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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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


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#41 D'Arcy

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:28 PM

This film is perfect in every way....saying anything else I really tear up...
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#42 ShawnDog

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:22 PM

1. This scene parodies the classic Universal Horror films in the use of a scientist named Frankenstein (no matter how its pronounced) who is seen as emotionally defiant (perhaps even unstable) in the 'mad scientist' mold.  The medical classroom setting did appear a few times in those classic old films.  And of course the black and white photography is a direct motif of those former films.

2. Within the scene there is both broad comedy as well as the more subtle, as referenced in Wilder's comments.  The subtler gags include the line 'give him an extra dollar', the doctor's glance at the student in anticipation of the pronunciation of his name, and 'the worm or the spaghetti' comment.   Broader comedy is seen in the knee to the groin action (including the cross-eyes), the 'do-do' reference, and the self-inflicted stabbing.

3. The gags would still work had this film been shot in color but the linkage to the original films would have suffered, taking away from the parody aspects.


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#43 Chris_Coombs

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 04:51 PM

Young Frankenstein parodies the classic Universal Monster movies very well. This clip is a parody of scenes we see in many films, where the scientist is first seen demonstrating his expertise: performing an operation, or an experiment, or lecturing a class. Think of Dr Waldman's lecture at the college in Frankenstein. He discusses with his students the difference between a normal and abnormal brain. It is often the case that the scientist in such horror films are introduced in this manner, and that is how Froderick Frankenstein is introduced to us.

 

The film moves between broad slapstick (the knee to the nuts, the scalpel in the thigh) and the subtle bits of comedy (giving Mr Hilltop a treat as if he were a performing animal) Throughout the film there is both wild slapstick (the 'Sedagive' choking, the girl flying from the seesaw to her bed, the Inspector's wooden arm) and more subtle comedy (Froderick trying to say goodbye to his wife without touching her hair or taffeta dress, 'pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania Station?).

 

This film HAD to be shot in Black and White, to give us the feel of the old Universal horror films, which were all in Black and White. It was part of the mood of those films, which needs to be recreated here for the jokes to work. For example, the mob slowly moving through the foggy forest, and one of them bumps into a tree which he cant see because of the fog. The mood of that scene has to work so the joke can break the mood. Brooks even went so far as to shoot in the same lenses, and used Kenneth Strickfadden's electrical props.


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#44 moviequeen2

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 03:17 PM

Shooting Young Frankenstein in anything but black and white since it is supposed to be a parody of Universal's 1930's horror films would be almost be a sin. The feeling we all get from watching those old films would simply just not be there.
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#45 riffraf

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:36 PM

 

It would be horrendous if Ted Turner decided to colorize that film, just like he did back in 1986, causing outrage from the film community and the film directors and actors that would state that it destroyed the directors original vision.

 

For those who didn't catch it, there was a photo spread of movers & shakers back in the 80s made by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair or Esquire, where she shot Ted Turner black & white and (because of his indiscretions) hand colored his image for the publication.....



#46 SV1992

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:32 PM

1. This scene successfully parodies the old Universal horror films, outside of the obvious black and white, by taking place in a seemingly serious medical setting.  That's where most of these movies took place or started- in a serious medical setting that would seem plausible.  

 

2. This scene moves between comic subtlety and slapstick humor very fluidly.  When Gene Wilder is speaking he moves into the insults without changing his tone or missing a beat and the next thing you know he knees the old man in the groin. He goes from the subtlety in his words to his actions portraying slapstick humor.  This happens again at the end of the clip where he's arguing with a student and then stabs himself in the leg.  

 

3. No, I do not think this film and its gags would have worked as well in color.  This film is supposed to be a parody of those old Universal horrors, so right off the bat you have to shoot in black and white since all those films were.  It gives it the right feel.  Then without props sticking out with their color or the flashing lights of the machines, I feel more is relied upon in the dialogue and the actions.  People pay more attention to those things since that's the only thing to focus on in the movie.  


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#47 riffraf

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:14 PM

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

 

This particular scene we have been given to review does not, in my opinion, successfully parody the old Universal horror films of the 1930s except for being filmed in black and white.  The lecture hall looks modern, the student interns’ hairstyles and dress appear to be more contemporary than the 30s.  It’s not until Gene Wilder’s character returns to his father’s home/castle that we seem to enter a 1930s Universal horror picture.  From that point on, we could just as well be watching a Boris Karloff flick.

 

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.

 

The painful and violent self-stabbing of Dr. Frankenstein’s leg is of itself an act of broad slapstick humour as done by the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and so many others in our study of earlier comedies.  The difference in subtlety is Gene Wilder’s reaction to the violent accident as he attempts to remain calm, cross his legs, and as he tries so hard to mask the pain, he casually dismisses the class.

 

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

 

I do not think Young Frankenstein would have worked as well had it been shot in color mainly because as a parody of the original Frankenstein (1931) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) were both widely considered classic horror films and shot in black and white.  For Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder to make Young Frankenstein a true homage to these iconic films they should replicate as much as possible regarding the set design and production values.  That they did and as mentioned earlier they used some of the original props as seen in the 1930s versions of the Frankenstein period pieces.

 

On the other hand, what Blake Edwards accomplished in The Great Race (1965) as homage to the silent comedies of yesteryear as well as a tip of the hat to Looney Toons and other animated cartoons, which we have concluded were also a homage to slapstick comedy.  Color not only worked well for The Great Race but was necessary component.   


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#48 ScottZepher

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:10 PM

1.  The university laboratory/classroom was a fairly common scene, not only in Horror but in many other movie genres during the time period. Here the Professor is himself condemned by the know-it-all student (in other films the professor condemns the student, the students conspire amongst themselves for myriad reasons, etc.).  Our Dr. F refers to the famous one, among other things, as "Grandfather," leading us to believe there is only two generations separation, but the class itself (with the exception of the Mr. Know-it-All and the creepy envoy from Transylvania?) could very easily have been pulled wholesale from a UCLA Biology class, c.1974.  Whatever the reasoning was, it comes across not only as integral to the parody but as great subtle humor as well.

 

2.  Wilder himself leads us into the subtle comedy (droll delivery of textbook facts, condemnation of his Grandfather which hedges on indifference) and out the broad slapstick (two entirely different "kneejerk" reaction gags) as deftly as any of his other comedic roles (his title role as "Cisco Kid" refuses to ride a horse on the Sabbath, turning the traditional Western horse chase into a classic gag)

 

3. Watch any of the Hammer horror films of the '60s, all remakes on classic horror genre, all full color, and what do you see?  Red blood, I'll give you that, but then what?  Gray, Brown, Black, Stone.  Filming the original set pieces in color would have lessened the other comedic aspects of the film. 
 


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#49 clark2600

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:02 PM

1.  How does this scene successfully parody the Universal horror films of the 1930s.  Be specific.  In comparison, this scene from Young Frankenstein actually pokes fun at those serious, scary "3-D" sci-fi horror films.  Exemplary of such horrifying films as "The Island of Dr. Moreau," Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein," as well as other bone chilling, blood curdling films, these stories host a sordid, diabolical mad scientist who escapes to his lab to do evil, in his attempts on the face of the world.  It is like preceding strong medicine with a spoonful of laughter.

 

2.  In keeping 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.  The scene of the humiliated man captured as a human guinea pig, is moreover a classical example of painful humor.  Where the man lifts his left leg, as if he were a young man, and lowering it, before having his groin hit.  Even after expressing his excruciating pain it is all to no avail.  The levels of human anguish, as to how much can a man take.  It is as if this scene alludes to the introduction of Dr. Fronkensteins horrific discovery, his monster.

 

3.  Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color?  Defend your answer.  I think that B&W enhances the realism, and helps viewers focus on the finer points of the film.  In B&W films, we gain more visual depth, as well as clarity.  On the other hand, the implementation of color reminds me of the institution of technicolor, introduced by Hal Roach's Studio in Hollywood, California, namely its "Mighty Mouse."  It is rather colorful, in its wide range of the color scheme.  Color leaves little to the imagination.  The colors are often colored in even over the films to make the seem more realistic.


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#50 Pjdamon

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 01:59 PM

1. Young Frankenstein is an excellent parody to the 30s horror films especially the three Frankenstein ones that starred Boris Karloff. The other Karloff film the Body Snatchers. That film also has a doctor that is teaching about the brain to medical students with Karloff as the body snatcher. It captures the essence of those films by using the same filming techniques, props (the original lab equipment from then'31, '36 and '39 versions was used), editing and the use of black and white film. Brooks did a masterful job with all of these. Even if it wasn't a parody it would have worked using these techniques unlike the later versions of Frankenstein.

2. This scene moves from subtle to broad slapstick with the following:

A. The expressions of the patient's face and his body motions. He goes from a clueless expression to one of great pain. The fact he almost looks like a body that as snatched adds to the humor. He does have the obvious reaction when Wilder hits him where it counts, but Wilder's matter of fact and clinical expression makes it more comical.

B. The physical gags include hitting the patient as described above and when Wilder stabbed himself with the scalpel. Wilder's delivery of his lecture adds to the scene. Most professors (in the movies) would not be as excitable and empathizing in delivery of a lecture. I could alms see the delivery in bold and all caps.

C. The subtlety is with the deadpan expressions of entire classroom. The conversation of Wilder and the student with the one line zingers that can be caught. There are several examples of this later in the film. For example when Teri Garr states she likes a "roll in the hay", then she rolls back and forth. Or anytime the name of Frau Blucher you hear a horse in the background. Or when Wilder and Garr and looking at the head spiciemans and Marty Feldman is the last one.

3. No it would not have been better if this film was in color. Brooks went to great lengths to ensure he captured the essence of a 30s film, which meant he chose black and white. The other thing that Brooks did was not use the special effect techniques that were being used at that time. The films 2001: A Space Oddesey and Logan's Run come to mind. Again it was in style of the 30s. Brooks understood and used the 30s technology and it added not detracted from the film.
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#51 BLACHEFAN

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 01:09 PM

1. It is shot in black and white, as a tribute to the original Universal Horror movies of the 1930s. Like the original Frankenstein horror films of the 1930s, the main protagonist is a medical doctor, but this doctor isn't interested in reanimating dead tissue, he is instead focused on the central nervous system of the human body. There is always a character that is willing to bring the relative of the frankenstein family to come back to Transylvania to revive their grandfather's work.

 

2. The level of exaggeration was brought to a minimum, so as not to make it a broad parody. Gene's character was kept at a sane level while, his experiment with a patient is considered as having a broad slapstick humor in of itself. 

 

3. Not necessarily, it would lose the effect, since this was meant to be a parody and tribute to two artists and their work - James Whale and Mary Shelley. It would be horrendous if Ted Turner decided to colorize that film, just like he did back in 1986, causing outrage from the film community and the film directors and actors that would state that it destroyed the directors original vision.


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#52 jkbrenna

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:56 PM

The black & white film imitates the horror and otherwise films of the 1930s.  Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and others were shot in black & white.  Black & white is stark, like the noir films in the 40s with angled lighting that sets the atmosphere and tone of the movie, albeit funny this time.The old time horror movies did the same.

 

In that opening scene, he tries to live down his family name and gives a demonstration of voluntary and involuntary reflexes.  He stabs himself in the leg, which is slapstick funny, and he dismisses the class.  His grandfather's will intrigues him.  

 

 


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#53 topogigio480

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:45 PM

Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite films, so I have trouble keeping perspective on this one. 

 

I will say that this film, being a parody of the films before, wouldn't have been quite so funny had it been filmed in color. I think it works so well because it is in black and white. It plays with the shadows and light so well, just as earlier black and white films did. I think it made the picture much more enjoyable. 

 

I can't say much more because I'll get all gushy. 


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#54 MrDougLong

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:39 PM

1.       This scene parodies the central conflict of Son of Frankenstein (1939), in which the younger Frankenstein, who has divorced himself from the family legacy, is lured back to his father’s laboratory. The mood of most of the 1930s Universal horror films was quite serious and this scene shows us a Dr. Frankenstein who takes science and his teaching quite seriously, publicly rejecting the alleged pseudoscience of his family.

2.       Gene Wilder himself bridges the shifts between subtle and broad comedy in this scene. Much of the humor comes from Dr. Frankenstein wanting to retain his credibility in front of his students. So when he knees the patient painfully in the **** (broad comedy when we see the man’s eyes cross), Frankenstein doesn’t upset his cool demeanor. Verbal humor comes from the skinflint telling his assistant to give the man an extra dollar (for enduring such pain). Similarly, the medical student humorously probes Frankenstein about his family’s experiments with re-animation, causing Frankenstein to become very upset, but wanting to appear calm. Therefore when he stabs himself in the thigh with a knife (broad humor), we jump to a closer shot as Frankenstein says “Class. Dismissed.” as calmly as he can (subtle humor).

3.       The gags may have been funny in color, but the parody would have not been as effective since all the 1930s Universal horror films were in black and white. The filming really had a ‘30s look to it, especially once we get to Frankenstein’s castle.


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#55 Patti Zee

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:16 PM

It isn't as though we didn't know what we were in for, the movie title, the advertisements telling us it was filmed in Startling Black and White...The entire experience of this movie is a parody of and homage to the great Universal horror movies of the 30's.

The combination of parody (Medical school lecture), broad physical slapstick (knee to the groin for checking reflex reaction) and verbal slapstick (My grandfather's work was Doo-doo!") along with a wonderful use of lighting (the more modern, less sinister use of grey tones), all work to move the plotline along.

Filming in black and white was brilliant. As the plot moves along and we are back in the "old country" the contrast deepens, carrying us all visually back to the, foggy, spooky 1930s sets.This proves a perfect foil for the craziness that makes Young Frankenstein such a delight, even 40 years later.
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#56 CynthiaV

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:08 PM

1. How does this scene successfully parody the old Universal Horror films of the 1930s? Be specific.
“The film is an affectionate parody of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein produced by Universal in the 1930s. Most of the lab equipment used as props was created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein…. and the film employed 1930s' style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a period score by Brooks' longtime composer John Morris.”
https://en.wikipedia...ng_Frankenstein
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.
Broad slapstick
This scene meets all of our criteria from week 1:
1.       Exaggeration – facial expressions of the medical subject, scalpel into leg, my grandfather’s work was doo-doo
2.       Physical – verbal and physical – filthy rotten son of a ****!
3.       Ritualistic – repeated physical attack on the medical subject, repeated visual reaction of disbelief by the medical subject; facial reaction of medical subject once the shut off valve is connected to his neck, relentless questioning by student
4.       Make believe – Dr. Frankenstein story to begin with is fantasy, facial reaction of medical subject once the shut off valve is connected to his neck, medical students lack of reaction to subject’s pain (applause even)
5.       Violent – kneeing of the medical subject, scalpel into leg
Noted in articles about this film is how cast members ad libbed some of the scenes, resulting in broad comedy – similar to the flavor of the early slapstick filmmaking.
Comic subtlety
·         Boredom of the scientific subject in initial demonstrations
·         The professor continuing his lecture in mild manner after violently attacking the medical subject
·         Give him an extra dollar!
·         Are you speaking of a worm or spaghetti?
·         Complete seriousness of Wilder as the professor, as well as his lab assistants – who are stonefaced in the Keaton tradition
·         To dissociate himself from his forebear, Frederick insists that his surname is pronounced "Fronkensteen."
·         His hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant named Igor (Marty Feldman) insists on his name being pronounced differently (in this case "Eye-gor")
·         The professor’s comparison of the inquisitive student to a worm – a worm, with very few exceptions, is not a human being!
·         Crossing of legs after scalpel – class is dismissed!
https://en.wikipedia...ng_Frankenstein
In a 2010 interview with Los Angeles Times, Mel Brooks discussed how the film came about:[10]
I was in the middle of shooting the last few weeks of Blazing Saddles somewhere in the Antelope Valley, and Gene Wilder and I were having a cup of coffee and he said, I have this idea that there could be another Frankenstein. I said not another — we've had the son of, the cousin of, the brother-in-law, we don't need another Frankenstein. His idea was very simple: What if the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein wanted nothing to do with the family whatsoever. He was ashamed of those wackos. I said, "That's funny."
Lacher, Irene. "The Sunday Conversation: Mel Brooks on his 'Young Frankenstein' musical"Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
3. Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color? Defend your answer.
“Beautifully filmed in black and white on some of the original Frankenstein sets, using the old 1:85 aspect ratio and a similar film stock, the movie displays a thorough knowledge of and respect for the old films, along with a deliciously heightened sense of their more ridiculous aspects.”
http://www.tcm.com/t...n/articles.html
To help evoke the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black-and-white, a rarity in the 1970s.  https://en.wikipedia...ng_Frankenstein
The atmosphere provided by black and white sets the backdrop for all of the humor, parody, and slapstick of the film.  I cannot imagine this film in color, but of course – the musical version (2007) is live and in color – and the jokes work!  But, then again, the audience was conditioned for that, knowing the past film and the flavor of it.
SORRY SO LONG – BUT CAN EVERYONE TELL I LOVE THE LATE GENE WILDER AND MEL BROOKS!


Please don't apologize for length Russell K. Your response is a thorough and excellent analysis and I thank you also for the great links. Fantastic job! I love Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks also. This course has been so much fun.

Unfortunately, I've never had an opportunity to travel to any of the TCM Classic Film Festivals. So to be able to "meet" and chat with others who share my love of Slapstick has been a rare treat. I've learned so much while enjoying myself immensely. Kudos to everyone and especially our fun-filled and knowledgeable fair leader in mayhem, Dr. Edwards.
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#57 savaney

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:06 PM

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

 

It brilliantly showcased the sort of camp quality that the horror films possessed. It takes scenes from those films and actually makes the 'science' more realistic and less forced. In the hands of a lesser director, the scene would have been more generic and befuddled. The parody would have been more ridiculous and less relevant. It took two geniuses like Brooks and Wilder to make parody and spoof work, while adding their own self-awareness to the mix. They successfully mocked the absurdity that came from the 1930s horror films and gave it new life.

 

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.

 

​At first, it is about the complexity of science, and it had a less forced approach to it. It was more broad than other scenes. It was genius because you couldn't tell what was subtle and what was slapstick. It was a prefect mixture of that. The subtlety was the explanation of the Scientifics, and the slapstick was Wilder going into hysterics when ridiculing his character's grandfather's extreme experiments. It is even more broader when he stabs himself in the knee. Wilder didn't wink at the audience, and I think that moment may have been improvised, because it looked unexpected. The ability to spoof classic cinema and creating your own comedy from that is something that both Brooks and Wilder did extremely well.

 

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

 

Since Young Frankenstein is one of the most beautiful black-and-white films ever made, it would have lost its purpose if would have been shot in color. The gags would not have been relevant nor based on comedy realism in color. Sometimes color ruins the essence and shatters reality. I think the black and white worked for the film because it took us back to our childhood memories of watching the old Universal films of the 1930s. It was like we were reintroduced to those films again because of the use of B&W. It was certainly nostalgic and potent.


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#58 jay1458

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 12:00 PM

In the movie "Frankenstein" there was a similar scene with a classroom where Fritz stole the "abnormal" brain for the doctor's creation. In "Young Frankenstein" the same thing happens but the brain is "Abbe Normal". This scene starts as a teacher giving a lecture to his class ( comic subtlety ) and the he stabs himself in the leg with a scalpel (Slapstick ). I believe this would have worked so well if it was shot in color because the old horror films ( I have all of them ) where shot in black and white. The fact that this was shot in the same manner I think makes the film and its gags work so well. 


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#59 GeezerNoir

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 11:09 AM

Would this film and its gags have worked as well if Young Frankenstein was shot in color?

 

I own a twenty year old DVD of Young Frankenstein.  On it there is a documentary entitled “Making Frankensense of Young Frankenstein”.  In this documentary cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld tells us that, originally, he thought the film should start out in B&W and then transition to color.  However Mel Brooks insisted that the film would be in B&W or else he wouldn’t direct it; and Hirschfeld soon came to agree with Brooks.  Hirschfeld also tells us that Brooks intended to do more than simply to replicate the look of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.  He wanted to satirize that look.  The overall mood of the film and the replication of the classic look is accomplished more in long shots.  Yet when the camera moves in closer to the players, the lighting is brighter than in the original pictures.  Brooks and Hirschfeld felt that this was more appropriate for a comedic parody since now it was important to see the expressions on the actors faces and to see details of comic gags.  When I watch the film now, I can clearly see this; although I was never clever enough to notice it on my own.  Of course we’re not meant to notice it consciously, are we.


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#60 judith46

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 11:02 AM

This one difficult for me as I have never watched horror flicks, and am not a Mel Brooks fan.  But I appreciate Russell K's excellent information regarding the way the concept developed between Wilder and Brooks.  I love Wilder, though he can be over the top, but its a real blessing he had a restraining influence on Brooks.  Sorry if I offend all you MB fans;  we all have our own tastes.

 

I think color would have made the lab setting less creepy and retro in feeling.


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