Dying is easy, comedy is hard. Or so they say. The line is a reference to drama versus comedy. The inference being that anybody can do drama, but the true skill is in being humorous. I’m pretty sure Mel Brooks would agree. Tonight we take a peek at the power of parody as we visit with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN!
In 1974, Mel Brooks unleashed YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN on the world and the world of scary monsters has never been the same. Gene Wilder starred as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The screenplay is a co-creation of Brooks and Wilder.
The true Frankenstein movie this one parodies is SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. It mostly used props from the original FRANKENSTEIN film and it was shot entirely in black and white and musically scored to place one in the mind of an early Universal Picture. It was a critical and box office smash hit and remains on many Top lists for favorite all-time comedy films.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who insists his last name to be pronounced “Fronk-en-steen” so as to seperate himself from his infamously mad scientist grandfather, is informed that he has inherited his family’s estate in Transylvania after the death of his great grandfather, the Baron von Frankenstein. Frederick travels there to inspect the property. Elizabeth, Madeline Kahn, his constrained fiancee stays behind.
Once in Transylvania, we meet the rest of the strange cast of characters that will populate the rest of the tale:
Igor (sarcastically pronounced “eye-gore”) a hunchbacked assistant, played by Marty Feldman.
Inga, a servant-girl who the doctor becomes intrigued with who is played by Teri Garr.
The strict and overbearing housekeeper, Frau Blucher, played by Cloris Leachman.
Kenneth Mars plays Inspector Kemp, a monocled/eyepatched police official who also sports a creaky wooden arm. And an accent so thick nobody can seem to understand him very well.
Gene Hackman’s blind hermit in a scene that parodies Karloff’s FRANKENSTEIN.
Peter Boyle plays the Monster, a big guy with a bad brain--an “Abnormal” brain. He makes an interesting creature with his bald head and zippered neck.
The story tells itself from there and it is comic gold while also being fairly faithful to a lot of Shelley’s novel.
FIVE FRANKENSTEIN FUN FACTS:
- Brooks and Wilder began the idea for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN during the last few weeks of shooting BLAZING SADDLES.
- While working on their album, Toys in the Attic, Aerosmith had the music of a song worked out but couldn’t come up with the words. Taking a break and watching YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN at a late-night showing, the “Walk This Way” gag provided the words they needed.
- The original cut of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was nearly twice as long as the final cut, and it was considered a failure. Only after a marathon cutting session did they produce the final cut of the film. For every joke that worked, three fell flat and so they trimmed out the jokes that stunk.
- The skulls that Freddy and Inga find under the castle were real, except for the one that was fresh, which was hand-crafted.
- The howling wolf and screeching cat sounds heard in the film are actually Mel Brooks from off-camera.
The trailer of YOUNG FRANKESTEIN:
It came from beyond...