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Daily Dose of Doozy #14: The Reanimation of Classic Gags


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#21 Motorcitystacy

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 02:48 PM

The moods of the old Universal films were very dark, and it shows in the conversations done in the classroom. The scientist is very serious until someone dares to challenge him.

 

Wilder as Dr. Fronk-en-steen doing an experiment with a nervous "volunteer" starts out simple but becomes slapstick with vulgarity and the knee in the groin. The slapstick continues later in the clip when he accidentally impales himself with the scalpel yet tries his best not to show pain.

 

There is NO WAY this would work in color. With the eerie tempo, moods, shadows and lighting in the old Universal horror films, only black and white would do. It would probably not be a box office success or a comedy classic if it were shot in color.


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#22 Knuckleheads Return

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 02:23 PM

1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific. Whether looking at "The Mummy", "Dracula", "The Wolfman" or "Frankenstein", the mood, tempo and tone of a Universal Horror film is unmistakable. In "Young Frankenstein: we see the parody of Brooks and Wilder at work. Filmed in glorious black and white, we see Dr Frankenstein; his aides, and the students all dressed in white lab coats; Wilder talks in an even scientist's tone of voice. In a Universal Horror film there would always be an unbeliever or some one who challenged the scientist. We this in the student who asks the question about the vermicelli.  

 

2. In keeping with Gene Wilder's own observations about the writing of this film, how does this scene move between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor? Be specific. We see Wilder presenting himself as the calm professor lecturing with a demonstration about the central nervous system. He is so subtle...almost believable in his presentation and then the subtlety turns into over the top slapstick. The two knee to the groin of the subject gags, the clamp on the nerves too long passing out gag and finally Wilder loosing control, ranting about his grandfather and then stabbing himself with the scalpel.  He finishes strong and subtle by trying to remain calm when he realizes what he has done. Remember he didn't want "Blazing Frankenstein nor an art film that only 14 people would see".

 

3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer.

After having seen "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and the "Great Race" in color there is no doubt that slapstick can grow, flourish and be successful in color but when your objective is to parody the Universal Horror Films, the only way you can do this is in black and white. Remember one of the jobs of modern re-imaging of old gags etc. is to try and educate new audiences. Filming "Young Frankenstein" in black and white helped introduce a whole new generation of film viewers to the feel and tone of a Universal Horror film with the added treat of slapstick comedy! Oh I must leave you with one final thought: "Blucher!" :o


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#23 robinlee

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 12:19 PM

You have the super serious doctor- he is right about everything. He uses people, like Mr Hilltop in the clip- to show how smart he is. The old mad scientists in the old horror movies were also too smart for everyone else- until its too late.

I love this clip, especially as he explains why his grandfather's work was **** and stabs himself in the leg. There is also the expressions on the face of Mr Hilltop as he is used as a test subject.

In black and white you keep the subtlety of the gags without it being in your face.  


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#24 ameliajc

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 09:21 AM

It was great to see Young Frankenstein last night and i learned a lot from the live tweeting. The deliberate reuse of the old sets and the black-and-white sets us up for the traditional horror story. Color wouldn't have worked. Thanks for posting the stills. I think a certain kind of color might have been effective, but as I learned from Noir Summer last year, that has a lot to do with how the lighting and focus is set up. The vivid color and clear lighting tend to give too much attention to the background, whereas leaving much in shadow makes it mysterious, and has that cheezy look we expect. I'm not a fan of Madeline Kahn, or the sexist stereotypes of the female portrayals, no matter how much fun the characters are having with their Schwangstucking. But I gained a new appreciation for Gene Wilder's technique of starting off calm and articulate and slowly escalating into ranting madness. (My favorite scene in this regard comes from The Producers, though -- Now I'm wet, and I'm still hysterical!) He demonstrates how easy it is to trip over the edge, and that's where the broad comedy of Brooks meets the restraint of Wilder. Although we see several types of humor, Wilder can transition from one to the other so naturally -- i.e., as part of the plot -- that it works.


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#25 Whipsnade

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 04:32 AM

         With “Young Frankenstein” (1974), the team of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder set out to make a parody of the original “Frankenstein” Trilogy produced by Universal Studios in the 1930’s.  Elements of the three movies (“Frankenstein” from 1931, “Bride of Frankenstein” from 1935 and “Son of Frankenstein” from 1939) are combined in the story of a young doctor who tries to overcome the scandalous history of his family -- the house of Frankenstein.  This clip successfully parodies the scene in the original that sets up the scientific basis for the experiments that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) will conduct to create the monster.  Here, it is Frederick (Gene Wilder) setting the stage, while in the original it was Dr. Waldman (Edward van Slone), Henry’s old professor, who did so.  While Waldman discusses, dispassionately, the differences between a good brain and a criminal one, Frederick discusses, with great passion the difference between “hearts and kidneys” and the central nervous system.  Wilder’s performance also parodies the performance of Colin Clive in the first two original movies, both his calm, almost plaintive, talking voice, and his frantic, almost lunatic, shouting voice.  The settings for both the original and this remake is in a lecture hall in a teaching hospital.  The skeleton on the stand recalls the original, in which the class laughed at one that bounced when it was jarred.  The insistent student (Danny Goldman) hectoring Frederick represents a role reversal, for in the original, it is Henry, the ex-student who taunts Dr. Waldman.


     This scene demonstrates Wilder’s observation that the story successfully fused the comic subtlety of Wilder’s parody with the broad slapstick Mel Brooks.  The setting and verbal slapstick has Wilder’s subtlety, while the physical slapstick has the blatancy of Brooks.  The scene builds slowly, and then crescendos violently.  Mr Hilltop (Liam Dunn) is brought in to demonstrate the difference between voluntary and involuntary motor impulses.  Frederick sets up the demonstration of voluntary reflex in a calm, even boring, way (Wilder), then he shows involuntary reflex with threatening profanity and a faked knee to the groin (Brooks).  Then its back to the calm presentation, as the clamp is put on a nervous Mr. Hilltop (Wilder) and he is kneed in the groin for real (Brooks).  The clamp is violently removed, and he collapses “like a bunch of broccoli” and writhes in pain (Brooks).  Frederick tells the assistant to “give him an extra dollar” (Wilder).  Note: These parenthetical citations are speculative (as are all that follow), but they make the point.  Later with the hectoring student, we see more subtle verbal parody with his comment about the vermicelli, when Frederick asks “Are you talking about the worm or the spaghetti?”  When “The worm.” is the answer, Frederick wryly comments that he must remember that “a worm, with very few exceptions, is not a human being.” (Wilder).  The scene culminates with Frederick shouting wildly that his grandfather’s work was “doo-doo,” as he mistakenly thrusts a scalpel into his thigh (Brooks).  The scene shows how the combination of Wilder and Brooks brought out the best in each other and produced an art film that was seen and enjoyed by a lot more than 14 people.

     While the gags would have worked just as well in color, the effect of the parody is heightened by the use of black and white.  The lighting and contrasts of black and white creates atmosphere, heightens shadows and makes the difference between light and dark more stark.  All of these factors combine to give the finished product the look and feel of the Universal originals               


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#26 CynthiaV

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 11:59 PM

Wow! Who knew the Monster was blue-green or that color stills even existed. And the deleted scenes...As always Larynxa you are a wealth of knowledge. Thanks!

Would it have been as effective in colour? No way!
Black and white adds an other-worldly, nostalgic feel. And the various levels of contrast are far more dramatic---and eerier---than colour would have been.
See for yourself. There are plenty of stills that were shot in colour.
BTW, I found 3 deleted scenes: https://archive.org/...nsteinCutScenes


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#27 SKS

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 11:45 PM

Would it have been as effective in colour? No way!

Black and white adds an other-worldly, nostalgic feel. And the various levels of contrast are far more dramatic---and eerier---than colour would have been.

See for yourself. There are plenty of stills that were shot in colour.

BTW, I found 3 deleted scenes: https://archive.org/...nsteinCutScenes

I have never seen these colored stills before!  They are great but I think the movie is best in black and white. All part of its parody of the original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. I love that it was shot in B&W. 


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#28 Dubbed

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:56 PM

Young Frankenstein purposely parodies Frankenstein's (the original) method of bringing "dead tissue" back to life. The entire monster creation, in other words, the very core of the narrative, solely lies within Frankenstein's successful experimentation. Without this basic concept of "dead tissue," there would be no Frankenstein or his monster, therefore there would be no film. Young Frankenstein's inventive notions to topple the original film's basic plot, and then create an entirely new plot having been derived directly from the "dead tissue" story is head spinningly brilliant.

The subtle comedic approach is centric in dialogue. Particularly whispering "give him an extra dollar," as this is indicative of his subject (the man) being likened to Wilder's own experiment, possibly his very own version of a monster. I also enjoyed the discussion involving the worm and the spaghetti. Wilder's character approach adopts a genuine seriousness regarding the matter. His comments and verbal exchange with his pupil are engulfed by absurdity, but it makes for a very humorous outcome.

The broaden form of slapstick surrounds physicality. Two sublime examples are Wilder's attempts in making his specimen (the man) react to certain stimuli, and then becoming so passionate on the subject of dead tissue that he inadvertently stabs himself with his own scalpel. This stabbing is intelligently combined with the line "I am not interested in death, the only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!" Hilarious! Although Wilder's character will survive, it's evident a stab to a certain part of the body could undeniably be a mortal wound. The mixing of dialogue and physical slapstick is an intelligent approach to a parody film.

I don't believe this film and its gags would have worked as well if shot in color. With this being stated, allow me to express my truly enamored admiration of filming in black and white and why I love it so:
Photographing a film in black and white creates a certain mood. A defining example is direct comparison in between Psycho 1960 and the shot by shot remake released a subsequent 38 years later (although Psycho 1960 and Hitchcock are both undoubtedly incomparable.) However, for argument's sake, Psycho 1998 did not exhibit the unsettling atmosphere, as the good (white) vs. evil (black) was not a stark contrast within the implicit coloring. Black and white always play off of one another, but they are also comrades, great chums, in the filmmaking process. There is a reliance on their entangled, swirling, love/hate relationship that displays a magnitude of significance when telling a story. And this alone creates an even broader, lusher appeal.

In my opinion, colors of the rainbow spectrum can be a wondrous approach to film (The Wizard of Oz,) but at times, a film can possibly become so saturated by the vastness of the colorific spectacle that a part of the narrative becomes lost in the picturesque grandeur within the shots and/or sequences.

Black and white can give certain simplistic complexities to its revelations, specifically, the soul of the film and its characters. The simplicities lie within the mere fact that we witness a soulful emergence; complexities require a peeling off the layers, rooted deep within a character's/film's very being. We must observe with a keen eye in understanding the film's message and the characters' personalities.

Young Frankenstein harkens back to the days of the original (Frankenstein) with the black and white paying homage to its predecessor. It's saluting the originality of the story, acting, and the complete filmmaking process. While being a blatant parody, what better way to honor a classic film of such prominence than to shoot it in the way filmmaking began its inception? It's a soulful and loving approach with sincere respect and admiration of the past.
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#29 Bluboo

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:42 PM

1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific.

I saw so many horror films when I was growing up in the 1960s because we watched CHILLER THEATER as a family every Saturday night. Gene Wilder brings life to the intellectual scientist, the man of strong conviction that will undergo a radical change. Wilder changes the pronunciation of one of the most famous names in horror films. We have the clean lecture hall and the "wise guy" student who pushes Wilder's buttons. Rather than do a simple demonstration, he inflicts the most painful punishment known to a man on his subject ... then he slips him an extra dollar. The scene progresses as some exposition into Wilder's character, but it leads to a very old gag rather than establishing Wilder as a genius.

2. In keeping with Gene Wilder's own observations about the writing of this film, how does this scene move between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor? Be specific.

First, we have little subtleties like Wilder calling his grandfather's work "doo doo" and comparing the heart and kidneys to Tinker Toys. We hear the exchange about vermicelli and Wilder asks, "The worm or the spaghetti?" He also makes a comment implying the inquisitive student is a worm. All are quietly funny.

But then we have the demonstration and Wilder pretends he is going to kick the volunteer in the groin. Then he applies the clamp and does it ... when he removes the clamp, we have lots of pain. Then Wilder becomes more and more infuriated with his student, losing control and drilling the scalpel into his thigh. Despite the pain, he calmly dismisses class as if nothing is wrong.

3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer.

This film definitely works best in black and white. While some could make a case for color, I believe the ties to the old horror films are best served in black and white. B&W takes us back in time, and it is the sensation I get when I look at old photos from my grandmother and my mother. You automatically know it is in the past, and you feel like the world itself was B&W, not color. As a fan of film noir and horror, the B&W films have a special feel all their own that is difficult to capture in color. Further, we associate monsters with darkness and things that go bump in the night ... I think back to "The Exorcist" and how this color film became very, very dark in the scariest scenes. Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, Godzilla, et al. always look better in B&W!
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#30 Marianne

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:46 PM

1. How does this scene from Young Frankenstein successfully parody the old Universal horror films of the 1930s? Be specific.

I haven’t watched enough Universal horror films so I’ll have to pass on this one.

2. In keeping with Gene Wilder’s own observations about the writing of this film, how does this scene move between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor? Be specific.

There is broad slapstick humor in the way that the conversation between Wilder and his lecture student escalates so that Wilder is shouting just before he sits and stabs himself accidently. The repetition of the needling questions is comic subtlety, I think. And, of courses, Wilder stabbing himself in the thigh with the scalpel is slapstick. An example of subtlety comes earlier in the clip with the subject’s double-take being given a close-up after Wilder tests his reflexes with a sudden knee to the groin. And this bit of verbal slapstick was so subtle I almost missed it: “If it were not for this continuous stream of motor impulses, we would collapse like a bunch of broccoli.” I’ve never seen a bunch of broccoli collapse!
3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein were shot in color? Defend your answer.

I would say no, the gags would not have worked as well. It’s easier to recall the days of black-and-white film if you actually shoot in black and white. And after watching the clip a few times, it seems like the tones and shades are much richer than in old films. So even though the clip (or the film) was shot in black and white, modern film technology gives a much richer picture. Viewers know they’re watching a modern film, but they can be transported more easily to the past if the film tries to emulate at least some of the techniques of the past.


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#31 johnseury

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:45 PM

1. This scene reminded me of a coupled of scenes from the 1931 Frankenstein: the surgical removal of the brain (where in the movie, the brain is Abby Normal's) and the autopsy where the doctor tries to dissect the monster. Universal horror films had these classroom and lab scenes. Gene Wilder's disavowal of his family heritage reminded me of Basil Rathbone trying ( and failing ) to turn away from his family heritage.
2. Wilder tried to play it dry and straight in his delivery admist the whimsy of the situation and the material. The play on his name, his botched work on the old man, stabbing himself with the scalpel: these bits were the fusion of his and Mel Brooks' styles.
3. It wouldn't have been as funny or effective if filmed in color. Black and White gave it mood and setting and made the send-ups that much funnier. That's also why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein worked.
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#32 Emma D.

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:08 PM

  1. One of the primary qualities of this scene, in terms of a parody, could be the subject content we are given: a scientist with a world of knowledge, yet has an underlying background that inevitably elaborates into the film.  
  2. Initially, we have the hilarity of many nuances in this scene, as well as throughout the movie, of course.  Instances owing to the comic subtlety can include something as simple as the pronunciation of Frankenstein's (or Fronkenstein's) name or the "Give him an extra dollar" cue in an already funny predicament.  On the other hand, the broad slapstick humor can include the scene aforementioned with the older volunteer/guinea pig, and also the final scene with Dr. Frankenstein stabbing himself with a scalpel.  There are seldom, if any, scenes and/or gags in this film that overwhelms or bores.  Each is played just right to the appropriate extent that makes this parody an unpretentious classic.
  3. A substantial reason for this movie was to parody the classic Universal horror films of the 1930s, so to film in black and white seems to be the only option, in terms of the movie's aesthetic.  Very often I try to picture a favored black and white film in color, and it's still unclear to me why it's feels so different.  Of course, there are reasons innumerable, but it never fails that captivate me. 

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#33 Larynxa

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:07 PM

Would it have been as effective in colour? No way!

Black and white adds an other-worldly, nostalgic feel. And the various levels of contrast are far more dramatic---and eerier---than colour would have been.

See for yourself. There are plenty of stills that were shot in colour.

BTW, I found 3 deleted scenes: https://archive.org/...nsteinCutScenes

Attached Files


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#34 Larynxa

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 07:31 PM

The first time I saw this movie was on a late-night show on WGRZ (Buffalo). Even though it was after midnight, they ran the PG version, with the dirty words censored out and replaced by words frankensteined together from other scenes in the movie. Not only was it blindingly obvious from the fact that each word had a different intonation, but the end result was ludicrous in the extreme. Especially when Mr. Hilltop gets kneed, and Frederick says, "Why you filthy rotten / crude / yellow / cuckoo."

But the censored version of "Blazing Saddles" was even funnier. The famous "campfire" scene was rendered even funnier---and filthier---by the removal of the sound effects!
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#35 MarxBrosfan4

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 06:56 PM

It wouldn't have been good in color. The shadows they have through the film give it the feeling you get from the old movies of Frankenstein and Dracula. Gene is great as he kicks the older man and then sticks the scalpel in his leg and also yells about his grandfather's work.



#36 Bill Holmes

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 06:11 PM

1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific.

Where to start? Black and white, protagonist starting out distanced from the main premise (a doctor disavowing his past here, a relative summoned to an obscure location) but eventually succumbing to the issue at hand. A situation (about to arise in the very next scene) where this now vulnerable man is pointed towards the old house and laboratory. And they did use many of the original sets, of course, as well as many of the classic lines ("Alive...ALIVE!!"). Or to paraphrase a certain Corleone..."Just when I thought I was out, they bring me back in!"

 

2. In keeping with Gene Wilder's own observations about the writing of this film, how does this scene move between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor? Be specific.

We all know it's Frankenstein, but Wilder insists on the campy "Fronk-uhn-steen" promotion (who Frau Bruuer will eventually twist into an even more gnarly mess). He pretends to dismiss his ancestor as a lunatic but we see him quickly unravel when the student keeps pressing, using voice and gesture - obviously he has not been able to distance himself. Great asides to the subject - the treat, "give him an extra dollar", and Wilder's mastery of tone and volume to set himself up as this façade - a pompous one at that - where he tries to pretend he won't be the next madman doctor. All, of course, apped by the brilliant scalpel move - that nanosecond of purse silence and stillness, after which he first tries to cover up and then eventually totally hide the scalpel as if nothing happened...while obviously trying not to scream in pain. The patient's initial posture (the first time I saw the movie I thought Wilder would forget to tell him to lower the knee and he would eventually topple over) followed by the exaggerated reaction to the fake knee to the groin, then the writhing on the gurney as the pain was allowed to flow.

 

3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer.

I don't think so. Classic Universal horror movies were all in black and white, lights and shadow, often rainy and overcast skies and fog. Like film noir, the black/white/grey spectrum communicates the film's emotional tone far more successfully. The lack of color also keeps you more focused upon the plot and activity - there are no subtleties to distract you nor insinuations from the color choices (as in Vertigo, for one example).


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#37 Heather Mary

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 06:04 PM

Young Frankenstein is a perfect parody and homage to the old horror films in the 30s. Clearly the director of photography, set designers And great Mel Brooks director did an extraordinary job to depict the feel of these old horror films. Of course filming it in black-and-white was key. Having the young Frankenstein go back to his grandfather's castle was a perfect set up for this movie. Beautifully written.
I don't know if Mel Brooks and gene wilder had many fights or arguments during this movie. But you certainly see both flavors in this scene today. The brilliant acting of gene wilder shows the subtlety of the humor. Really a delivery, As he stays steadfast in his serious character even after stabbing himself in the leg. That may have been Mel Brooks idea. I also sense director brooks hand in the old man's reaction and kick in the balls issue.
I think this movie would not have been as successful as far as a parody if it had not been filmed in black-and-white. It just gives it such as rich spooky timely feel. This is perfect comedy.
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#38 gtunison

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 06:01 PM

1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific.

 

Being shot in black and white, Gene Wilder over acts the role of the mad scienceist. It is parody with the lines like "give him an extra dollar" and in response to the student's question with "the worm or the spaghetti."

 

He is subtle as he moves thru the scene. Having made his point he becomes aggravated with the student and stabs his own leg.

 

It would have lost the 30's horror feel in color.

 

 


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#39 Janeko

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:50 PM

Young Frankenstein is a perfect parody of the old Universal Horror films.  It's filmed in black and white, takes us back in time to those films with the sets once Wilder arrives at the castle and then we meet an interesting array of characters, all of whom are take offs on the principle players in the old films.

 

In this clip, Wilder is an eminent visiting physician giving a lecture to medical students.  He is the "expert" who does not appreciate challenges to his views.  He works very hard to disassociate himself from his grandfather's work rather than wanting to build on it, as one would expect.  But we're not disappointed.  He eventually succumbs to the lure of the very work he disavows.  And then the real fun begins!!

 

The comic subtlety is evident in Wilder's unemotional delivery of his lecture, even when suddenly assaulting Mr. Hilltop.  Afterwards, in an aside, he tells the assistant to give Mr. Hilltop an extra dollar, as though that will make things better for the poor guy. 

 

When pushed by the student about his grandfather's work, the comedy becomes more and more exaggerated as Wilder slowly loses control, finally declaring his grandfather's work to be "doo doo," and then finally  stabs himself in the leg accidentally with the scalpel in a fit of rage.  Then he scales way back, crossing his legs, acting as though nothing unusual has happened, and casually dismisses the class, trying to hide the fact that he's in pain.

 

All of the old Universal horror films were shot in black and white. Shooting the movie in color would have ruined the whole atmosphere of the film!! The black and white film preserved the "film noir" aspects of the movie with all of the contrasting lights and shadows.

 

 

While much credit has been given to Gene Wilder's acting, I think it's important to recognize just how perfect the rest of the cast is as well.  I understand that they had a tremendous amount of fun on the set as they improvised scene after scene.  I saw an interview with Gene Hackman once during which he discussed his experience with the film. His scene as the blind hermit only took one day to shoot.  But according to Mr. Hackman, he kept going back to the set day after day to continue watching the filming because everyone was having such a great time!!!

 

 


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#40 JazzGuyy

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:50 PM

I noticed the Basil Rathbone type mustache that Wilder has. Rathbone played the son of Dr. Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein ​and I think the mustache alludes to Frederick possibly being that Frankenstein's son--a nice little subtle touch that adds a bit more to the parody for those familiar with the whole series of Universal Frankenstein movies.


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