“”For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself. “
It’s odd that a Mel Brooks slapstick managed to convey the theme of the original Mary Shelley novel better than any other film based on that work (Branagh tried but failed for a lot of small reasons and that big one where he radically changed the ending). But in being true to the novel, Brooks was oddly also faithful to the original Hollywood version by hauling out the original equipment (those really are the original props in the lab) and parodying almost every famous scene from the original film.
But of course there are the differences. Igor (pronounced eye-gore) is of course far more talkative when played by Marty Feldman, although he does seem to have problem reading (“Whose brain was it?” “Abby someone.” “Abby Who/” “Abby Normal.”). And Gene Wilder as Frederick Fronkensteen at times comes off as more mentally unhinged than any previous film version of the original mad scientist. Add in Mars, Garr, Leachman, Boyle, and of course Hackman…
…and you get what is arguably Mel Brook’s finest movie (Blazing Saddles while funnier in many parts has a terrible ending) not to mention one of the 10 best comedies of all time.
I could talk about how the Frankenstein story in all its versions is very much about how giving into the fear of death and trying to avoid it at all costs can only lead to destruction…but this is Young Frankenstein and that might be going just a little far. The same with the story’s warning against need for humility in the face of the hubris of science to feel it shouldn’t have any restrictions placed upon it by ethics and morals…but again such a discussion is really pushing it with this version…and I just can’t say that any other version is worthy of being in a top 30 list. These themes are there because of the source material, but they’re not the focus of Brook’s film.
If this movie is doing anything it’s critiquing Hollywood for turning a story with a thoughtful, articulate creature, with a penchant for quoting Milton and Goethe, (as shown in the quote at the top) into a lumbering, mindless, hulk. Hollywood turned one of the most intelligent villains in literature into an idiot for no reason…and this has been the bane of English teachers ever since as for some reason everyone thinks the Hollywood version is the truth. (If only Brooks had shown the same skill when critiquing Hollywood’s vision of Dracula).