Mel Brooks John Russell Taylor - Essay

John Russell Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Young Frankenstein] is remarkably restrained considering that Brooks made it with the triumphant commercial success of Blazing Saddles under his belt; and that, it seems to me, gets across mainly by taking easy targets and bludgeoning them mercilessly until the last, dullest member of the audience must have seen the joke. The classic horror movie would seem to offer targets just as obvious. But evidently Brooks has more sympathy for it than he does for the Western, and a lot of the sympathy and enjoyment comes through. This time we are dealing with the story of the Baron Frankenstein's grandson, a humble, sane anatomy teacher who just wants to forget his family's reputation—until, that is, he arrives at the castle and falls under the spell of his grandfather's books and machines (the originals from [director] James Whale's day).

The gags are nearly all of the very slowburn variety rather than the straight belly-laugh…. No good to describe, but perfect examples of the 'it was funny when he did it' syndrome. And the film itself, shot in black and white which has deliberately been given the grainy, faded quality of the average print of a horror classic as we now see them, has often an uncanny look of James Whale at his best. To appreciate Young Frankenstein fully, you have to be pretty well acquainted with his legitimate grandfather. (pp. 125-26)

John Russell Taylor, in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1975 by The British Film Institute), Spring, 1975.