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Young Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Michael Gruskoff
Written by Mel Brooks
Gene Wilder
Starring Gene Wilder
Marty Feldman
Peter Boyle
Teri Garr
Madeline Kahn
Cloris Leachman
Kenneth Mars
Richard Haydn
and Gene Hackman
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Gerald Hirschfeld
Editing by John C. Howard
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 15, 1974 (1974-12-15)
Running time 105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.8 million
Box office $86,273,333

Young Frankenstein is a 1974 American comedy film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The supporting cast includes Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn and Gene Hackman. The screenplay was written by Brooks and Wilder.[1]

The film is an affectionate parody of the classical horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein produced by Universal in the 1930s. Most of the lab equipment used as props were created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein. To further reflect the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black-and-white, a rarity in the 1970s, and employed 1930s-style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a notable period score by Brooks' longtime composer John Morris.

Young Frankenstein ranks No. 28 on Total Film magazine's "List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time".,[2] number 56 on Bravo TV's list of the "100 Funniest Movies",[3] and number 13 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest American movies.[4] In 2003, it was deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States National Film Preservation Board, and selected for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.[5]

PlotEdit

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a respected lecturer at an American medical school and engaged to the tightly wound Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn). He becomes exasperated when anyone brings up the subject of his grandfather, the infamous mad scientist whose experiments in re-animation led to the creation of a monster. To disassociate himself from his legacy, Frederick insists that his surname be pronounced "Fronk-en-steen".

When a solicitor informs him that he has inherited his family's estate in Transylvania, Frederick travels to Europe to inspect the property. At the Transylvania train station, he is met by a hunchbacked, bulging-eyed servant named Igor (Marty Feldman), who is there to drive Frederick in a wagon to the Frankenstein estate, but not before mocking Frederick's pretentions by insisting that his name be pronounced as "eye-gore." Accompanying Igor in the wagon is another servant, a lovely young woman named Inga (Teri Garr). Upon arrival at the estate, Frederick meets the forbidding housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman), whose name causes horses to rear up in fright.

Though his family legacy has brought shame and ridicule, Frederick becomes increasingly intrigued about his grandfather's work, especially after Inga assists him in discovering the secret entrance to his grandfather's laboratory. Upon reading his grandfather's private journals, Frederick is so transformed that he decides to resume his grandfather's experiments in re-animating the dead. He and Igor resort to robbing the grave of a recently executed criminal, and Frederick sets to work experimenting on the large corpse. Matters go awry, however, when Igor is sent to steal the brain of a deceased revered scientist; startled by lightning, he drops the correct brain on the floor and instead returns with an "abnormal" brain, which Frederick unknowingly transplants into the corpse.

Soon, Frederick is ready to re-animate his creature (Peter Boyle), who is elevated on a platform to the roof of the laboratory during a lightning storm. Eventually, electrical charges bring the creature to life. With Frederick's help, the Monster makes its first halting steps, but, frightened by Igor lighting a match, attacks Frederick and must be sedated. Upon being asked whose brain was obtained, Igor confesses that he supplied "Abby Normal's" brain (the brain he stole had been labeled "abnormal"), whereupon Frederick attempts to strangle him.

Meanwhile, the townspeople are uneasy at the possibility of Frederick continuing his grandfather's work. Most concerned is Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), a police official who sports an eyepatch and monocle over the same eye, a creaky, disjointed wooden arm, and an accent so comically thick even his own countrymen cannot understand him. Kemp visits the doctor and subsequently demands assurance that he will not create another monster. Upon returning to the lab, Frederick discovers that Frau Blücher is setting the creature free. After she reveals the Monster's love of violin music, and her own romantic relationship with Frederick's grandfather, the creature is enraged by sparks from a thrown switch, and escapes from the Frankenstein castle.

While roaming the countryside, the Monster has frustrating encounters with a young girl and a blind hermit (Gene Hackman); these scenes directly parody the original Frankenstein movies. Frederick recaptures the Monster, calms his homicidal tendencies with flattery, and fully acknowledges his heritage.

After a period of training the Monster to function in polite society, Frederick offers the sight of "The Creature" following simple commands to a theater full of illustrious guests . The demonstration continues with Frederick and the Monster launching into the musical number "Puttin' on the Ritz", complete with top hats and tails. Although the monster can only shout his song lines in painful high-pitched monotones, he dances impressively with almost perfect timing. The routine ends disastrously, however, when a stage light explodes and frightens the Monster, who becomes enraged and charges into the audience, where he is captured and chained by police.

After being tormented by a sadistic jailer, the Monster escapes, then kidnaps and ravishes the not unwilling Elizabeth when she arrives unexpectedly for a visit. Elizabeth falls in love with the creature due to his inhuman stamina and his enormous penis (referred to as Schwanstuker or Schwanzstück—a Yiddish malapropism from Schwanz, "tail", which also is German slang for "penis", and Stück, "piece").

The townspeople, led by Inspector Kemp, hunt for the monster. Desperate to get the creature back and correct his mistakes, Frederick plays the violin to lure his creation back to the castle. Just as the Kemp-led mob storms the laboratory, Frankenstein transfers some of his stabilizing intellect to the creature who, as a result, is able to reason with and placate the mob. (Much of the creature's plea for understanding is adapted directly from dialogue in Mary Shelley's novel. In doing so, Brooks' comedy presents Shelley's original theme more accurately than perhaps any other "Frankenstein" film.) The film ends happily, with Elizabeth married to the now erudite and sophisticated Monster, while Inga joyfully learns what her new husband Frederick got in return during the transfer procedure (the Monster's Schwanzstück).

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

OriginsEdit

In a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mel Brooks discussed how the film came about:[7]

I was in the middle of shooting the last few weeks of Blazing Saddles somewhere in the Antelope Valley, and Gene Wilder and I were having a cup of coffee and he said, I have this idea that there could be another Frankenstein. I said not another – we've had the son of, the cousin of, the brother-in-law, we don't need another Frankenstein. His idea was very simple: What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever. He was ashamed of those wackos. I said, "That's funny."

Color schemeEdit

During pilot episode commentary on the Get Smart DVD Season One set, Brooks said Columbia Pictures would not allow Young Frankenstein to be made in black and white. Brooks refused to compromise and took the film to 20th Century Fox, where executives agreed that the film should be made in black and white. The theatrical trailer described the film as "directed by Mel 'Blazing Saddles' Brooks, in black and white - no offense" as a pun on the racial overtones in Brooks' previous film Blazing Saddles.

FilmingEdit

While shooting, the cast ad-libbed several jokes used in the film. Cloris Leachman improvised a scene in which Frau Blücher offers "varm milk" and Ovaltine to Dr. Frankenstein, while Marty Feldman surreptitiously moved his character's hump from shoulder to shoulder until someone noticed it, and the gag was added to the film ("Didn't you used to have that on the other side?", "What hump?"). Brooks has declared Young Frankenstein his favorite among his own films.

Referenced filmsEdit

In one of the scenes of a village assembly, one of the authority figures says that they already know what Frankenstein is up to based on five previous experiences. On the DVD commentary track, Mel Brooks says this is a reference to the first five Universal films. In the Gene Wilder DVD interview, he says the film is based on Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), although there are clearly also references to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943).

  • Frankenstein (1931) - main plot, the lecture hall based on Dr Waldman's lectures, the stealing of the abnormal brain, the creation sequence, the monster's reaction to music is modeled on Karloff's reaction to sun light, the little girl, Igor is largely based on the hunchback assistant Fritz, and the man who introduces the show of "Puttin' on the Ritz" speaks in a similar manner to Edward van Sloan, who introduced the original Frankenstein before the opening credits
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Madeline Kahn made up as "the bride", the blind hermit, Elizabeth in front of the mirror and then being abducted by the monster, forest scenes, the monster in chains and consequent escape, Frau Blücher is partly inspired by the housemaid Minnie, the monster enjoying a smoke (based on his repeated smoking of cigars)
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939) - main plot, the box containing the testament, the library, inspector Krogh/Kempf, the game of darts, Igor playing the horn as a way of controlling the monster
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) - the town called "Frankenstein" (rather than Ingolstadt), the hidden room behind the book case and the hidden laboratory, the diary, the idea of the brain transplant, making the brain transplant allow the monster to talk (in this case with the brain and voice of Frankenstein rather than Igor)
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) - werewolf jokes, full moon scenes and Frankenstein turning in bed - "destiny, destiny" (similar to Lon Chaney at the Cardiff hospital), Teri Garr as the female assistant (based on Frankenstein's daughter assisting Dr. Frank Mannering), Frau Blücher partly based on the Maria Ouspenskaya character, the visual set-up for the brain-transplant with the two monsters in parallel beds, the search for the hidden diary, the romantic gypsy violin music
  • The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) - pass the kipper joke (reference to the "pass the marmalade")

The use of "Transylvania station" in the remake of the similar scenes from Son of Frankenstein could perhaps be seen as a nod to House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945), as Transylvania is part of the Dracula mythology and has nothing to do with Frankenstein as such. However, the dialogue between Dr. Frankenstein and the boy at the station is a direct parody of the big-band song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Glenn Miller;[8] "Transylvania Station" parodies New York City's Pennsylvania Station in this context.

Deleted scenesEdit

The following deleted scenes can be found as bonus material on the DVD:

  • When the solicitor speaks with Frederick Frankenstein, he presents him with the will of his great-grandfather, Baron Beaufort von Frankenstein. This can cause confusion, as the movie makes reference from this point on only of Frederick's grandfather, and clearly indicates that it was his grandfather, not his great-grandfather, who was the "mad scientist" in the family.
  • Also, there is no further mention of the will; this is cleared up in a deleted scene, in which it is revealed that Baron Frankenstein is indeed meant to be the father of the mad scientist and not the scientist himself. It is also revealed in a gathering of all the surviving family heirs that the details of the will (not surprisingly) have Frederick inherit everything, which is why he travels to his ancestral home. The will was delayed by order of the Baron himself, instructing that its details not be revealed until his 100th birthday.

SoundtrackEdit

ABC Records released the soundtrack on LP in 1974. On April 29, 1997, One Way Records reissued it on CD. There are pieces of dialogue by the actors as well as background and incidental music on the disc. The LP and disc are now out of print and command a very high price on Internet auction sites when available.

Track listing
  1. Main Title (Theme From "Young Frankenstein")
  2. That's Fron-Kon-Steen!
  3. Train Ride To Transylvania / The Doctor Meets Igor
  4. Frau Blücher
  5. Grandfather's Private Library
  6. It's Alive!
  7. He Was My Boyfriend
  8. My Name Is Frankenstein!
  9. Introduction / Puttin' on the Ritz
  10. A Riot Is An Ugly Thing
  11. He's Broken Loose
  12. Monster Talks, The
  13. Wedding Night / End Title
  14. Theme From "Young Frankenstein" (Disco Version) - performed by Rhythm Heritage

Cultural referencesEdit

  • The brain which Igor is ordered to steal is labeled as belonging to "Hans Delbrück, scientist and saint". A real-life Hans Delbrück was a nineteenth-century military historian; his son Max Delbrück was a twentieth-century biochemist and Nobel laureate.
  • Every time Frau Blücher's name is mentioned, horses are heard whinnying as if afraid of her name. Many viewers mistakenly believe that Blücher means "glue" in German; however, Blücher is a well-known German surname.[9] The German term for glue is der Kleber, or tierischer Leim for animal glue. Brooks suggested in a 2000 interview that he had based the joke on the erroneous translation, which he had heard from someone else.[10] In an interview, Cloris Leachman said that Mel had told her that that is why he named her character Blücher.[11] In the audio commentary, Mel Brooks explains that the horses are whinnying to show us that Frau Blücher is an ominous character: "They're terrified of her; God only knows what she does to them when nobody else is around."
  • The US AMC cable network broadcast a 2007 "DVD TV" version of the film with commentary in subtitles. Among other information, it stated that Inga was based on Ulla from Brooks' earlier film The Producers.

Cultural legacyEdit

When the film was in theaters, the band Aerosmith was working on its third studio album, Toys in the Attic. The members of the band had written the music for a song but couldn't come up with any lyrics to go with it. After a while, they decided to take a break and see a late night showing of Young Frankenstein, where the "Walk This Way" gag provided the basis (or phrase) for the Aerosmith hit "Walk This Way".[12]

In the film Igor says "Walk this way", whilst hunched over and with a short cane, encouraging Doctor Frankenstein to mimic his movements, even handing the Doctor his cane. Frankenstein complies, reluctantly, for a few steps before resuming his own walk. According to Wilder the joke was added while shooting the scene by Mel Brooks, inspired by an old vaudeville "talcum powder" joke.[13]

Musical adaptationEdit

Brooks adapted the film into a musical of the same name which premiered in Seattle at the Paramount Theatre and ran from August 7–September 1, 2007.[14] The musical opened on Broadway at the Foxwods Theatre (then the Hilton Theatre) on November 8, 2007 and closed on January 4, 2009.[15]

AwardsEdit

Nominations[5][16]

Cloris Leachman was nominated as a lead despite Madeline Kahn having far more screentime.

Wins[5]

Other honorsEdit

American Film Institute recognition

In 2011, ABC aired a primetime special, Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, that counted down the best movies chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by ABC and People. Young Frankenstein was selected as the #4 Best Comedy.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Director & leading actors
  2. "Film & Movie Comedy Classics". Comedy Zone. http://www.comedy-zone.net/tv/films/index.htm. Retrieved December 16, 2008. 
  3. "Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies". Bravo. Published by Lists of Bests. http://www.listsofbests.com/list/7092-100-funniest-movies?page=2. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs". American Film Institute. http://www.afi.com/100years/laughs.aspx. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Young Frankenstein: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072431/awards. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  6. According to Leonard Maltin's annual directory of movies, Gene Hackman was uncredited in the original theatrical run.
  7. Lacher, Irene. "The Sunday Conversation: Mel Brooks on his 'Young Frankenstein' musical". Los Angeles Times, 01 August 2010. Retrieved on 08-11-10.
  8. "Chattanooga Choo Choo Lyrics by Glenn Miller". Lyricsdepot.com. http://www.lyricsdepot.com/glenn-miller/chattanooga-choo-choo.html. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  9. "Elmer's Gantry". snopes.com. 2007-08-12. http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/blucher.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  10. Marshall Fine. "That's Fronkensteen". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/1844/. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  11. The O'Reilly Factor, April 3, 2009
  12. "Walk their way | Aerosmith News". AeroForceOne. http://www.aeroforceone.com/index.cfm/pk/view/cd/NAA/cdid/312697/pid/302766. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  13. Kiss Me Like A Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, p. 151; Gene Wilder, Macmillan, 2005.
  14. "The Paramount official site". Theparamount.com. http://www.theparamount.com/YoungFrankenstein/. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  15. Playbill article, 11/8/07
  16. "The 47th Academy Awards (1975) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/ceremony/47th-winners.html. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  17. "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs". American Film Institute. http://www.afi.com/100years/songs.aspx. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 

External linksEdit

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