Tag Archive: Young Frankenstein


20th century fox cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

For a century, 20th Century Fox was a production machine, churning out volumes of motion pictures annually, but never achieving the greatness seen by the likes of MGM and Paramount.  Yet its key movie star assets, its box office successes, and award-winning films were few and far between.  In 20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio, writer Scott Eyman takes movie fans back to the beginning and introduces readers to sometimes successful, sometimes not successful businessmen who built theaters and the movies to screen in them, keying in on the mergers that brought William Fox, formerly immigrant Wilhelm Fuchs, to build a corporation that Darryl F. Zanuck would take through important decades of the 21st century.  Both film buffs and historians of the era of film’s Golden Age will find a history in Turner Classic Movies/TCM’s latest film production chronicle, connected by memorable films from its first Oscar-winner, 1927’s Sunrise, to its last, 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari, telling a story of the rise and fall of a movie empire.  TCM’s 20th Century-Fox is just out from publisher Running Press and available here at Amazon.

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It looks entirely like an experimental expressionistic film, something created by an aspiring filmmaker in film school, maybe an ambitious effort to create something historical and strange like Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.  Is production and costume designer-turned-director Robert EggersThe Lighthouse simply a horror movie about two lighthouse keepers or can we hope for something bigger, more of metaphor and allegory?  Shot in black and white 35mm film, the initial appeal is for anyone fond of classic black and white Gothic horror It’s billed as psychological horror, but will it feature psychological horrors of today or stick with more reserved terrors that reflect its more tempting, classic appearance?

The Lighthouse stars character actor Willem Dafoe, and co-stars Robert Pattinson in his most public role since the announcement he will don the cowl and cape in a forthcoming Batman movie.  Remember Michael Keaton releasing Beetlejuice, Clean and Sober, and The Dream Team with the new acting range spin to get us prepared to see him on the big screen as the dark knight detective?  Genre niche popularity of the Twilight series and his brief stint in the Harry Potter franchise aside, Pattinson hasn’t had the universal appeal and popularity Keaton had with Night Shift and Mr. Mom, making him a household name.  Can he convince fanboys and fangirls he has what it takes?  Can audiences push the future aside and appreciate The Lighthouse for whatever Eggers is trying to do?

As for Eggers, who co-wrote the story with brother Max, this is his second film after the Anya Taylor-Joy vehicle The Witch.  Here he’s trying that tried and re-tried convention of bringing black and white films to modern audiences.  It often works, as it did with popular and critical success for Paper Moon, Young Frankenstein, Raging Bull, Dead Again, Schindler’s List, The Artist, Logan Noir, and Roma.

Take a look at this nicely moody trailer for The Lighthouse:

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Last week The Princess Bride turned 30 and it returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies partnership (more classics are on their way to your local theater so keep an eye on the Fathom Events website for updates).  We’re big fans of The Princess Bride here at borg.com–more than five years ago it made 3 of our 4 lists of all-time favorite fantasy films.  This week’s screenings included Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director and producer Rob Reiner, and what shines through is Reiner’s enthusiasm for the film, three decades later.  He’s had several hits, from This is Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and The American President, and more, and now in theaters is his latest–LBJ.  But so few films are beloved like The Princess Bride.

Why does it work so well?  Part of the film’s success is due to its sincerity.  It’s true to its source material, William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride–the favorite of the author’s works.  Reiner tells a story of the difficulty in getting novelist William Goldman to sign over the film rights.  After countless big names were denied, Reiner was successful by agreeing simply not to change the story.  Goldman, who won Oscars for his screenplays to All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also penned the film adaptation, further ensuring his original vision.  The story is bookended as only a fairy tale could be told (with a few interruptions) by Peter Falk’s Grandpa and Fred Savage’s Grandson, just having storytime.  The Grandson’s 1980s room provides plenty of nostalgia for kids from the period–a “Refrigerator” Perry poster, a Cubs pennant, Burger King The Empire Strikes Back drinking glass, He-Man action figures–this Chicago kid had a fun room.  But the family bonding is the thing–an old book keeping a story that bridges generations, inside the movie and out, told by an old man with glasses, gray hair, and a fedora.  And the story is sweet and about love–nothing in the movie is embarrassing or gross or disturbing–it’s safe territory to kick back and have a good time–for everyone.

Rob Reiner’s humor must also be a big component of the film’s success and appeal.  His choices, his casting, his own humor comes through, no doubt influenced by a lifetime in film thanks to his comedy dad Carl Reiner.  Carl belonged to that classic comedy school that also includes Mel Brooks.  It’s Brooks’ Young Frankenstein that The Princess Bride reminded me of the most in the theater.  What Young Frankenstein was to classic monster movies, The Princess Bride was for the fantasy film genre.  Is The Princess Bride a parody?  It doesn’t have those obvious, direct ties to specific classic scenes like Young Frankenstein, but it’s an homage to several–from Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to Zorro and from Ivanhoe to Captain Blood and Sleeping Beauty.  The Pit of Despair, where Cary Elwes’s Dread Pirate Roberts is tortured, looks as if it could have been designed by the same crew as the laboratory set in Young Frankenstein (it didn’t but it did share its set designer–Richard Holland–with fantasy classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal).  But Rob Reiner’s humor is his own.  He never sits on a joke like the old masters of Hollywood comedy.  He leaves a laugh and keeps moving, which keeps in step with classic fantasyland storytelling.  You can laugh but the goal is the goal:  Rescue the Princess!

The classic archetypes are there: the Princess (Robin Wright), the Farmboy Hero (Elwes), the Three Woodsmen (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant), a Wizard (Billy Crystal), a Crone (Carol Kane), an Albino (Mel Smith), and plenty of Villains including the Evil King (Chris Sarandon)–with a classic “rescue the Princess” plot.  But the movie is also unique.  What else has Rodents of Unusual Size?  The accents of Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman?  An ad-libbing Billy Crystal partnered with a wonderfully badgering Carol Kane (Humperdinck! Humperdinck!)?  A real giant?  Two brave, swashbuckling heroes and two key villains (don’t forget Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen).  And the quotable lines!  It surely has as many big lines as Caddyshack: As you wish… My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die… Never get involved in a land war in Asia!…  Inconceivable!…  I do not think that word means what you think it means… Mawwiage! … And an endless litany of “boo”s.  The Pit of Despair!  The Cliffs of Insanity!

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Beware the light.

Review by C.J. Bunce

On first viewing of Logan, this year’s most critically acclaimed superhero film, a viewer may love it or leave it.  It’s not your typical Marvel Comics adaptation, full of f-bombs and the bloodiest of action and violence.  Yet it’s also a finely crafted final chapter to the successful X-Men film saga and a tribute to Hugh Jackman’s unprecedented nine-film run as Logan.  Last week 20th Century Fox showed a limited screening arranged by the director of Logan in black and white, called Logan: Noir.  The version is also included on the Blu-ray release available everywhere tomorrow.  If you haven’t seen Logan, skip the theatrical version and go straight to Logan: Noir and if you have seen Logan prepare for a completely different experience with this special edition of the film.

Logan: Noir would be more aptly titled Logan: Black and White, as this is not so much classic noir than a modern Western tale shown in black and white.  Thankfully writer/director James Mangold (Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine) carefully and elegantly filmed Logan with an eye for the stark contrasts that black and white film once regularly captured so well.  Parts of the film will reach into your chest and hold you breathless, revealing the full potential of a comic book based film–and more specifically a superhero film.

Its bleak, cold landscapes are evocative of a John Ford (Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Grapes of Wrath) Western.  Its slow, calculated scenic pans are something Stanley Kubrick (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove) could only have hoped to have achieved in his early work.  Inasmuch as Hugh Jackman is a classic, Western, antihero archetype in his so-far-gone, washed-up, tired and grizzled Logan–former Wolverine of the X-Men–he appears far lonelier and resigned to a dismal, unrelenting future in black and white.  The cold contrasts in this Logan somehow create a vision more true to the Old Man Logan of the comic book source material.

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Universally acknowledged as one of the best comedy, parody, science fiction, and monster movies of all time, Young Frankenstein is back tonight for one showing in theaters across the country.  Following on this past August’s news of Gene Wilder’s death, this month’s release of the first major behind-the-scenes look at the film (previewed here at borg.com), and being the prime month for monster movies, it’s the perfect time to view Young Frankenstein like audiences did when it premiered back in 1974.

Even as a young kid I laughed out loud at the Mel Brooks classic, whether I knew the meaning of all the jokes or not–it’s one of those films with clever writing that results in good fun for all audiences.  Five years ago this month it made my top 10 list of best films for Halloween viewing.  My own nephews are big fans as well–the humor still holds up more than four decades later.  And, heck, Peter Boyle’s monster is even in our own borg.com Hall of Fame!
If you go, be prepared to witness a dream team of comedy: Actors no longer with us including Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, and Boyle, and those still with us, including the great Cloris Leachman and Teri Garr, all at the top of their game.  Plus a bonus–one of the best cameos ever–by Gene Hackman.
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So what are you waiting for?

Stir Crazy

The borg.com flag is flying at half staff today in honor of Gene Wilder, one of America’s finest comedy actors.  He passed away at 83 years old yesterday in Connecticut.  We all benefitted through his unique style of humor, often playing the straight man stuck in outrageous circumstances.  He may very well be America’s best comedic actor, as demonstrated by his starring role in three of the top thirteen comedies on the American Film Institute’s list of the funniest movies of all time (Blazing Saddles at #6, The Producers at #11, and Young Frankenstein at #13).  And a fourth, Silver Streak, was listed as #95.  Also, nominated?  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Stir Crazy, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.  Basically every film he was known well for was pure comedic gold.

Wilder’s breakthrough performance was as an unassuming fellow in the wrong place at the wrong time in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), one of the AFI’s top 50 films of all time.  His partnership with Mel Brooks was legendary, arguably producing the films he will always be best known for:  The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Young Frankenstein (1974).  But you can’t stop there.  There are his films directed by Arthur Hiller (who died earlier this month): Silver Streak (1976) and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).  And he directed himself and familiar circle of comedic actors in films like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), The World’s Greatest Lover (1977), The Woman in Red (1984), and Haunted Honeymoon (1986) with wife Gilda Radner.  And he has become a fixture with two generations of children as Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

Wilder gif

He worked with all sorts of familiar names, starring in Funny About Love (1990) directed by Leonard Nimoy, and co-starred with Harrison Ford in The Frisco Kid (1979).  He worked under director Sydney Poitier in two films, Stir Crazy (1980) and Hanky Panky (1982), also with Radner.  Wilder’s films with Richard Pryor are practically their own sub-genre of comedy.  They worked together in Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991).  But it doesn’t stop there.

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Young Frankenstein clip

Mel Brooks is finally letting us peek behind the curtain of the original cyborg send-up.  Forty-two years after its release Young Frankenstein is still a classic–a horror comedy like no other.  An homage that is every bit as cinematic in quality as its source material, Young Frankenstein is coming to a bookstore near you.

Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film is Mel Brooks’ own look back at the film he was the most proud of.  Full of anecdotes and more than 225 photos, many rarely seen, plus cast interviews, this new work will be a must read for Mel Brooks fans.

Brooks is of course a comedy genius.  Three of Brooks’ films have been featured on the American Film Institute’s 100 best comedies of all-time: Blazing Saddles at number 6, The Producers at number 11, and Young Frankenstein at number 13.  Brooks is also famous for The Twelve ChairsSilent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World, Part I, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Young Frankenstein book

Young Frankenstein starred a dream team of comedic actors: Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, and the late Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, and Marty Feldman.  And Gene Hackman.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

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Funko is on its way to becoming one of the giant toy companies.  Did Ideal, Hasbro, Kenner, and Mattel start like this?  Just look at not only all of its licensed films and television series, but at the breadth of the types of figures it offers.  We’ve discussed at length the Funko ReAction line, but their most popular line is the Funko Pop! series of large, squat bobblehead figures, and Funko also produces a Fabrikations line, Mystery Minis, and a high-quality sculpted Legacy action figure line.  Now there is another Funko line of figures–the Vinyl Idolz–with some interesting licensed films represented.

Just as Jaws is a blockbuster genre classic, so is Young Frankenstein for fans of comedies, listed as #13 on the American Film institute’s roster of the funniest American movies.  The Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired sculpt style for Vinyl Idolz is a good fit for Young Frankenstein.  But there’s more–a Shaun of the Dead line is also simply brilliant.  Also look for the strangest combination of shows in a toy line we’ve ever seen: Back to the Future, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the original Ghostbusters trio, The Walking Dead, Dodgeball, Napoleon Dynamite, the 1960s Batman TV series, Say Anything, Hot Fuzz, and even the strange, non-lead regulars of Seinfeld.

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After the break, check out images of several of the new figures.  Click on each to learn more and order or pre-order them at online superstore Entertainment Earth.

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Blade Runner one-sheet John Alvin   Young Frankenstein one-sheet John Alvin

Back in early 2012 we reviewed one of several books released on movie poster artist Drew Struzan, a useful and interesting resource called The Art of Drew Struzan, reviewed here.  It chronicles the best of painted motion picture advertising one-sheets that Struzan created, and even more enlightening, includes commentary by Struzan about his process and the politics and business of his years of leading the craft.  The picture he painted wasn’t pretty, but despite his own roadblocks he is generally thought of as the best motion picture poster artist of the last 50 years.

Along with Struzan, another poster artist created posters that often could be confused for Struzan’s.  That was the late poster artist John Alvin.  Unfortunately Alvin did not document his own personal account of his creative and professional experiences, but his wife Andrea has put together a book that at least documents his most popular work, released this month by Titan Books as The Art of John Alvin What we don’t know from any of the books we’ve reviewed on poster artists is how they might have competed for work over the years.  Andrea Alvin makes no mention of Struzan, but seems to indicate Alvin was able to keep a nice niche of clients over the years, ranging from the decision-makers behind the movies of Mel Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, and the renaissance of animated Disney blockbusters.

ET one-sheet John Alvin   Empire of the Sun one-sheet John Alvin

Alvin’s work seems far more commercial compared to the paintings of Struzan, as can be seen in Alvin’s posters for Empire of the Sun (1987), Cape Fear (1991), Batman Returns (1992), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), and Batman Forever (1995).  But that doesn’t mean they were any less effective at drawing moviegoers to the theater, the entire point of the poster.  The one-sheet for Empire of the Sun is often seen as one of the most memorable images in the history of movie posters.

The power of much of Alvin’s posters is the simplicity.  In 1982 when the public first learned of a movie called E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, the only thing we knew was a newspaper ad showing a wrinkled alien hand touching the hand of a kid, inspired by Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.  His teaser poster was equally as effective—never did these pictures show E.T. himself.  Those same images were reproduced on movie posters, cardboard standees, and eventually all over picture books sold via school book orders.  Simple images, but lasting images, and what they didn’t show was part of the enticement to reel in an audience.

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i-frankenstein moving poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

I, Frankenstein is a fantasy-horror motion picture released earlier this year, based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux.  Starring Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Bill Nighy (Underworld, Shawn of the Dead, State of Play), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings), and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher), all signs pointed to the possibility that the film could be minimally watchable.  But retellings of classic monster stories are tough to get right.  In our ongoing pursuit at borg.com to identify the best of Blu-ray 3D home video we screened I, Frankenstein in Blu-ray 3D.  Despite having some pretty stellar 3D special effects, the film unfortunately can’t overcome its thin effort to retell the Frankenstein story.

With creators of Underworld behind the scenes, it’s no wonder this film has the look of that franchise.  It also shares the same dark vibe as the respectable and fun monster mash-up Van Helsing.  But its clunky twist on Frankenstein’s monster isn’t saved by the serious acting of lead Aaron Eckhart, or the quality bad guy villainy portrayed by Bill Nighy.

Adam Frankenstein

Good monster retellings?  Try Young Frankenstein (1974), Phantom of the Opera (2004), Van Helsing (2004), the American Werewolf series, Wolf (1994), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), The Mummy (1999), and the short-lived Dracula (2013) TV series.  These all show how retellings of classic monster stories can be done right.

Nicely done action sequences and fiery explosions?  It’s got ’em.  Beautifully-rendered, in-your-face 3D?  It’s got that, too.  And if you only want to watch special effects with the backdrop of a classic, then this may be something for one of those moments.

But I, Frankenstein is about a legion of gargoyles and their gargoyle queen (Miranda Otto) who are in a battle with demons under the control of a demon prince played by Nighy, posing as a modern-day biotech businessman.  Nighy’s character wants Dr. Frankenstein’s journal, to be able to resurrect soulless bodies for demons in hell to fill.  Otto’s character attempts to recruit Frankenstein (the monster has taken his creator’s name) to her cause, even giving him the rather silly name of Adam (which nobody else ever uses). Hundreds of years after their initial meeting, Frankenstein and the gargoyle queen reunite in the present day (still wearing the same costumes).

Huh? 

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