonstrate the difference between voluntary and reflexive nerve impulses, and how motor nerve impulses can be blocked. At least the poor guy was paid an extra…dollar.
- The “proper” pronunciations of “Frahn-ken-steen” and “Eye-gore”
- “There wolf”
- Similar to Prince John’s moving mole in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, it’s hard to forget the ongoing joke with Igor’s moving hunch
- Frau Blücher’s repeated attempts to seduce Frederick, especially with the offer of Ovaltine (what could be sexier…)
- Inga and Dr. Frankenstein desperately trying to figure out the logistics of how to open the trick bookcase
- Igor as the “Freshly Dead” head—he brings a lot of spunk to that shelf
- Baron von Frankenstein’s very plainly labeled research journal: “How I Did It”
- Igor and Dr. Frankenstein’s attempts to fool the constable when wheeling around a dead body by passing off the corpse’s arm as their own
- What better way is there to save your own life when being strangled than to play a good old game of charades—luckily, his teammates were pretty good!
- An equally entertaining and terrifying rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz”
Does it still hold up?: Young Frankenstein may not be as widely favoured as Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles or even Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but it is still a Mel Brooks classic. For those who are fans, Young Frankenstein never gets old. This is another one of those instances when Brooks is at his best, and that’s why it’s a classic.