Young Frankenstein appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Grain, thy name is Young Frankenstein!
Undoubtedly, that grain was the biggest potential issue on display here. Prior editions also exhibited a lot of grain, but the higher resolution of the Blu-ray exacerbated that tendency even more. I suspect that the movie used so much grain on purpose to match the 1930s style, but I can’t deny that it could be a distraction.
Source flaws were less consistent but present. Occasional examples of specks and marks cropped up during the film. These weren’t heavy, but they appeared enough to create some minor concerns.
For the most part, sharpness came across fairly well. The movie looked a bit loose at times, but not terribly so. Some mild examples of softness popped up at times, but most of the film looked reasonably concise and detailed. No problems with jagged edges, shimmering or edge enhancement occurred.
Black levels looked fine. The movie displayed decent contrast, and low-light shots were fairly clear and detailed, though they could be slightly murky at times. The flick went with a look that could appear overly bright, but that was another design choice to fit the movie’s cinematic inspirations.
Objectively, Young Frankenstein wasn’t a particularly attractive presentation, but I found it hard to penalize the transfer for that. As I noted, most of the issues I noted related to the source material. That said, I couldn't easily excuse the examples of softness and print flaws, so this ended up as a “B-“ presentation.
In addition to the film’s original monaural soundtrack, the Blu-ray featured a new DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. I always felt pretty pleased with the single-channel audio, and after a listen to the new version, I still prefer it. While the multi-channel audio was okay, I didn’t think it improved on the mono track, and it actually worked less well in some ways.
Audio quality suffered somewhat in the multi-channel mix. Speech remained fine, as lines were consistently warm and natural. However, music and effects appeared less enchanting. I thought those elements came across as somewhat distant and not particularly natural. Bass response tended to be boomy, so the various parts of the mix didn’t match the visuals in an especially convincing manner.
As for the soundfield, it opened things up in a mild way. Most of the expansion came from bits like thunder, trains and electrical elements; those used the side and rear speakers in a reasonably satisfying manner. Music showed decent stereo spread, though I didn’t think the instrumentation came across with particularly great delineation. The 5.1 track was acceptable but not especially strong.
How do the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD? In terms of audio, the two seemed similar – at least when it came to my preferred version. The DVD didn’t include a multichannel mix, and that was fine with me. I would rather go with the original monaural track; it sounded better and was preferable to the somewhat muddy DTS remix.
As for the visuals, the Blu-ray offered moderate improvements, as the new disc demonstrated somewhat superior definition and depth. However, this was one of those cases where the greater resolution of Blu-ray could actually create some distractions; grain looked heavier than ever and became a bigger issue. Nonetheless, the Blu-ray offered a better representation of the source and worked better than its DVD predecessor.
The Blu-ray takes the extras from the last DVD and adds new ones. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
First comes a running, screen-specific audio commentary from Mel Brooks. This guy's a legendary funnyman, so one would assume his track would be a riot, right?
Unfortunately, no. Honestly, I don’t consider it to be a bad commentary, as Brooks actually offers a fair number of informative tidbits along the way. However, he seems more interested in just reminiscing and he appears to get caught up in his reverie about how much fun those days were. I don't fault him that - those were probably very heady and enjoyable days for him – but it just doesn't make for a terribly interesting commentary. It's definitely worth a listen for fans, and Brooks tosses in a few funny comments, but for the most part it's pretty dull.
Called Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas in the Making of Young Frankenstein, a picture-in-picture feature accompanies the film. Or doesn’t, if you choose to watch the segments separately; the Blu-ray offers the 11 clips individually as well.
I appreciate that, as I prefer to view material like this in a fashion that doesn’t require me to sit through the entire movie. The 11 segments include “Sources of Inspiration” (5:23), “Transylvania Station” (3:52), “Grave Robbing” (1:18), “Stealing a Brain” (2:27), “The Creation” (2:51), “Inspector Kemp” (2:03), “The Monster and Helga” (1:54), “Harold the Hermit” (2:36), “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (2:54), “Storming the Castle” (2:08) and “The Monster’s Bride” (2:21). Across these, we hear from Brooks, film and theater composer/lyricist Marc Shaiman, James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters author James Curtis, film historian Scott MacQueen, Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara, Sledge Hammer! producer/creator Alan Spencer, choreographer Alan Johnson, stage actors Shuler Hensley, Fred Applegate and Sutton Foster, stage writer Thomas Meehan, stage director Susan Stroman, screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, and actors Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman.
The “Lab” pieces focus on the film’s that influenced Young Frankenstein and references to them, the flick’s development, sets, props, costumes and visual design, cast and performances, the choreography of the musical number, and a few other notes. Most of the clips start with reflections on the direct cinematic inspirations of Young Frankenstein, and those become the best aspects of “Lab”. Curtis and MacQueen provide good comparisons, and we see illuminating shots from the earlier films. The other aspects of the “Lab” are more erratic, partially because they often come across as ads for the stage version of Young Frankenstein. Still, the clips are short enough so that even the less compelling segments aren’t too painful, and the good bits are quite interesting.
Two compilations of unused footage appear. Seven SD Deleted Scenes run for a total of 16 minutes, 27 seconds. We see “The Reading of the Will” (7:33), “The Street Violinist” (2:20), “Inspector Kemp’s Arrival” (1:45), “Jack Sprat, the Highwayman” (1:01), “Frederick and Inga’s Intellectual Discussion” (1:51), “Frederick’s Late Night Visit to Inga’s Room” (0:50) and “The Actor’s Parade” (1:04). It's fairly obvious why these parts didn't make the cut; while they're funny, they don't add to the story, and probably would have slowed things down. That's especially the case for the “Will”; it's the most entertaining of the bunch, but almost eight minutes of it just would have been too much time for such a superfluous piece. “Parade” probably should’ve stayed, though, as it would’ve ended the film in a 30s-appropriate manner.
More cut material shows up via the 17 HD Deleted Scenes (25:01). Here we get “The Brain” (0:46), “The Brain (Alternate Take)” (0:57), “You Can Be a Frankenstein!” (1:18), “You Can Be a Frankenstein! (Alternate Take)” (1:46), “Abnormal Personality” (2:26), “Abnormal Personality (Alternate Take)” (1:42), “Unloved” (0:44), “Presenting the Creature” (3:34), “Presenting the Creature (Alternate Take)” (2:28), “Inga Offstage” (1:32), “Inspector Kemp” (2:27), “Igor at the Piano” (1:51), “Igor at the Piano (With Direction from Mel Brooks)” (0:45), “Termites” (0:36), “To the Castle!” (1:24), “Stall Them!” (0:14) and “Are You Happy You Married Me?” (0:31).
Like their lower-resolution siblings, these clips tend to be entertaining. Also like the other clips, these probably wouldn’t have helped the movie. Young Frankenstein already has so much going for it that it’s hard to imagine these different sequences would’ve made it better. They’re fun to watch, however.
It’s Alive! Creating a Monster Classic fills 31 minutes, 16 seconds with remarks from Brooks, Garr, Leachman, MacQueen, Stroman, Meehan, Johnson, Shaiman, Lennon, Garant, Foster, Spencer, Applegate, Hensley, Sara Karloff and Curtis. “Classic” examines the origins and development of the film, influences and inspirations, cast, characters and performances, sets, pacing and cinematography, and the movie’s reception. A fair amount of the information here also appears elsewhere, but a mix of good anecdotes enliven the piece. In particular, we find fun tales from Garr and Leachman. Though the show gets pretty fluffy at times, it still has some nice moments.
From the original release, we get a documentary called Making FrankenSense of Young Frankenstein. The 41-minute, 52-second program mixes movie snippets, archival materials, and then-current interviews with actor/co-writer Gene Wilder, producer Michael Gruskoff, assistant editors Stan Allen and Bill Gordean, and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld. They detail issues connected to the early drafts of the script, various budget woes, alterations to the initial design, casting, the use of black and white cinematography, sets, practical effects, and some other anecdotes.
Wilder dominates this fairly entertaining show. It gives us a nice little summary of relevant issues and comes across as entertaining and informative. One major fault: the inclusion of no castmembers other than Wilder, and the absence of Brooks. The show would have been more engaging if it’d included a broader array of participants. Nonetheless, it seems useful and enjoyable overall.
We learn about the flick’s score via the 10-minute, 29-second Transylvania Melody: The Music of John Morris. It features Brooks, Garr, Shaiman, film music historian Jon Burlingame, composer John Morris and wife Francesca. “Melody” offers a short biography of Morris as well as his work on Brooks’ films. This becomes a tight, informative look at the composer’s career.
Next comes a subtitle commentary. The Franken-Track: A Monstrous Conglomeration of Trivia provides details about the film’s script and development, cast and crew, and other production details. We also learn a little about the original Frankenstein novel and prior cinematic adaptations. We learn some of this info elsewhere, but “Conglomeration” still adds some useful tidbits. It also doesn’t really interfere with the movie’s progression, so you can watch it and still enjoy the flick.
Movie music fans will be happy to find an Isolated Score Track. This presents the music in DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound. If you dig film scores, you’ll be interested in this bonus.
An odd extra appears next. Called the Blucher Button, if you select it, you’ll hear the neighing of horses. That makes sense to fans of the film, but it remains a pretty pointless component.
Similar to the deleted scenes - but less interesting - are the five minutes of outtakes. These offer the usual kind of goof-ups and bloopers, but they're a little more compelling than usual. Of primary interest are the shots from the scene toward the end of the film when Kahn arrives in Transylvania; we see the segment from different angles, which makes it more entertaining.
What else? We get a few minutes of interviews with Marty Feldman solo (3:45) and
Leachman and Wilder together (2:53) for Mexican TV. These are mildly entertaining mainly because of the distracting manner in which the interviewer has to act as his own translator. I also liked them from a historical point of view; I love to see video footage that actually comes from the original production.
Young Frankenstein packs in plenty of advertisements. It contains five theatrical trailers - three for the original US engagement, one for the foreign run, and one for a re-release - plus nine TV spots. Many of these are much more entertaining than you'd expect because Brooks narrates them; he makes them little comic wonders in their own right. The ones on which his voice doesn't appear are much more ordinary.
Finally, Young Frankenstein contains tons of production stills. They split into 19 subdomains. I didn't count them all, but the original LD apparently had more than 500, and it looks like most - if not all - of them made it here. They're okay, if you like that sort of thing, but should probably be taken in small doses - that's a lot of still pictures to watch!
While I can't say I loved Young Frankenstein, I found it to be reasonably funny and entertaining, and I believe it will probably be even more interesting upon subsequent viewings. Picture and audio are acceptable, and the supplements clearly add to the value of the collection. If well-executed screwball parody is your thing, Young Frankenstein would make a worthwhile addition to your collection. In terms of film presentation, the Blu-ray doesn’t blow away the last DVD, but it’s a decent upgrade.
Note that this version can be purchased individually or as part of the eight-movie “Mel Brooks Collection”. That set also includes The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, Silent Movie, History of the World Part I, To Be or Not to Be, and Robin Hood: Men In Tights. The “Mel Brooks Collection” packages all eight movies together with a list price of $99.98. If you like at least three or four of the films, it’s a good deal.
To rate this film, visit the original review of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN