TBT – Young Frankenstein (1974)

classic, films, Frankenstein, fucking funny, Gene Wilder, Halloween, horror, Mel Brooks, parody, reviews

Halloween is fast approaching and, if I were any kind of film blogger, then I’d be using this post to review a classic horror film. However, I am always held back by the fact that I’m something of a wimp. I’ve never been a big fan of the horror genre and have avoided many of them. It’s not the violence as much as it is the jump scares. It doesn’t take a lot to have me leaping out of my seats so I’m constantly on edge. This is bad enough in non-traditional horror films, like Alien or something, so how would I cope watching a film that was created with the sole intention to scare the shit out of me. It’s not something I’m very proud of but I am what I am. There are some notable exceptions, obviously, but I tend to just let the biggest horror sensations pass me by. Really, though, I have no real interest in being scared. I don’t want to pay to see how far a writer will go to try and terrify people willing to pay for the experience. I know certain people enjoy the rush of watching these films but I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because it’s harder for me to go back to normal and turn off the fear response? Who knows. Whatever the reason, I just never have a desire to
watch horror films so, in order to celebrate this time of year, I’m doing the genre the only way I know how: by watching a parody of it.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of my favourite books. It helps that I was tasked with reading it for every year I was at university but it was something I was more than happy to do. Shelley’s story has been described as the birth of science-fiction because of her tale of a scientist raising the dead. However, it was the inspiration for plenty of classic horror films from as early as 1910. The character of the monster went on to frequent many films, which gave rise to the mistake that it is the monster and not the Doctor who is Frankenstein. But that’s not really important. Despite the sheer number of Frankenstein films that already existed, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder decided that there was room for another. This time about a member of the family who does everything he can to get away from his family’s chequered past.

The Young Frankenstein of the title is Frederick Frankenstein, a professor who is so ashamed of his infamous grandfather, the Victor of Shelley’s novel, that he changes the pronunciation to ‘Fronkensteen’. Until the moment that he is presented with his grandfather’s will and he makes an unwelcome return to Transylvania. There he discovers Victor’s old notebooks that describe the process for reanimating a corpse. Very quickly, Fronkensteen is starting up the old family business and robbing corpses and brains in the name of science. All of this with the help of his trusty lab assistants, Igor, son of Victor’s own servant, and Inga, the busty babe who quickly catches his eye. There’s also the slight problem of the townsfolk who don’t trust Frederick and a monster that constantly escapes from the castle.

Young Frankenstein is a silly but incredibly shrewd parody of the classic horror films from the 1930s-50s. Brooks and Wilder created a script that played up on the traditions whilst cleverly working against them. It is Mel Brooks at his greatest. The whole thing looks and feels just like the films it is trying to copy. All of the techniques, visuals and sets are exactly the kind of thing you’d see in films like James Whale’s Frankenstein. It looks completely realistic, which not only makes it feel familiar but also makes it funnier. It’s a carefully crafted and intelligently made film. It works as a parody but also works as a story in itself. Young Frankenstein is a funny film. Yes, not everything works completely and there are definitely funnier Brooks films out there. That doesn’t mean the comedy isn’t there. Even the most obvious humour works here. There are moments that you shouldn’t want to find hilarious but just work. It may not have the sheer thrills of the normal fair you’d watch on Halloween but it’s definitely worth a watch.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, comic book, currently reading, DC, Gene Wilder, recently watched, Roald Dahl, sci-fi, Stephen King
I feel like I’m never going to get over this cold. I’m getting sick of feeling sorry for myself and being so melodramatic all the time. However, I swear that my head has been full of concrete for the past few days. It’s the kind of cold that kids me into thinking I’m okay when I first wake up but comes back with a vengeance as the day goes on. It doesn’t help that the kitchen has been fucking boiling lately. I honestly dream of getting a job that doesn’t require me to work in a similar environment to Satan himself. How long until the comforting chill of Winter? Seriously, I need to get my knitwear out. This sun is doing nothing for me anymore.

Just Finished
  • End of Watch by Stephen King

Finally finished this book this morning and I feel free! I realise that this isn’t the worst novel that Stephen King has written or will ever write. However, I think the massive change of direction in the final piece of the trilogy is just unnecessary. If we’d had paranormal elements through the previous books it would be fine but to suddenly change from crime thrillers to this was just odd.

Recently Purchased

  • The Night Manager by John LeCarre
Despite it boasting Tom Hiddleston in various states of undress, I never watched the BBC’s adaptation of John LeCarre’s The Night Manager. I’ve actually not read any of his books but, as he’s one of my father’s favourite writers, have always felt that I should. So, when Waterstones released an image of their beautiful special edition of this book I couldn’t stop myself. You’ll no doubt see it on my Instagram as soon as it arrives because it is a thing of beauty. I don’t even care if I read it or not.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Penguin Modern Classics Edition)
Back in 2014, Penguin released this Modern Classics version of Dahl’s famous children’s book and there was much controversy around it. The cover photo showed a young girl in heavy make-up that many people declared was too sexual and creepy. Yes, the picture is creepy but I never understood the massive outcry surrounding it. I think. as Penguin stated, the cover highlights the darkness and creepiness that is always bubbling under the surface of Dahl’s novels. I loved the cover and vowed to get my hands on it asap. When it got to the release, I wasn’t quite as passionate and it’s taken until now to finally come good on my promise. 
  • Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Sci-fi isn’t really a genre that I tend to read too much of despite how much I love films and TV shows in that area. I tend to find that the bad ones are so bad that it puts me off. However, I was so intrigued by the sounds of this Arthur C Clarke Award winner that I tried desperately to track it down in my local bookshops. As I mentioned in this week’s top 10 list, it turns out this was a much more difficult task than I’d anticipated so I turned to Amazon to help me out. Hopefully this can open me up to a world of books that I generally avoid. 

Recently Watched
  • Suicide Squad
Didn’t think I’d ever watch this film. I did. And I reviewed it on Tuesday.
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil
When it came to my TBT this week I decided that I wanted to honour Gene Wilder by watching one of his comedies. Unfortunately, as I’m still feeling ill and exhausted, I lacked the will-power to track down a copy of one of the good ones. Maybe I’ll try a better one this week?

TBT – See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

buddy comedy, crime, fucking awful, Gene Wilder, in memoriam, murder, Richard Pryor, TBT

Last week the great Gene Wilder died at the age of 83. Whilst the news was upsetting, I have to admit that a part of me thought he was already dead. Plus, in the ensuing days it really showed me that my ability to differentiate between Gene Wilder and Gene Hackman was sorely lacking. I lost count of the number of times I confused those two. Now, when a colleague mentioned the news the other day she referred to it as “the death of Willy Wonka”. Now, because I never miss a chance to argue with people, I declared this as being an insult to an actor with so much talent. What of his work with Mel Brooks and his films with Richard Pryor? Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka is iconic, no doubt, but he is more than that. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever really liked Wilder’s interpretation of the owner of the world famous chocolate factory. I’m fucking stubborn and it didn’t fit with my idea of the book. Still, Wilder was a phenomenal performer and probably had a huge impact on many people’s childhoods. I even considered reviewing it for this post. However, I’ve always been a bit freaked out by that one fucking creepy scene on the boat and didn’t want to go through it again. Like the well-adjusted adult that I am. I also think, as adaptations go, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory isn’t as good as it could have been. As such, I’ve never been the biggest fan. So I turned to the ever reliable Netflix to see what alternatives I could find. Turns out, not many. Now, if I was a person with more time and less laziness I would have gone down the Mel Brooks route. Unfortunately, I’m not that person. Instead I’m the kind of gal that will pick one of his shitty comedies because of how easy it is to watch.


On paper See No Evil, Hear No Evil had huge potential for an 80s comedy film: Wally Krue, a blind man, gets a job at a newsstand working with the deaf Dave Lyons. Both men try their hardest to hide their disability and get by using their other senses. Dave manages by reading lips whilst Wally has learnt how to get around using his hearing. Clearly, when the pair come together they find each other making up for their own limitations and the way is left open for some incredible moments of hilarity. There are plenty of situations that the pair could have got themselves into to provide the audience with a laugh. The film had the makings of a fantastically silly comedy where two men come to terms with their own issues thanks to their new friendship.

Of course, See No Evil, Hear No Evil is not that kind of film. No, it was decided that the best thing to do with Wally and Dave is to get them mixed up in a shitty murder plot. Inspirational. When Wally’s bookie turns up a the newsstand demanding money he ends up being killed by a mysterious lady with great legs (Joan Severance). Thanks to their respective disabilities neither Wally or Dave are able to describe the killer and, thus, become implicated in the crime. Cue many repetitive moments where nobody remembers that you need to look at Dave for him to understand you. Meanwhile, it turns out the bookie was working with a couple of criminals to steal a coin, which is actual fact a microchip or some shit… not that it fucking matters that you know that. Great legs and her sidekick, a young, British-accented Kevin Spacey, follow the pair in order to retrieve their loot. Cut to many classic capers where the pair escape, get captured and escape again before making their way to the final showdown in a huge house in the middle of nowhere. This film has it all: a blind car chase; a kidnapped sister; mistaken identity; fake European accents; and angry guard dogs.

With that list I’d suggest that the plot is just your standard, paint by numbers 80s action/crime/comedy but that seems really unfair to other films of that decade. There’s nothing about the story that seems to have been put there to interest you. The narrative is patchy and the script is mostly awful. There are a few nice touches here and there but the majority of the stuff is just uninspiring guff. The only thing that makes this film even remotely successful is the partnership between its two main stars. See No Evil was Wilder and Pryor’s third outing together and they show the great chemistry that had made them such a hit with audiences before. The scenes in which the two are just talking are fantastic. It’s just a shame that they are over with so quickly. Clearly the director  believed we didn’t want sentiment but an endless stream of mindless nonsense… which is fucking insane.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil is hardly the worst film of its kind, especially when it comes to the 80s, but, considering who was starring in it and the exciting premise, it should have been better. Rather than being a clever comedy that uses the interesting dynamic between its two main characters, it settles down to be a cheap and easy comedy-crime caper. I wouldn’t exactly say that I wish I hadn’t seen or heard this film (because that would be both incorrect and vomit-inducing) but I wish I’d watched one of the better Pryor and Wilder pairings. The films boats an excessive 5 writers, including Wilder himself, so maybe that explains why the See No Evil script feels so disjointed. It’s like a patchwork quilt where the plots of several films all sewn together in a manner than was only just workable with various embellishments thrown in from several different people. It’s the kind of quilt you’d love because it was handmade but would definitely hide in you spare room so you didn’t ever have to see it. The film very often doesn’t make sense and logic is easily replaced with lame gags. I’d be okay with it if it was funny enough to make up for it but it’s just not. This film fails on nearly every count. Although, despite all of this criticism, it’s a great film to watch if you want to remember just how fucking awesome Gene Wilder is. It’s not many actors that could star in such shit and still make it work for them.