Monday, October 13, 2008

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (Mel Brooks, 1974, USA) Mel Brooks creates a post-modern pitch-perfect parody of the gothic horror genre as young Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Frönkensteen!) is called home to Transylvania to settle his mad grandfather’s estate. Brooks films in traditional black and white to produce an eerie unsettling and dislocated era: it begins in a modern college classroom then travels to the fog enshrouded moors of the late 19th century, a castle perched ominously above an archaic village. His use of the original set pieces from FRANKENSTEIN adds a humorous surrealism to the narrative. He also plays with conventions such as hidden passageways, secret diaries, and the ubiquitous anger of mother nature whose electric temper commands the monster to life. Rioting torch-bearing townsfolk, music to calm the savage beast, Igor the hunchbacked assistant and the beautiful Inga are superficial allusions to a long dead genre. Comedy is horror run amok, and to combine the two genres successfully is a masterstroke of genius: here, the beautiful cinematography captures the haunting atmosphere while the deadpan acting imbues the characters with believability, coalescing into a rather well written and mysterious narrative. Puns and witticisms aside, the basic premise is well though out and explored: Frederick regrets his family’s brutal past and wishes to accomplish his work through legitimate research. He fears to regress into the madness of his forefathers. Typical of Mel Brooks, the film often breaks the fourth wall and involves the audience in the charade with subtle winks and nods, inciting laughter at the absurdity of genre stereotypes. Young Dr. Frankenstein completes his uncle’s Promethean work but must sacrifice part of his intellect to save his creation. But what does he get in return? I suppose Inga is in for a BIG surprise! (A)

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