13 Camp Films Everyone Should See

From Hollywood's golden age to John Waters's trash cinema, the camp films that define a genre

9. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

Everything Mel Brooks touches is comedy. In your face gags, sophomoric fart jokes, ba-dum-bump one-liners and a flood of silliness. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, but Brooks won’t be remembered for subtlety or pretension. His stock in trade is guffaws.

When it comes to camp, Young Fankenstein falls squarely in the deliberate camp camp. It’s a parody, after all. And it’s a brilliantly goofy parody.

Aside from Brooks’s directing — and writing with Gene Wilder, who leads as Dr. Frankenstein — it’s the women who make the movie. Teri Garr is amusing as the country girl who enjoys a roll in the hay. Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn are the queens of this comedy, though. Both work so well with Brooks, playing roles awfully similar to the performances they delivered three years later in Brooks’s High Anxiety. Here, Leachman’s glowering henchwoman of the castle, Frau Blücher, is wonderfully ridiculous as the mysterious and stern Eastern European cigar smoker who leads Dr. Frankenstein to his destiny. Kahn’s Elizabeth is the proper girlfriend with a voice so high-pitched at times it can make your eyes water — and who wouldn’t mind a little extra male attention.

What makes Young Frankenstein worth including is that the cast, from Wilder to his leading ladies, along with Peter Boyle as his creation and Marty Feldman as Igor, seem to be having such a good time. They are camping it up for all they’re worth and it’s infectious.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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