A lovingly crafted black and white parody of Frankenstein films from days gone by with a nice balance of silly and clever comedy mixed in to tell this story.
The plot finds a science teacher descended from the crackpot schemes of Dr. Frankenstein travelling to his grandfather’s home in Transylvania where he soon takes up on the idea to reanimate dead tissue too and what follows is his desire to make the creature loved and appreciated as a study of science.
The way it looks helps throwback to the heyday of 1930’s monster movies with the style of black and white and wipes to carry out scene transitions. It works well in creating a moody atmosphere that does look and feel like an old movie produced by the Hollywood studios in their era of releasing horror/monster films such as Frankenstein and Dracula. There’s a few references to the Frankenstein films also including the appearance harking back to the Bride of Frankenstein. The wipes do become increasing in number and more silly as they split into four or expand from the shape of a heart but that’s part of the joke in poking fun at that mode of filmmaking. There’s great shots in seeing shadows and the realistic filming helps boost the comedy as it doesn’t come across as being too try hard. The castle and village sets are all helpful in making the movie feel more real, it’s finding comedy in being true to the kind of genre film it’s aiming for.
Gene Wilder plays the grounded and then elevating degree of mad scientist well with a knack for comedy and hitting the right timing to make the joke or visual land. He has a look about him that works for this character and he is utterly brilliant if not a little outshone by the performance of Marty Feldman who plays the knowing and buffoonish Igor. The looks to camera break the fourth well and are probably the only weakness in the film I found as I didn’t think they needed to be in there as it made it feel like they knew they were being funny or making a movie. Feldman hunches over and characterises the servant superbly and added his own joke of the swapping hump. It’s part of his own look too that he makes Igor come alive, his huge eyes make him suit the odd character and his common voice makes it even funnier when he delivers a line with such a deadpan tone.
There’s a good blend of Carry On style humour such as the innuendos, slapstick with people walking into objects and female accomplices being cleavagey but it succeeds more with its intelligent side of comedy. This is found in the dart scene which goes on a while carrying on to the next shot as some are revealed to be protruding from a policeman’s helmet. The whinnying of the horses is also a lovely repetitive joke and then there’s the visual class of the monster and Frankenstein dancing. One of the best moments is Gene Wilder gesticulating wildly as he plays charades while being strangled. A hilariously stupid idea but acted by the three to top level standard.
It is a bit odd in not really setting up why Wilder’s character goes to the castle, first he gets a will and then he’s travelling to do some experiments, there’s no story link there and in some places the humour falls flat such as the police officer with the fake arm which grows tiresome. That’s about it for the negatives of the film though which shows how it’s still a funny story nowadays and becomes more charming because of its black and white makeover.
A clever and atmospheric goading of monster movies with the majority of jokes working in creating laughter whilst still telling a batty story of bringing a huge dead creature back to life.