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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Young Frankenstein is a 1974 Mel Brooks movie that parodies the timeless monster story. Like all of Mel Brooks' movies, there is plenty of sexual innuendo here -- references to "a roll in the hay," "knockers," and the use of a German word that clearly means "penis." There is one scene in which Frankenstein's monster forces himself on Madeline Kahn's character in a way that could be interpreted as nonconsensual sex. However, it becomes consensual when she sees his penis and her pleasure is obvious when she starts to sing in an operatic voice. There is some profanity: "s--t," "bitch." There is also some comedic pratfall violence, as well as a scene in which a man is choked to death.
What's the story?
After denouncing his grandfather's work as "doo doo," YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, also known as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), receives word that he's inherited his famous ancestor's Transylvanian castle. There, with the help of his lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr) and pop-eyed hunchback Igor (Marty Feldman), he discovers a secret library containing his grandfather Victor's notes on how to bring the dead to life. The temptation is too great to pass up. In the renowned Frankenstein laboratory, young Frederick creates his own monster (Peter Boyle) and harnesses the power of an electrical storm to bring him to life.
Is it any good?
The gags might be lame, and the script is almost infantile, but if you thought this film was funny in 1974, you're just as likely to get a kick out of it today. There's an unembarrassed corniness about Young Frankenstein that generates plenty of belly laughs. The monster's "Puttin' on the Ritz" number will even squeeze smiles out of those not inclined toward Brooks' brand of humor.
The vaguely smutty jokes and sight gags will go over well with the teen crowd, but the comic talents at work here will appeal to all ages. Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and Gene Hackman comprise a comedy's dream cast. Peter Boyle brings an unexpected touch of dignity to the monster, and Gene Wilder is as charming and manic as he was in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mel Brooks fans will rejoice at the re-release of one of his funniest films.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about parody: is Young Frankenstein seemingly patterned after old horror films? How does it differ? Beneath the obvious ridiculing of old horror films, do you detect any sort of fondness for the genre?
What are your thoughts on the scene in which Frankenstein's monster pins down Madeline Kahn's character and seemingly forces her to have sex with him? Would a scene like this be in a contemporary comedy?
What are some of the ways in which the humor of the movie has held up, and where does it seem dated?
- In theaters: December 15, 1974
- On DVD or streaming: September 5, 2006
- Cast: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle
- Director: Mel Brooks
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book characters, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Character strengths: Compassion
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: parental guidance suggested
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