Documentary Movie Review: Yellowstone (2009) #AtoZChallenge

This is my entry for “Y” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “Y” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Yellowstone: The World’s First National Park and You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Title: Yellowstone
Release Date: March 2009
Director: [none listed]
Production Company: BBC Natural History Unit | Animal Planet

Yellowstone is a three-part nature documentary series filmed in Yellowstone National Park.  The episodes each focus on a season: winter, summer, and autumn (spring gets short shrift but since the snows don’t melt until June, maybe there is no spring).  I think if you drop some decent cinematographers with quality cameras into Yellowstone you’re guaranteed to get a gorgeous film, but nevertheless the visuals in this documentary are absolutely spectacular.  The theme of the series is “The Battle for Life” so it does veer toward overly dramatic narration.

Winter – Yellowstone’s geothermal features and landscape contribute to long, severe winters with heavy snowfall.  Wolves thrive in the winter as they are able to hunt weakened herds of elk. Bison use their heavy heads like a snowplow to search for edible grasses.  A red fox dives through the snow to capture mice.  And in my absolute favorite part, otters practically swim through the snow and use an opening in the ice created by geysers as a place to fish.

Summer – The season sees the emergence of a bear and her cubs. Other animals including pronghorn, bison, and wolves are also birthing young and keeping them alive in dangerous conditions. Cuthroat trout swim upstream to spawn and are hunted by otters and osprey.  Toward the end of the season, bear climb high in the mountains where they feed on army cutworm moths (like blue whales living on krill!).

Autumn – Trees devour their chlorophyll and erupt in gorgeous colors. Whitebark pine cones are spread with the help of squirrels, bears, and Clark’s nutcrackers.  Beavers repair their dams and stock up food for the winter.  Male elk and bighorn sheep fight among themselves for the right to mate with their respective females.  For the first time in the series, we also see humans as the elk and pronghorn migrate to lower ground outside of the park, with the wolves hot on their heels.  The wild animals have to face the dangers of hunters, motor vehicles, industry, and residential development, while ranchers are uneasy about wolves attacking their herds.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Young Frankenstein (1974) #atozchallenge

I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: Young Frankenstein
Release Date: December 15, 1974
Director: Mel Brooks
Production Company: Gruskoff/Venture Films | Crossbow Productions, Inc. | Jouer Limited

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) lectures at an American school, pronouncing his name “Fronkensteen” in order to avoid association with his mad scientist grandfather, Victor Frankenstein. He learns that he has inherited his family’s castle in Transylvania. He travels there and is met by Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor” and played by Marty Feldman), the grandson of Victor’s assistant.  He also meets a research assistant, Inga (Teri Garr), and together they travel to the castle.

The housekeeper, Frau Blucher (Cloris Leechman) greets them at the door and shows Frederick to his room.  That night Frederick, Inga, and Igor hear mysterious violin music and find secret passages that lead them to Victor’s lab and private library.  Frederick learns that reanimating the dead is in fact possible.  They steal the corpse of an executed criminal and Igor is sent to get a brain of a great scientist, but ends up taking an abnormal brain instead.

The creature (Peter Boyle) eventually comes to life but is violent and dangerous.  Frau Blucher sets the creature free, revealing that she had lured Frederick to the lab and that Victor was her boyfriend.  Frederick, Inga, and Igor recapture the creature and by showing him affection, Frederick is able to make the creature calm and well-behaved.  He introduces the creature to fellow scientists in a display that includes a tap performance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”  But the creature is frightened when a stage light catches fire and goes into a rage and escape.

Frederick and Inga sleep together, and shortly thereafter Frederick’s fiancee Elizabeth (Madeleine Kahn) visits unexpectedly.  The creature kidnaps Elizabeth and they also end up having sexual relations.  The creature is lured back to the castle and Frederick works on a transfer that helps stabilize the creature’s brain.  A mob of villagers storms the castle and attempts to destroy the lab, but the creature wins them over by telling how Frederick risked his life to help him.

In an epilogue, the creature and Elizabeth are apparently married, while Frederick and Inga are newlyweds.  On their wedding night, it’s revealed that Frederick picked up some of the “monster” during the transfer.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

I saw this when I was probably too young, although it was on commercial tv so they cut out the naughtiest bits.  I remember reenacting scenes from Young Frankenstein with my neighbor on a cassette tape, plus some of our own improvised bits.  Then I lost that tape, which still breaks my heart to this day.

What Did I Remember?:

This is another movie I probably haven’t watched in decades but is nonetheless etched upon my brain!

What Did I Forget?:

Not so much forgot, more that I never I heard the gag, but when Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) loses his prosthetic arm at the end of the movie he shouts “to the lumberyard!”  This line just tickled my funny bone more than you’d expect.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

This movie is part parody, part homage to Universal horror films of the 1930s, and mixes the goofy charm of that era with the slightly-raunchy sensibilities of the 1970s. The movie stars four comic actors at the peaks of their careers in Wilder, Feldman, Garr, and Boyle, with great supporting performances from Leechman and Mars, and one brilliant scene with Gene Hackman as a blind hermit.  They appear to be having a great time with the funny script by Wilder and Mel Brooks and numerous improvised bits. I also never appreciated the Brooks’ direction is excellent with numerous well-done shots throughout the movie.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

Maybe I was particularly “woke” child, but it’s always creeped me out that the creature abducts Elizabeth to rape her, but then it’s “okay” because she’s impressed by his enormous schwanzstucker.  This kind of humor unfortunately plays into some persistent myths about women’s response to rape and penis size.

Is It a Classic?:

This is definitely a classic and one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

Rating: *****