Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein (1974)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn
Extras: Commentary Track, Isolated Score, Trivia Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Interviews, Galleries

One of the funniest films ever made and clearly Mel Brooks' crown jewel, "Young Frankenstein" has made it to Blu-Ray Disc just in time for Halloween. The splendid homage to the classic horror films of the 30s and 40s, arrives in a full-blown special edition with a solid number of extras, making it even more exciting.

Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a descendant of the infamous Baron Victor Frankenstein, creator of artificial life in Mary Woolstonecraft-Shelley's classic novel. As do a great many others, he despises his great grandfather's attempts to alter nature and has become a doctor in his own right. Then, through an unexpected inheritance, he discovers that he owns Victor Frankenstein's castle, deep in the heart of Transylvania. He travels there and soon discovers his ancestor's private library with all the documentation of his work. With the help of his hunchback assistant, Igor (Marty Feldman), and the bodacious Inga (Teri Garr), Frankenstein begins the process of breathing life into his own creature (Peter Boyle). Something goes wrong however and the creature turns out to be a monster… desperate for love!

Don't be surprised if this story sounds somewhat familiar to you. "Young Frankenstein" is Mel Brooks' and Gene Wilder's homage to the classic Universal "Frankenstein" movies and filmmakers of silent horror movies like Lang, Dreyer and Murnau. Paying tribute to these influential films and directors, Brooks is very careful and serious about what he does. The film was shot entirely in glorious black & white and its cinematography is absolutely charming. You will see many image compositions that could have been directly lifted from one of those classic movies, though Brooks never plagiarizes. Brooks and his cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld successfully employed a series of traditional movie-making techniques in order to match the visual style of the films of the era. As tribute to their efforts, the film never appears "modern" and always maintains the desired moody, gothic feel.

Every director has a film that defines his career. "Young Frankenstein" is this gem in Mel Brooks' crown, and still ranks as his best film ever. It carries all of his trademark off-the-wall humor, a mixture between slapstick and outrageous silliness, and tops it all off with a good portion of gripping drama. The film is never shallow, and generally stays away from really cheap jokes. Even after seeing the film for the umpteenth time, it makes you crack up over and over again and the humor never wears off. The story surrounding the events depicted is highly dramatic and portrayed in a breathtaking production. The film would be nowhere nearly as good without the absolutely splendid acting of its cast, who carry the humor. Gene Wilder has never been better and his eyes sparkle with excitement, genius, and lovable madness. Marty Feldman lines up one joke after the other while Teri Garr, as the naïve and innocent Inga, brings an overt sensuality to the film that was missing from the originals. The characters are bursting of energy and literally bubble over with excitement. It is hard to put into words but you have to see the full-bodied acting the cast puts in to this film to appreciate the depth "Young Frankenstein" has. Even the smallest supporting parts – most notably Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars – are perfectly cast and acted, resulting in an enjoyable film that easily measures up with today's most hip comedies. As a matter of fact, it redefines the term "comedy" to an extent, because films like "Young Frankenstein" just aren't made anymore these days. Just drop the disc in your player, sit back, enjoy the ride and you will see what I mean. I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience, and many of the film's marvelous jokes and one-liners will be sticking around your head forever, together with the superb images Mel Brooks is conjuring up in this film.

If you expect nothing but the best, you go it right here. However, it may not be as blatantly obvious as you may expect. Let me explain. In order to reproduce the look and feel of the classic horror films, Mel Brooks and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld used a film stock that is grainy at times, as grain was an essential part of these classic films. Many of those period movies had very stark contrasts with blacks that seem to go a bit over the edge. Once again Brooks has embraced that look and reproduced it in "Young Frankenstein," offering up certain shots in which shadows simply disappear in a uniform blackness. It is imperative to understand that all of that is intentional. So when you insert this Blu-Ray Disc in your player you may immediately notice a bit of grain but instead of dismissing it as a "poor" transfer you should be thankful that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has decided to transfer the film over exactly as it was supposed to be seen – grain and all. Remember this film is supposed to be a throwback and look like a movie from the 30s and not some brand new all-digital production. With all that in mind you will take a look at this transfer in a new light and be amazed how perfectly everything has been brought across. The super-deep blacks, the grain, the softness at times, the brutally stark contrasts, everything. I simply love it. Add to it the incredible detail that comes with the 1080p transfer and you will notice a lot of little things in the image you have probably never seen before.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio Lossless track is supporting the movie and it is a cool presentation also. While the film is not making aggressive use of surround channels, usage is generally good and constantly there, just in an understated manner. again keep in mind that the whole experience of the film is supposed to recreate a 30s movie and they simply did not have surround technology back then.

In terms of the extras, the release holds a great mix of old and new materials. First up there is the trusty commentary track by Mel Brooks, as previously heard on DVD. I have listened to this track countless times and still I find it informative and entertaining, so check it out.

Also included is a new trivia track that is filled with wonderful tidbits about the movie, its production, the cast and the movie's it is paying homage to. Wonderful pieces of information there, too.

Another very nice extra included is the movie's isolated score, combined with a new high definition featurette on the subject as well, called "Transylvanian Lullaby."

Also look for a new featurette, filled with interviews, that is called "It's Alive!" Presented in high definition it is a wonderful retrospective look at the making of the movie featuring interviews with many of the cast and crew members.

Let's see, what else is there. The Outtakes from the previous DVD are there, as well as the Deleted Scenes however, they are supplemented by additional scenes, presented in high definition also.

Further you will find older interviews with some of the cast members, including Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder and Cloris Leachman on the disc and the "Making Frankensense of Young Frankenstein" featurette from the Special Edition DVD.

There are many more bonus features on the disc, such as the Blucher Button, Galleries and probably some other things I forgot — all of it, quality material that is well worth seeing.

If you have never watched "Young Frankenstein", you just don't know what you've been missing. The film is one of the best comedies of all time, and no matter how many times you watch it, it never becomes boring. For some reason you always detect something hilariously new, something you have completely missed numerous times before. Not only is the film crazy with slapstick humor, it also has a lot of emotional impact on the viewer and creates a dramatic curve that is just as strong as those of the original Frankenstein movies.

Available now in high definition, this disc is an incredible upgrade from the previous DVD versions. Not only is the feature presentation spectacular – complete with a lossless DTS audio track, but there are so many cool bonus materials on the disc, many of them brand new and in high def, that grabbing this disc should be a no-brainer for an fan of Mel Brook's picture-perfect parody.