YOUNG FRANKEN­STEIN Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s mon­ster mon­ster com­edy

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS -

A touch­ing trib­ute to Gene Wilder, still puttin’ on the Ritz.


in the early ’70s Gene Wilder was in the midst of a ca­reer slump might sound ab­surd. The string of flops he was en­dur­ing in­cluded the in­con­tro­vert­ibly bril­liant The Pro­duc­ers and the now cult hit Willy Wonka &

The Choco­late Fac­tory. Sure, peo­ple may love them now, but not many wanted to see them then. Off the boil as an ac­tor, it was both the worst and best time for Wilder to ven­ture into screen­writ­ing. On the down­side, no­body was re­ally watch­ing him. On the plus side, no­body was re­ally watch­ing him.

Wilder started play­ing with an idea he’d had for a lit­tle while: what if Vic­tor Franken­stein, the hero/vil­lain of Mary Shel­ley’s clas­sic novel

Franken­stein, had a grand­son who was em­bar­rassed by his an­ces­tor’s ex­per­i­ments with cut-and-shut ca­dav­ers? What if he wanted to lead a nor­mal life but was tempted back to his ge­netic destiny, fin­ish­ing what ol’ grand­pappy started, with the help of sundry id­iots in a spooky cas­tle? Dur­ing shoot­ing on Blaz­ing Sad­dles, which would soon be the mas­sive hit Wilder needed, not that he knew it at the time, he ap­proached that film’s di­rec­tor, Mel Brooks, with the sug­ges­tion of col­lab­o­ra­tion. Tick­led by the idea, Brooks agreed to co-write and di­rect. To­gether they con­structed one of the most in­ge­niously stupid films ever made.

Vis­ually, it’s a very calm film, with Brooks and DP Ger­ald Hirschfeld painstak­ingly recre­at­ing the stately cam­era work and el­e­gant black-and-white look that James Whale (di­rec­tor of the Boris Karloff Franken­stein movies) or Tod Brown­ing (who turned Bela Lu­gosi into Drac­ula) gave their 1930s Univer­sal hor­rors. If it weren’t it might not

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