Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mel Brooks|
|Produced by||Michael Gruskoff|
|Written by||Gene Wilder
and Gene Hackman
|Music by||John Morris|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||December 15, 1974|
|Running time||106 min.|
Young Frankenstein is a 1974 comedy film directed by Mel Brooks, starring Gene Wilder as the title character. Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, and Gene Hackman also star. The screenplay was written by Brooks and Wilder.
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 pieces of lab equipment used as props are the same ones 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 rare choice at the time, and employed 1930s-style opening credits and period 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 is number 28 on Total Film Magazine's "List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time", number 56 on Bravo television network's list of the "100 Funniest Movies", and number 13 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 funniest American movies. 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.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a respected lecturer at an American medical school and is more or less happily (though blandly) engaged to the tightly wound Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn). Frederick becomes exasperated when anyone brings up the subject of his grandfather, the famous mad scientist, to the point of insisting that his name is pronounced "Fronk'-en-steen".
A solicitor informs Frederick that he has inherited his family's estate. Traveling to said estate in Transylvania, Frankenstein meets his comely new lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr), along with the household servants Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman) and Igor (Marty Feldman) (who, after hearing Frederick claim his name is pronounced "Fronkensteen" counter-claims that his is pronounced "Eye'-gor.")
Inga assists Frederick in discovering the secret entrance to his grandfather's laboratory. Upon reading his grandfather's private journals the doctor is inspired to resume his grandfather's experiments in re-animating the dead. He and Igor successfully exhume and spirit away the enormous corpse of a recently executed criminal, but Igor's attempt to steal the brain of a revered scientist from the local "brain depositary" goes awry, and he takes one labeled, "Do Not Use This Brain! Abnormal" instead.
The reassembled monster (Peter Boyle) is elevated on a platform to the roof of the laboratory during a lightning storm. The experimenters are first disappointed when the electrically charged creature fails to come to life, but the creature eventually revives. The doctor assists the monster in walking but, frightened by Igor lighting a match, it attacks Frederick and must be sedated. Upon being asked by the doctor whose brain was obtained, Igor confesses that he supplied "Abby Normal's" brain and becomes the object of a strangulation attempt himself.
Meanwhile, the local townspeople are uneasy at the possibility of Frederick continuing his grandfather's work. Most concerned is Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), who sports an eyepatch, a jointed and extremely creaky wooden arm, and an accent so 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 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 ones from the original Frankenstein movies. Frederick recaptures the monster, wins him over with flattery, and finally fully acknowledges his heritage.
After a period of training, he offers a theater full of illustrious guests the sight of "The Creature" following simple commands. The demonstration continues with Frederick and the Monster launching into the musical number "Puttin' on the Ritz", complete with top hats and tails (and no small amount of clumsiness on the monster's part), which ends disastrously when a stage light explodes and frightens the monster. He 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 again, 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 "prick"), 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 music and lures the Monster back to the castle. Just as the Kemp-led mob storms the laboratory, Dr. Frankenstein transfers some of his stabilizing intellect to the creature who, as a result, is able to reason with and placate the mob. 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 from the Monster during the transfer procedure (the Monster's Schwanzstück).
Leon Askin was cast to play a lawyer (reading the last will) but was cut out.
During his pilot episode commentary on the Get Smart DVD Season One set, Mel Brooks said Columbia Pictures would not greenlight 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 sans color. The theatrical trailer described the film as "presented in black and white - no offense" as a pun on segregation (cf. separate but equal), which had been mostly outlawed in preceding decades.
While shooting, the cast ad-libbed several of the jokes in the film: Cloris Leachman improvised the scene with Frau Blucher offering "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 ("What hump?"). It is rumored that Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder were reluctant to wrap filming because the cast and crew enjoyed the filming so much, and extra scenes were filmed not originally in the script. Brooks declared Young Frankenstein his favorite among his own films.
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 Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), although there are clearly also references to Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). Wilder also mentions that there is a short reference to Return of Frankenstein.
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; "Transylvania Station" parodies New York City's Pennsylvania Station in this context.
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.
On April 29, 1997, One-Way Records released a CD soundtrack for the movie. There are pieces of dialogue by the actors as well as background and incidental music on the disc. The disc is now out of print and commands a very high price on Internet auction sites when available.
A low-budget Turkish remake Sevimli Frankestayn was released in 1975. The success of Young Frankenstein worldwide inspired another horror spoof, 1974's Vampira starring David Niven and Teresa Graves. It was renamed Old Dracula for North American release to cash in on the name recognition of Young Frankenstein. In many locations, the two films were shown back-to-back as a double bill.
The 1979 television special The Halloween That Almost Wasn't was partly inspired by the cultural impact of Young Frankenstein. Focusing on the prospect of Halloween coming to an end, the special has Dracula summoning the monsters of the world to his castle to discuss the situation; he specifically names Frankenstein as one of those at fault: "And you! Letting that movie influence you so much that now, instead of terrorizing the countryside, what are you doing? You're tap dancing!"
Brooks has adapted the film into a musical of the same name. The musical premiered in Seattle at the Paramount Theatre and ran from August 7–September 1, 2007. The musical opened on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre on November 8, 2007 and closed on January 4, 2009.
American Film Institute recognition