"Young Frankenstein" on Blu-ray disc
Mel Brooks' Monster Hit
20th Century Fox video has done an excellent job of adapting this "monster hit," one of Mel Brooks' best offerings, to the Blu-ray medium, with lots of extra stuff added.
Brooks' 1974 black and white classic doesn't seem quite as funny today as it did on its original release. That said, however, it's still a relative hoot - full of the type of performances, lines and gags one expects from Mel Brooks. And that, at worst, translates to an enjoyable couple of hours in the home theater.
Gene Wilder, who conceived the project and co-wrote the screenplay, stars as the grandson of the infamous monster creator Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He inherits the not-so-good doctor's estate and, almost by osmosis, falls under the spell of his grandfather's life work and finally reproduces his studies into the reanimation of dead matter.
Not that the reanimation of the dead matter...
Peter Boyle plays the monster with a sympathetic touch reminiscent of Karloff's original portrayal - yet not without its share of yuks. Teri Garr, as Wilder's lab assistant, Marty Feldman as the hunchback Igor, and Cloris Leachman as - well, the "mysterious housekeeper" - all turn in fine comedic performances, mostly by playing things straight. Madeline Kahn is also along for the ride as Wilder's finance Elizabeth - not a major role, but she makes her presence felt.
We seem to remember laughing at this movie a lot more when it was newer, but that didn't prevent us from enjoying the special edition BD. Overall, Brooks, along with his cast and crew, have done a good job at sending up a classic movie genre (which seems to be that for which Brooks movies are most well known), not only via the performances and screenplay but through cinematography, music, sets, etc.
The Blu-ray is quite deluxe. It's presented in 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), and the picture is disappointing in that it's very grainy throughout. On the other hand, this does fit with the attempt to make the film appear like on from the 1930's, so in the end we forgave the grain.
Audio is dts HD Master Audio and it's basically mono, but that also fits. Audio quality isn't outstanding but, as with the video, we forgave it.
You get plenty of extras to sweeten the deal, too. There's a commentary track on which director Brooks prattles on in his inimitable style about the movie, the production, and the people in it. It gives some nifty insight into how this man's mind works.
Other features include "Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas in the Making of Young Frankenstein", a "Franken-track" trivia track, the Blucher Button (press it and you hear those horses neighing), "It's Alive! Creating a Monster Classic", an interesting documentary on the film, and a feature on the music of John Morris, Brooks' longtime collaborator.
There's also outtakes, interviews, an isolated musical score track, deleted scenes, and much more.
from 20th Century Fox Home Video
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.