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review added: 5/2/00



Young Frankenstein
Special Edition - 1974 (1989/1999) - 20th Century Fox

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Young Frankenstein: Special Edition (new cover)
Re-release DVD Cover

Young Frankenstein: Special Edition (old cover)
Original DVD Cover
Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/D+/A

Specs and Features

106 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary by director/co-writer Mel Brooks, production featurette Making FrankenSense of Young Frankenstein, 7 deleted scenes, outtakes/bloopers, Mexican interviews, 5 theatrical trailers, 3 TV spots, production photos, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English, French, and Spanish (DD Mono), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned


"I am Frau Bluecher."

The ingredients for a successful comedy go way beyond the script. Directing and acting have a great deal to do with a winning film, and Young Frankenstein has it all. The brilliant script by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder has just the right amount of satire, silliness, and wit to make this film an enduring comedy classic. The casting is dead-on perfect, and the acting never seems phony and wooden like that of so many other comedies.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronckensteen", played by Gene Wilder) is the great grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, the man that went into graveyards, dug up freshly buried corpses, and transformed dead components into…"yes, yes - we all know what he did." Anyway, the young Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronckensteen") inherits his great grandfather’s castle in Europe, and decides to travel there to recreate the work of his mad relative (even though he has spent his life trying to escape the family reputation). The young doctor recruits the services of the humorous hunchback Igor (pronounced "Eye-gor", played by Marty Feldman) and the bueatiful Inga (Teri Garr) to assist him in his quest to reanimate the dead. Dr. Frankenstein (remember, it’s pronounced "Fronckensteen") creates a monster (played by Peter Boyle) that manages to escape and strike fear into the hearts of the townsfolk. The doctor must convince everyone that his creation is not evil and prove that he had the best intentions.

The story of Young Frankenstein follows the basic plot structure of Mary Shelley’s original novel fairly accurately, with Brooks and Wilder manipulating the story and introducing new characters so effectively, that you quickly stop comparing the film to other serious adaptations of the novel and simply sit back and enjoy the humor. The casting of this film is one of its strongest points. Gene Wilder plays the role of the mad doctor so well that the line between a serious performance and a comedic performance becomes blurry. Wilder seems to play the role naturally and provides an unexpected emotional energy. Marty Feldman absolutely steals this film, as the funnyman to Wilder’s straight arrow. Wilder does a great job of setting up a lot of jokes for Feldman, and Feldman picks them up and takes off running. His Igor is a loveable little man that can always find a bit of humor in any situation (along with a few brains).

The scene from Young Frankenstein that will forever stick out in my mind is, of course, Gene Hackman’s cameo as the lonely blind man (chapter 18). While the monster is roaming around the countryside, he happens upon a small cottage inhabited by a lonely, blind hermit desperate for companionship. Hackman’s performance as this overzealous hermit makes for some of the funniest moments ever captured on film - they're worth the price of this disc all by itself.

The DVD presentation of Young Frankenstein is, unfortunately, non-anamorphic widescreen (framed at 1.85:1). The black and white picture is actually pretty good, with a nice gray scale and solid blacks. As is the nature of many non-anamorphic transfers however, there is noticeable compression artifacting, jagged edges, and an overall soft quality to the picture that detracts from fine picture detail. The monaural soundtrack is edgy and thin. Fidelity is harsh, and everything from vocals to sound effects sounds too forward. Some could argue that the harsh, dated characteristic of the soundtrack adds an element of nostalgia to the movie (paralleling it to the famous 1931 Universal Pictures version of Frankenstein), but the soundtrack does have fidelity problems. While this movie does not command a powerhouse 5.1 remix, the main musical theme by John Morris is quite beautiful, and I would like to have heard a more graceful delivery.

If the audio and video on this DVD isn't perfect, the quantity and quality of the supplements more than make up for it. This is a full-fledged special edition of Young Frankenstein, offering a lot in the way of meaningful extras (note that there was an almost identical release of this disc in 1998, differing only in the cover art on the box - see above). The commentary by Mel Brooks is more an exercise in nostalgia, and he manages to mention the names of almost everyone associated with the movie. But the track is still worth listening to because it is relatively informative, and Mr. Brooks seems like a very kind and humble man who really enjoys what he does. The documentary Making FrankenSense of Young Frankenstein is also worth checking out. There are interesting interviews by members of the cast and crew, and it gives fans of this movie great insight into what went into its creation. Also available here are a bevy of deleted scenes, some of which are okay and some of which were thankfully excised from the final cut. The Mexican TV interview is a very unique feature that makes for a curious addition to the mix. While a little unusual to those used to the standard fare of DVD supplements, it's interesting to view and provides a break from the norm. There are also a number of TV spots and different theatrical trailers. Finally, there are outtakes and bloopers which are very funny and provide a great capstone to the comprehensive offering of supplements found on this disc.

Young Frankenstein has entertained all ages for the last quarter century, and remains required viewing for comedy lovers everywhere. The script is wonderfully zany and the casting is superb. While the video is acceptable and the audio is terrible, there are a plethora of wonderful supplements that will make Mel Brooks fans very happy little mad scientists. Don't miss it.

Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make espresso!

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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