Young Frankenstein 1974 a snarky movie review of this Mel Brooks classic.
Today I am continuing the October 2014 Frankenstein line with a real laugh out loud comedy. This movie that follows the Mary Shelly story in largely a parody of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
Young Frankenstein (1974). Directed by Mel Brooks and the screenplay written by Brooks and Wilder. Should I stop here? Have you heard enough to know it’s funny? If not you might not be familiar with Brooks and Wilder.
I guess I start with Brooks but I will never be able to do him justice. Brooks came up the late 50s/60s television writers rooms. The contacts and collaborations he experienced during this time help lay the foundations for his later directorial success. In 1982 Brooks’ production company created My Favorite Year which was loosely based on a meeting between Brooks and an aging Errol Flynn. The movie is pretty funny and Peter O’Toole is quite good as a has-been alcoholic actor. My Favorite Year was directed by Richard Benjamin whom I mentioned in the In Harm’s Way show. He is married to Paula Prentice and played Van Helsing in Love at First Bite (1979) where he tried to protect his girlfriend from the bite George hamilton as Count Dracula. Good luck.
Before I go any further and because I am skipping all of the stage and television stuff I want to say one thing EGOT. Can you say EGOT? I know you could. Brooks has an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Wherever a Tony is?
I will only talk about a few of the movies he directed because it would go on too long if I review all of his directing, acting, and producing. In 1967 he directed The Producers. This film showed two producers trying to make a play about Hitler and was sure to flop and ended up with a hit. In 1974, Brooks directed what may be the funniest comedy ever if Young Frankenstein is not. Blazing Saddles roared onto the screen and proceeded to poke fun at every racial stereotype. Saddles borrowed heavily from Destry Rides Again (1939) where Jimmy Stewart plays an easy-going lawman and Marlene Dietrich was great as the as Frenchy that barroom singer with a heart of gold. Sound familiar as Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp AKA the Teutonic Twat. The did a remake of this movie in 1954 starring WWII most decorated soldier Audie Murphy as Tom but it did not have the light feeling of the first one or the comedy of Saddles.
In 1976, Brooks directed Silent Movie and it’s not one of my favorites. It is worth mentioning that the only word spoken in the movie was “non” by Marcel Marceau famous mime. This was followed in 1977 with High Anxiety an Alfred Hitchcock send-up.
In 1981, Brooks directed History of the World: Part I. I’m still waiting for the second part as this movie was pretty funny. It began at the dawn of man with masturbating apes and continues through the French Revolution. This movie has had such an effect on modern culture is that the line “It’s good to be the king” is now in common usage.
Really hitting his full directing stride he released an oddly timed Star Wars spoof with Spaceballs in 1987, followed by Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
I am partial to his To Be or Not to Be (1993) which is a comedy version of the 1942 film of the same name where a Polish acting troupe engaged in espionage during the Nazi occupation. Brooks wife Anne Bancroft, you know Mrs. Robinson played the female lead.
Before co-writer, Gene Wilder agreed to star in Blazing Saddles he had Brooks agree to make what was to become Young Frankenstein. Wilder is most widely known for his title role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Wilder is iconic in this role making it impossible for me to watch other actors turn in lesser performances. In Blazing Saddles he played Jim a besotted ex-gunfighter who like to screw and play chess.
In addition to this film in 1975, he played the title role in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. Funny but not as funny as this movie or Saddles. In 1976 and 1980 he teamed up with Richard Pryor to make Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. These two buddy flicks are worth the time to watch.
In between he played a role that I feel is often overlooked. He plays Avram, an immigrant rabbi trying to make it from New York to San Francisco. The Frisco Kid (1979) features Harrison Ford as Tommy a gun hand and bank robber that helps Avram reach his destination both physically and spiritually.
In this movie Wilder plays Dr. Frankenstein or fronk en stean.
Peter Boyle, 6 foot 2 and bald, played The Monster. Boyle was one of those actors that never was a star but he was always there and always known. His career spanned from the mid-1960s to 2006 when he died. He had a permanent role on Everybody Loves Raymond at the end of his career.
I think the first time most of heard of Marty Feldman was in this film where he played Eye-gor (Igor) the assistant to Dr. Frankenstein. He had 29 acting credits and was a prolific writer as well as a director. Feldman is noted for his large bulbous eyes. What might to considered a limiting feature by some was used by Feldman to great comedic effect.
Feldman was in a number of quirky American comedies in the 1970’s. These films include The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) which tried to copy the stick of Young Frankenstein but fell just short, Silent Movie (1976), The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977), and Yellowbeard (1983).
Feldman died much too young at the age of 49 in 1982 while filming Yellowbeard possibly from eating tainted shellfish. Yellowbeard is a must watch irreverent comedy.
Madeline Kahn played Elizabeth, Dr. Frankenstein’s finance. Kahn was a prolific voice talent actress that shined in her screen roles. She was often cast as a voluptuous sexpot but always with a comedic side.
Released in 1974 was well, Blazing Saddles cast Khan as Lili Von Shtupp, a German salon signer on the wrong side of the law. The part is clearly a mimic of Marlena Dietrich’s role as Frenchy in Destry Rides Again (1939) and Mary E. Blanchard as Brandy in the terrible Destry (1954).
Her list of credits through the 1970/80s reads like the rest of the Brooks’ gang. These films include The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), High Anxiety (1977), Wholly Moses! (1980), History of the World: Part I (1981), and Yellowbeard (1983) as the only women that could stand up to the title character. Later she began to be known for voice talent in movies like A Bug’s Life (1998).
Unfortunately, this great talent was taken away at the age of 57 from ovarian cancer.
Cloris Leachman played Frau Blücher. Leachman was primarily a television actress. She is well known as Mary Richard’s landlord on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” 1970–1977. She had a spinoff called “Phyllis” 1975–1977, and occasion appearances on “Rhoda” 1974–1978 another Mary Tyler Moore spinoff.
She had occasional movie roles including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), this and two other Mel Brooks movies – High Anxiety (1977) and History of the World: Part I (1981).
I think one of her better roles was as the alcoholic mother-in-law in Spanglish (2004).
Teri Garr played the role of Inga, Dr. Frankenstein’s lab assistant. Before I go any further I will proclaim my crush in case I start gushing.
Garr has starred in a lot of great movies, including Oh, God! (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Mr. Mom (1983), Tootsie (1982) with a cross-dressing Dustin Hoffman, and the utterly forgettable The Sting II (1983), a bland remake of great movie, The Sting (1973) which put Paul Newman and Robert Redford together with an all-star cast.
Kenneth Mars, a veteran television and movie character actor was cast as Inspector Kemp which replaced the role of the burgomaster from Frankenstein (1931). They took the wooden arm from Krogh played by Lionel Atwill in the Son of Frankenstein (1939). In Son character, Krogh tells of how the monster ripped his arm out by the roots.
Director and writer Mel Brooks did not appear on film, except his had pouring soup, he did do the sound of the Werewolf howling and cat hit by a dart
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is working at an American medical school. He is trying to distance himself from his grandfather’s work and insists his name is pronounced “Fronk’-en-steen”.
Dr. F is engaged to Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) who is a real ice queen and allows only cheek kisses.
A lawyer (Richard Haydn) arrives and tells Dr. F that he has inherited the family estate in Transylvania where monsters and such are usually created. Dr. meets Igor (Marty Feldman) and they do the old walk this way gag. It is rumored that Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler was inspired to write the hit “Way this Way” after seeing the film.
Dr. F meets his beautiful and shapely lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr) and the household/castle mistress Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman).
When Igor hears Dr. F pronounce his name as “Fronkensteen” he then insists that his name is pronounced “Eye’-gor.”
Inga and Dr. F discover the entrance to his grandfather lab. They have a little class on following directions – Put the candle back. After looking over his grandfather’s notes, Dr. F decides he can create life. He and Igor rob the grave of a giant corpse. He sends Igor away to steal the brain of a brilliant scientist but Igor sees himself in the mirror as the lighting flashes and he drops the brain. He selects another brain of Abby somebody AKA abnormal.
They assemble the monster (Peter Boyle) and raise him to the rooftop during a lighting storm. The original 1933 electrical equipment was lent to the film by creator Ken Strickfaden.
Dr. F and his team believed they have failed but the monster shows up later and everything is fine until Igor lights a match and the monster goes crazy. As the monster chokes Dr. F he plays charades with the two assistants trying to get them to give a sedative. Sedi-give.
The locals suspect with is going on in the castle and send Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), to visit Dr. F where they have an interesting game of darts. When Kemp leaves there is gargoyle on the side of the building that looks like Alfred Hitchcock.
Dr. F finds out that Frau Blücher has been setting the monster free and recalling him with violin music. Remember the Old Hermit and the violin in Frankenstein (1931). The monster runs away and finds the blind hermit (Gene Hackman). The hermit pours hot soup in the monster’s lap and sets his finger on fire trying to light a cigar. As the monster runs away the hermit says I was going to make espresso.
Dr. F and monster reconcile and they work on a song and dance number “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. Everything is fine until a light explodes and the monster goes crazy in a scene I always believed was inspired by King Kong (1933). Like in the original the police capture and chain the monster but it breaks free.
The monster kidnaps Elizabeth and they have carnal relationships with Elizabeth as a hot-blood willing partner. She falls head-over-heels for the monster and his enormous schwanstuker.
The villagers and Inspector Kemp search for the Monster. Dr. F lures the monster back and does an electrical exchange with the monster. By the time the mob arrives the monster is able to use his new intelligence to calm the mob.
They all live happily after with Elizabeth, now dressing like the Bride of Frankenstein, now married to the newly inRRtelligent Monster. Inga, on the other hand, is married to Dr. F and is very happy to learn that he has received an enormous swanstuker from the monster.
Finally, want to hit a few interesting points about this movie. Marty Feldman kept shifting the hump on his back during shooting. When the crew noticed it was added to the film as a gag.
During casting, the actress for the roles of Inga and Elizabeth were switched. Khan wanted the Elizabeth role and Garr got the Inga role because she could do a fake German accent.
Mel Brooks told Cloris Leachman that Blücher (Frau Blücher) means “glue” in German and that is the reason the horse whinnies each time her her name was said. However, it is not. This was just a gag Brooks made up. She was able to stand close to a horse with no effect just like the monster sometimes sat by the fire with no effect.
The scene that everyone says took the longest to shoot is when Igor meet Elizabeth and shifted into Groucho Marx voice and bits her white fox wrap. Every time he did this he came up with a tuft of hair in his mouth and none of the other actors could keep from laughing.
World-Famous Summary – City boy falls for country girl. Country boy falls for a city girl. Everyone live happily ever after.