Young Frankenstein appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This new anamorphic transfer improved over the old 1998 DVD, but not by as much as I’d like.
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. Print flaws caused more distractions, though. Grain seemed rather strong at times, and I also noticed more than a few instances of specks, marks, grit, and other blemishes. These never became overwhelming, and Frankenstein usually presented a fairly solid image, but the overall impression seemed only decent to good.
The monaural audio of Young Frankenstein has held up fairly well over the last 30 years. Speech came across as warm and natural, with no issues of edginess or intelligibility along the way. Effects appeared fairly full and dynamic, and they didn’t suffer from any distortion or other problems. Music also was reasonably bright and rich, with pretty nice range. For a 30-year-old monaural soundtrack, Frankenstein seemed satisfying.
While both DVDs presented similar audio, the new anamorphic transfer was slightly superior. It came across as a little tighter and better defined. However, I thought it suffered from about the same level of source flaws, and I felt blacks and shadows may have been a little better in the old transfer. This one got a “B-“ instead of the original’s “C+”, so don’t expect huge improvements here.
The DVD release of Young Frankenstein is essentially a port of Fox's nice laserdisc release from 1996. I didn't own that set, but from what I can tell, most of its features are reproduced here; I'll detail what parts seem to be missing later. Probably the supplement that sounds the most appealing is the running, screen-specific audio commentary from Mel Brooks. After all, this guy's a legendary funnyman, so one would assume his track would be a riot, right?
Unfortunately, no. By no means do I 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.
Next we get a documentary called Making Frankensense of Young Frankenstein. The 41-minute and 50-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.
Next we find seven deleted scenes that run for a total of about 17 minutes. The longest one is the first, as it goes approximately eight minutes. 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 eight-minute scene with the reading of the will; it's the most entertaining of the bunch, but eight minutes just would have been too much time for such a superfluous piece. Anyway, I liked the deleted scenes; they were a very worthwhile addition to this DVD.
On a similar note - but less interesting - are the few 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.
The Young Frankenstein DVD packs in 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.
What else? We get a few minutes of interviews with Feldman (on his own) and
Leachman and Wilder (together) 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.
Finally, Young Frankenstein contains boohoogles of production stills. I didn't count them all, but the 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!
So what doesn't the DVD include from the LD? Not much, from what I can discern. Apparently one scene was presented with Feldman's dialogue dubbed into Spanish, French, and Japanese. That's not here, but since the entire film features Spanish and French soundtracks, that's not much of a loss; actually, it's something of a gain, since you can watch any scene in another language, if you so desire. (For the record, the French Teri Garr sounded sexier than the real one, but the Spanish one didn't do it for me.)
The DVD also lacks the radio spots that were apparently included on the LD, though all the TV ads seem to be intact. Finally, the only other thing I can find missing is a text essay that had appeared in the gatefold of the LD.
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.
Unfortunately, I can’t claim that this new DVD of Young Frankenstein significantly improves over the old one. Audio and extras seem identical, and the anamorphic transfer offers only a marginal step up above its predecessor. Of course, those with widescreen TVs will get more benefit from the 16X9 image, but it doesn’t appear to present much difference for folks with 4X3 sets.
Note that this version comes as part of the eight-movie “Mel Brooks Collection”. It also includes The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, 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.
One important issue related to this DVD connects to its distribution. When Fox put out the “Mel Brooks Collection”, quite a few of the old non-anamorphic Young Frankenstein discs ended up in those sets. My original review set came with the original DVD. A replacement from Fox fixed that, but it’s clear from reading the Internet that plenty of packages on the shelves wound up with the non-anamorphic release as well.
Is there some easy way to tell the difference before you buy? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. There doesn’t seem to be anything to distinguish the good and the bad sets until you’ve opened the package. I believe Fox will replace these if that happens, but it remains something of a crap shoot.
To rate this film, visit the original review of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN