When Mel Brooks was good (Young Frankenstein) he was very, very good. When he was bad (Spaceballs), it was uncomfortable to watch. In 1974, though, Brooks reached the zenith of his career, releasing both Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Now, that was a year.
One of the reasons YF was so good was who was in the cast, and who wasn’t. Gene Wilder was magnificent as the good doctor, and he also co-wrote the movie. Marty Feldman was the perfect Igor, Teri Garr was fetching as the lovely Inga, and Cloris Leachman stole the show as the spooky Frau Blucher. So whose omission from the cast made the movie better? Mel Brooks. He had a tendency to think he could act, which was a serious miscalculation.
It helps if you’ve seen the classics: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Son of Frankenstein. Brooks actually did a great job of recreating the settings, music, and cinematography of those movies for comic effect. And if you like fast wordplay and visual puns, Young Frankenstein has them in spades. (Dr. Frankenstein and Inga are standing in front of huge castle doors. Dr. Frankenstein: “What knockers!” Inga: “Why thank you, Doctor.”)
Young Frankenstein was number 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies, and also was on Bravo’s list of 100 Funniest Movies. Here’s my favorite scene from the movie: