Young Frankenstein (1974)

young frankenstein

“Frau Blücher. NEIGHHHH!!!”

The Scoop: 1974 PG, Directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle and Madelaine Khan

Tagline: The scariest comedy of all time!

Summary Capsule: Scientist with a haunted family history confronts his grandfather’s demons… which like to sing “Puttin’ On The Ritz”!

PoolMan’s rating: Doin’ the Monster Mash all night long!

PoolMan’s review: In that funny thing that we internet-folk refer to as In Real Life, I have many friends who have come to regard me as some kind of movie buff. Not that I can blame them entirely, I have spent the last few years of my life doing unpaid movie critique for a hairy Italian American who smells of Axe body spray 24/7. Those who know my hobby have accordingly come to know me as something of a local expert on movies. I’m not just inflating my ego here, I get asked my opinion on movies all the time.

So it absolutely baffles people how many classic movies I haven’t seen. As of this writing, I have not seen the following: The Godfather (any of ’em), Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, The Exorcist… The list goes on, and with each missing “classic”, I further embarass myself in movie-related conversations. I have every intent of seeing these films (well, maybe not The Exorcist), and I’m sure one day I will. But there are so many people who just get SO offended that I call myself a “movie expert” (I don’t, they just think I do!) when I haven’t seen the entire of Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

For the most part, this makes sense, these are worshipped, serious films. But I got a real surprise in a recent conversation with a friend when I admitted I had not seen Young Frankenstein.

I didn’t fully appreciate the love and following this movie has! I’m pretty familiar with some of Mel Brooks’ modern works (Spaceballs in particular has a place of honour in my home), but somehow I have just never been enough of a Gene Wilder fan to want to see a spoof version of the tale of Doctor Frankenstein. Well, I’ve thankfully since been able to transfer it to “Movies I Have Seen” from “Movies I Have Not Seen, Which Is Indisputible Proof That I Don’t Know Good Film, I’m Such A Fool,” but I’m not a card-carrying diehard fan for it. It’s just fun.

Young Frankenstein is the tale of the frustratedly famous grandson of the original Dr Frankenstein. Our hero, Dr Frederick “Fronkensteen” (as he emphatically pronounces it) goes to Transylvania following the death of the old Doctor to settle affairs. While there, he stumbles upon Granddad’s old lab, and sure enough, takes on the old man’s work of reanimating dead tissue to life. A mistaken brain installation later, Frankenstein’s monster is rumbling around just like old times, the local villagers get their torches and pitchforks out, and everyone starts tap dancing.

Mel Brooks’ affinity for farce goes back a long way (back in 1974, this was just his fourth directorial effort), and it really is fun to watch such a satirical take on the whole Frankenstein tale. Elements Brooks fans would later come to recognize as standard issue are all over the place here, with funny off camera sound effects, well endowed women, odd sidekicks, lots of one liners, and a generally mocking/worshipping sense of the source material. It’s somewhat toned down from such fare as Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but it’s still pretty funny.

Still, I don’t know why this movie’s got the following it does… maybe it’s just being steeped in tradition as a must-see Halloween movie (saw it Halloween night myself, which was definitely the right time for it). It’s light and fun, with just a touch of naughty for heck of it, best enjoyed in the warm glow of a Jack O’ Lantern.

First Lesson: Fire BAD. Second Lesson: Thumb on fire WORSE.

Intermission!

  • The stiff mechanical arm on the inspector.
  • Marty Feldman (Igor) just has some of the best eyes in movie history, doesn’t he?
  • Wow, Teri Garr was quite the number back in 1974!
  • For a doctor, Frankenstein is pretty clumsy with a scalpel… that’s GOTTA hurt!
  • Gene Hackman. Gene Hackman?!? GENE HACKMAN! Huh.
  • Igor’s ever-shifting hump.
  • The repeated horse neighs at the mention of Frau Blucher’s name.
  • The clock rings 13 times at the beginning of the film.
  • Although director Mel Brooks would later become famous for actually taking roles in his own movies, he gets a few off screen cameos here. He voiced the wolf howl outside the castle and the cat screech from Frederick’s errant dart, and played the Blind Man’s hands when he spills the soup on the monster’s lap. There is also a gargoyle down in the dungeon made to look like Brooks.
  • The film was shot in the same castle and with the same props and lab equipment as the original Frankenstein.
  • The Blind Man’s line “I was gonna make espresso” was not in the script, but was ad-libbed by Gene Hackman during shooting.
  • The horse neigh used whenever Frau Blücher’s name was spoken has been misinterpreted by fans for years. “Blücher” is German for glue, and since some glues are made from horses, audiences thought that the neigh was an adverse reaction to hearing “Blücher”. The reason we hear the horse neigh is a parody of the dramatic chord which is played in other scary movies during a dramatic moment or when they announce someone’s name. Instead of music, it’s a horse’s neigh.

Groovy Quotes

[in front of the huge castle doors, complete with large brass rings]
Dr. Frankenstein: What knockers!
Inga: Oh, thank you doctor!

[digging up a body in the graveyard]
Dr. Frankenstein: What a filthy job.
Igor: Could be worse.
Dr. Frankenstein: How?
Igor: Could be raining. [it starts to pour]

Dr. Frankenstein: Hearts and kidneys are tinkertoys! I’m talking about the central nervous system!

Frankenstein: Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?
Igor: And you won’t be angry?
Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: Abby someone.
Frankenstein: Abby someone. Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
Frankenstein: Abby Normal?
Igor: I’m almost sure that was the name.
Frankenstein: Do you mean to tell me that I put an abnormal brain into an, 8 foot tall, 300 pound, GORILLA?!!!

Frankenstein: Damn your eyes!
Igor: [to camera] Too late.

Frankenstein: For the experiment to be a success, all of the body parts must be enlarged.
Inga: His veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Frankenstein: Exactly.
Inga: He vould have an enormous Shwanstooker!
Frankenstein: That goes without saying.
Inga: Voof!
Igor: He’s going to be very popular.

The Blindman: Wait! Where are you going? I was going to make Espresso!

Frankenstein: Eyegor!
Igor: Froadrick!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Spaceballs
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Robin Hood: Men In Tights

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