Friday’s Favorite Flix – Young Frankenstein
The film ”Young Frankenstein” is one of the quintessential Mel Brooks movies and one of our favorite flix. With this film, Brooks takes a subject that has previously been treated as a horror genre and re-makes it into a comedy. This black and white revision of the traditional take on Frankenstein is genius. The running gags start from the very first scene where Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, played by Gene Wilder, insists his character’s name is pronounced Frahn-ken-steen. This gag, which runs through the first half of the film, serves to remind the viewer that the character is denying his birthright. During the second half of the movie Frankenstein embraces both his birthright and the proper pronunciation of his name. This is a brilliant way to use humor to tell a story!
Gene Wilder opens the film playing a Dr. Frederick Frankenstein desperate to show the scientific world that he is a neuroscientist working only to improve our existence through a better understanding of the human nervous system. However, the scientific society is equally intent on throwing his grandfathers infamous scientific experiments in his face. The resulting conflict is the main story line of this film.
Early on, we also learn that Frederick is betrothed to, a very high maintenance Elizabeth played by Madeline Kahn. The dysfunctional relationship between Elizabeth and Frederick provides abundant opportunities for humor as the story line progresses.
The main plot comes into focus when Frankenstein is summoned to Transylvania to take possession of his families’ estate left to him by his late grandfather, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. On his journey, every train, or ship, he travels on has the same actors, in the same relative positions, speaking different languages and playing different characters. This not so subtle gag plays very well. It is only after the third traveling scene, or so, that the gag comes home.
Friday’s Favorite Flix are descriptions of those movies we love – We either own them or when channel surfing, we’ll stop when we find them and settle down to watch.
If you have a movie that you think should be in Friday’s Favorite Flix, let us know. We like discovering new favorites.
Upon arriving in Transylvania, he meets his new ‘personal assistant’ Inga (Teri Garr) and a hunchbacked servant named Igor (Marty Feldman). Teri Garr is as curvaceous as ever and inspires a slew of double entendre jokes. An example is when Frankenstein exclaims “What knockers!” referring to the enormous door knockers on the doors of his castle. His face, however, is nearly buried in Inga’s considerable bosom as he helps her down form the wagon in which they have been riding. Inga, keeps the joke going by replying “Why, thank you!”
Marty Feldman plays a wonderfully irreverent Igor. Upon hearing the wacky way Frankenstein insists his name is to be pronounced, he tells his new master that his name is pronounced “eye-gore”. He also has a hump that moves from one shoulder to the other. When Frankenstein comments on the moving hump, the only response is ‘What hump?”. Other times Igor talks directly to the audience to bring a joke home.
The staunch, German, housekeeper named Frau Blücher, is played by Cloris Leachman. Merely uttering the housekeepers name causes horses to neigh loudly and rear up in freight. When given the opportunity, this is exactly what Igor does - just because he can. Her character was in love with Dr. Victor Frankenstein and is instrumental in luring young Frederick to discover his grandfather’s secret library and laboratory.
Once young Frederick goes through all of his grandfathers notes, he is convinced that his grandfather was not only misunderstood, but on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough. He then embraces his families’ name and resumes his grandfathers’ work, ultimately creating a new Frankenstein monster (Peter Boyle). The only rub is that the brain that Igor is sent to retrieve for the experiment is damaged. The illiterate Igor takes a brain labeled ‘abnormal’ in its place, mistakenly reading the label as A. B. (Abby) Normal. This abnormal brain causes the re-animated creation to be mute, homicidal and have a deep seated fear of fire. The issues exhibited by the re-animated monster result in all kinds of hilarity.
While young Frankenstein is trying to demonstrate to the towns folk how docile his creation is – by having him perform in a stage production of “Puttin on the Ritz” – a stage light fails and catches fire. This causes the monster to freak out and storm into the audience where it is captured by the police. The monster promptly escapes, then subsequently kidnaps and ravishes an, only somewhat unwilling, Elizabeth.
In an effort to mitigate his homicidal tendencies, Frankenstein devises a new experiment where he transfers some of his intellect to the monster. In the end, the monster marries Elizabeth who is enamored with the monster’s newfound intellect and sophistication, not to mention his inhuman stamina. Frankenstein marries the lovely Inga, who is thrilled to learn that Frederick ended up with a huge “Schwanzstücker”, in exchange for the intellect he transferred to the monster.
This is one of those movies that I can see over and over again, and continue to find it enjoyable. Each time I see Young Frankenstein, I find a new joke or gag that I had missed during previous viewings. I highly encourage you to check this classic out. I am sure it will instantly find a permanent home on your favorites list.
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
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