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Young Frankenstein British Novel to Film Fu Jen University Dr. M. Connor.

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1 Young Frankenstein British Novel to Film Fu Jen University Dr. M. Connor

2 Instant classic  In 1974, director Mel Brooks released Young Frankenstein, his parody of and homage to the horror films of the 1930s, especially James Whale’s Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein.  The term “instant classic” is bandied about much too often these days, but that’s just what this film has become.

3 Part of the pop culture it was parodying  Much of the dialogue in this incredibly funny movie has become part of pop culture.  I would love to give you a number of examples, but much of the humor is also visual.  But I think this example works: (see next slide)

4 Where else do you get em? An example of the visual humor in Young Frankenstein Source: Mel Brooks Movie Site,

5 What about the words?  Igor, Frankenstein’s assistant, in a scene reminiscent of the 1931 Frankenstein, has stolen an “abnormal brain” from the medical school.  And this is how Frankenstein learns of it:

6 Classic exchange  Dr. Frankenstein: Would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in? Igor: And you won't be angry? Dr. Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry. Igor: Abby someone. Dr. Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who? Igor: Abby Normal. To this day, it’s not unusual to call people Abby Normal as an insult!

7 Beautifully shot  Brooks wanted this film to have the proper look, so he shot it in black and white, recreating the beautiful look of the 1930 inspirations.  He also rented the original sets from the 1931 original.  The laboratory looks so much like Whale’s film because it is the set from Whale’s film.

8 The Plot (as you know…)  The film is the story of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, (Gene Wilder) grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein (Henry in the Whale films).  A brilliant surgeon in America, he still tries to distance himself from his family heritage, to the point of making sure people know that it's pronounced “Fronk-en-shteen,” not Frank-en- stein.

9 The cast of characters  But Frederick learns he is to inherit the family castle in Transylvania, and off he travels to see his new property, leaving his fiance, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) behind.  When he arrives in Transylvania, he meets the family retainers, the hunchback Igor (Marty Feldman), whose hump mysteriously moves from side to side, Inga, (Terri Garr) the sexy blonde lab assistant, and Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), whose very name causes the horses to whinny in fear.

10 Frau Blucher  This is a subtle joke. But not the one I thought it was.  According to tradition, Blucher means glue in German, and as the old jokes tell us, that’s where useless horses end up.  BUT, this isn’t true. Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, Source: to_mini/franky/frau.jpg

11 Snopes explains...  The only in-joke connected with this gag is that so many people have missed its real humor and instead been taken in by a leg-pull. "Blucher" is not the German word for "glue," nor does it sound remotely like any German word for "glue" — standard, slang, archaic, or otherwise. Blucher (or Blücher) is simply an ordinary Germanic surname.  The joke employed in the film is a take-off on the hoary melodramatic film device of inserting an ominous organ riff or clap of thunder and having actors react with visible fright whenever the villain appears on-screen or a character refers to something evil or threatening. From The Urban Legend Reference PagesThe Urban Legend Reference Pages

12 Memorable Scenes  One of the film’s most famous scenes is the one in which the tuxedoed Frankenstein and his creation do a song and dance routine to “Puttin on the Ritz” in front of a medical convention in Bucharest.  When they started to film the scene, no one was sure what the Creature should say.  Boyle came up with a strangled version of "Puiinin da reeez!" On screen, it works brilliantly.

13 Classic humor The famous ”Puttin’ on the Ritz” scene. Source: Mel Brooks Movie Site,

14 Homage scenes  Many scenes from Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein show up in this film.  The first is a parody of the little girl drowning scene, taken from Frankenstein. But there is no accidental murder here.  Although the audience is mentally prepared for one, in this version, the girl is catapulted from a see-saw straight through her bedroom window and into her bed, where her parents peek in to wish her good night before she falls asleep.

15 The Hermit  The second scene, featuring the Monster and Gene Hackman playing a blind hermit, is an obvious reference to the blind hermit scenes in The Bride of Frankenstein.  But of course, in this case, it’s funny.  So when feeding the Monster, the hermit pours steaming soup into his lap. And when lighting the Monster’s cigar, the hermit sets the poor creature’s thumb on fire.  And when the poor, pained Monster finally flees the cabin, the hermit shouts out, “Wait. Where are you going? I was going to make Espresso,” a line ad- libbed by Hackman.

16 Touching and funny Gene Hackman as the blind hermit and Peter Boyle as the Monster. Source: Mel Brooks Movie Site,

17 More than a parody  As Roger Ebert has written, the film “works on a couple of levels: first as comedy, and then as a weirdly touching story in its own right. A lot of the credit for that goes to the performances of Gene Wilder, as young Frankenstein, and Peter Boyle as the monster. They act broadly when it's required, but they also contribute tremendous subtlety and control. Boyle somehow manages to be hilarious and pathetic at the same time.” (Ebert)

18 So what do you think?  Because of this level of skill in the film- making, I find this an excellent film to watch when studying Frankenstein.  In fact, more than one student has argued that this version of the story comes closest to the spirit of Shelley’s work!  They know that it is a comedy, but the story is touching and the Monster’s search for love and understanding is clearer.

19 An alternate ending to Shelley?  Other students have argued that had Shelley’s Victor taken his parental role to the Creature seriously, as the Frederick Frankenstein character does in this film, the stories would have had similar endings! Gene Wilder as Frederick Frankenstein. Source: Mel Brooks Movie Site, yfimages.htm yfimages.htm

20 But this dialogue supports that  Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [to The Monster] Hello handsome. You're a good looking fellow, do you know that? People laugh at you, people hate you, but why do they hate you? Because... they are jealous. Look at that boyish face. Look at that sweet smile. Do you wanna talk about physical strength? Do you want to talk about sheer muscle? Do you want to talk about the Olympian ideal? You are a God. And listen to me, you are not evil. You... are... good.  [the Monster starts to cry, and Dr. Frederick Frankenstein hugs him]  Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: This is a nice boy. This is a good boy. This is a mother's angel. And I want the world to know once and for all, and without any shame, that we love him. I'm going to teach you. I'm going to show you how to walk, how to speak, how to move, how to think. Together, you and I are going to make the greatest single contribution to science since the creation of fire.

21  Madeline Kahn’s Elizabeth is very different from the Elizabeths of the novel or the Whale films.  She’s incrediby funny in an understated way.  And the hair does make an appearance! Madeline Kahn as Elizabeth, the ”bride of Frankenstein”. Source: Mel Brooks Movie Site, ank/yfimages.htm ank/yfimages.htm

22 Some fun trivia  When Dr. Frankenstein descends the stairs into the basement of the castle there is a gargoyle on the wall made to look like director Mel Brooks.  The assistant property master's name, Charles Sertin, is on the third brain on the shelf.  The clock rings 13 times at the beginning of the film.  Mel Brooks made a cameo appearance in this film, making the sound of the off-screen cat screaming when hit by a dart.

23 On Broadway?  According to The Internet Movie Data Base, Mel Brooks is “currently working on turning his 1974 comedy film hit, Young Frankenstein, into his next Broadway musical, with a possible opening in 2005.  But don’t buy tickets yet….

24 But a quote from Variety  "Hairspray" book co-writer Thomas Meehan gave a progress report on tuner "Young Frankenstein" (his last Tony was for Mel Brooks' "The Producers"). "We've been working on it six months, and (we have) six songs for act one and about two-thirds of the book for the first act.... As soon as we finish it, we might throw it away if it stinks. So don't hold your breath." (June 16, 2003)

25 Sources:  Ebert, Roger. “Young Frankenstein “ Review, January 1, 1974. Movie Reviews 20 Mar 2005. rticle?AID=/19740101/REVIEWS/401010324 /1023 rticle?AID=/19740101/REVIEWS/401010324 /1023  ”Young Frankenstein,” The Internet Movie Database,

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