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


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#61 Barracuda89

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:57 AM

1. This scene in Young Frankenstein successfully parodies Universal Horror films of the 1930's by setting up well the scientist character and his body of work. Clearly, in Dr. Frankenstein's speech, he knows a great deal about the central nervous system, which is essential to illustrate as he becomes a Dr. seeking to reanimate a human being. Without this set-up of a scientist in his lab, you don't understand the parody, nor the homage to 1930's horror movies experienced later in the film. 

 

2. Being the fantastic writer that he was, Wilder moves between comic subtlety and broad slapstick humor, and back again, effortlessly. A broad stroke of slapstick humor is witnessed when Victor experiences his outburst while demonstrating reflex muscles on his unsuspecting subject. Then, in an immediate turn to the subtlety, the subject looks at Dr. Frankenstein confused before resuming his posture as the perfect subject, although now guarded. The camera hanging on the subject capturing his reaction after the strike was comic genius that resonated with the audience and a perfect testament to the subtle comedy Wilder was so great at. Another fantastic moment of subtle comedy comes when Dr. Frankenstein is entertaining a question from a student, the student rises and begins to call him by an unassumed pronunciation of his last name, just one look from Dr. FrONKenstein reminds the student to correct himself in pronunciation. Just that look, again acts as a testament to WIlder's subtle comedic force. After the line of questioning lengthens, WIlder's subtlety and jokes make way for a slapstick outburst in which he stabs himself with a scalpel. These moments and the one we do not get to see, the long pause after the Dr. realizes he has stabbed himself and attempts to remain in control over the situation while experiencing extreme pain truly show the comedic force Wilder had in both the arts of subtle comedy and broad slapstick farce. His greatness is truly missed!

 

3. On the most base level, no, this film nor its gags would have worked as well had the film been shot in color because that was not the artist's vision. Gene Wilder explicitly stated, at the earliest inception of the film that he wanted the project to be shot in black and white. If his wishes never came to fruition the film would have lost the heart that was injected by Wilder's freedom of artistic expression. Without the obvious parallels, all of which being in black and white, Young Frankenstein to 1930's Universal horror films a bit of the parody would have been lost had the film been in color. 


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"You should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about."--Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka


#62 redpaws

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:56 AM

The use of black and white film removes us from the present time and takes us back to our childhood. Spooky castles, creepy old people whispering history's of ancient hauntings, murder , and family skeltons in the closets.We are placed in a fun campy mood of disbelief right from the start . We have "knowledge" of how a "mad" scientist acts and thinks-Wilders actions have us waiting with baited breath for him to "lose" his self control and let "out" the unrestrained thinking of his passions.Wilder doesn't disappoint us,he winds us up slowly but,when he loses his control he makes us laugh instead of cower in fear.In essence he never REALLY loses his control to madness he simply surrounds us in chaos and laughter,which was his goal all along.


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#63 ln040150

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:34 AM

The unfortunate problem with the great horror classics of the 1930s was that they fed into the already-rampant anti-intellectualism of the American public by painting a picture of scientists as so far above them, so isolated in their thinking, that they would never sink to considering the possibilities that occurred to the everyday woman or man. “Preposterous” and “ridiculous” became standard vocabulary in scripts. Young Frankenstein plays upon this tradition in spades by creating a character in Frederick whose very neurosis is bound into the denial of what the common person takes for granted. His long argument with the “wormy” student is representative of this attitude throughout the early part of the film.

We’ve seen these “medical exam” skits before, especially with the Marx Bros., but also with Sid Caesar, Martin and Lewis, the Stooges, etc. With the others it is always played for the broadest comedy effect. Here we have a lot of jargon introduced, however, and with an evenness of tone that slows down the pace, even though some of it may be specious. This tends to makes the humor more intellectual in effect, but not really. The impact is only in contrast, a set for the pure slapstick coming. Liam Dunn (Mr. Hilltop) so closely resembles Ben Turpin when he crosses his eyes that it becomes something of an homage to that often-forgotten great.

If we see the film as homage, there certainly can be no sense in having it filmed in color, despite the extra expense involved (at this point in time there actually was extra cost for filming in black and white, if I am correct). It is a tone poem about the past and color would have spoiled the effect at every turn, even in this particular scene, set in the modern period in a modern room.
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#64 picasso55

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:27 AM

Long yes but worth the read. Well done sir. I too am a huge fan of Brooks and Wilder.

 

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!  


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#65 Kegan62

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:22 AM

No I don't think if YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN...("That's Fronkensteen" )was filmed in color it would have taken away the camp and homage to the Unviersal Monster films of the 30's,40s and into the 50's. Using the original sets from Karloff's Frankenstein only made the gags and the parody work so  well. This is a hallmark of Mel Brooks films. He has Parodied Hitchcock in "HIGH ANXIETY" and even remade the Jack Benny classic TO BE OR NOT TO BE". 



#66 goingtopluto

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 10:12 AM

I believe “Young Frankenstein” is an effective parody because you can feel the love of the old classic Universal horror movies. I would even say that “Young Frankenstein” could be considered not just a parody but Frankenstein sequel because it's stays so close to the Frankenstein canon. Wilder and Brooks even went so far as to use some of the equipment from the original movie and take a risk by filming it in black and white. I would compare it to “Galaxy Quest” which stayed so close to the Star Trek canon that even the Star Trek creator's consider it a sequel to their franchise.

In this clip we see a parody of the literary technique concerning the “scientific explanation” which was used to give reasons for the supernatural storyline. It seems that I recall in most of the Frankenstein movies there is some kind of an explanation usually occurring fairly early on in the moie. In this clip we see that Brooks and Wilder put a comic twist on this literary device and use the opportunity for both broad slapstick and subtle humor. I always enjoyed it because it wasn't just slapstick for slapstick’s sake, but instead it moved the storyline along as much as it did in the old classics. For example, we see that Dr. Frankenstein is so upset with his grandfather's work he stabs himself with a scalpel

I don't recall any of the explanations in the old Frankenstein movies being this prolonged. However I think later movies, especially science fiction in the 1950s, move makers did start to expand the “scientific explanation”. “Them” always comes to my mind whenever I see this part of “Young Frankenstein”. In “Them” we even get to see a movie about ants. I think that might be why I like this movie so much. I don't know if it was intentional but for me it's not just a parody of Frankenstein other movies in this genre as well.
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#67 TonyZao

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:55 AM

I just love Young Frankenstein and I consider it the most successful parody ever made. This particular scene features the late Gene Wilder looking, talking and behaving like the mad scientists of the 1930's horror films, and the other characters aren't as normal as they should be in this environment. Even the skeleton in the background plays its part, making the whole set-up looking much more sinister (and ridiculous, too) that it should.

 

As in the whole film, this scene is an example of a perfect combination between subtle and crazy humor. Unlike another Brooks/Wilder masterpiece made in the same year, Blazing Saddles, this film is much more well-defined and structured and it's not just a sequence of chaotic events. In this clip, for instance, we see Victor Frankenstein (Wilder) hitting a patient as part of an experiment, in a complete slapstick way, while later he tells his assistant to "give him an extra dollar" because his unnatural reaction helped the doctor establish his cause to the students. This is the first of many such instances in this incredible movie.

 

I've always believe it was a great choice by Brooks to shoot this film in B&W. The entire atmosphere, the foggy landscapes, the strange creatures (Marty Feldman being the weirdest of them all), the monster, even the "Puttin' on the Ritz" routine play their part in making this film both a spoof and a homage of the early Universal horror films, and that couldn't be showed in such way in color. I believe that making this film in color would be like colorizing classic films, a process which I don't embrace so much.


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#68 KGhidora

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:40 AM

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

 

The use of black and white mirrors the look of the Universal monster movies.  There is a stranger in the back row of the lecture hall with an old wooden box with the journals of the elder Dr. Frankenstein which is similar to Dr. Pretorious arriving in Bride of Frankenstein to convince Victor to resume his experiments.  Gene Wilder captures the essence of Colin Clive playing Victor Frankenstein with the wild eyes and voice as he is clearly engaged in his theories.

 

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 scene has broad slapstick in the physical and violent moments, Frederick kneeing the old man in the groin and later stabbing himself with the scalpel.  These move to more subtle humor, such as the imitation of Colin Clive's mannerisms and the verbal asides.  "Give him another dollar." 

 

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

 

I don't believe so.  The movie would still be funny in color, but it would lose out of some of the parody aspects without it being shot in black and white and looking like a genuine Universal monster movie.  Most of the film looks like it could have been from the 30's with the look of the castle sets and lab equipment used in the original films.  This pulls the viewer into the feel of the movie, and the use of color would not have the same effect.


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#69 CynthiaV

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:26 AM

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

I'll highlight just one aspect, his voice. Wilder masterfully modulates his voice to parody the scientists of the early horror films. They were the experts, they sold us their impossible theories at a time when science was unknowable by most audiences. They were so sure of themselves, so intelligent and brilliant. Wilder parodies this by somehow modulating his voice with a mixture of all of the above but adds a haughtiness, a comical aloofness. It's close to pomposity but not quite. He manages to ratchet it down and avoid becoming bombastic. His voice alone even when he is angered by the student is perfect. He parodies the original dialogue but imbues it with his own subtle humor. His skill in just this one aspect is amazing. It truly makes the entire scene.

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.

As Wilder scientifically explains the nervous system we, the audience are lulled into his demonstration, the mundane, "lift your left knee." The subject complies. Then he approaches and places his hand on the subject's shoulder, and in yet a purely scientific manner continues explaining the differences between the complementary aspects of the autonomic nervous system. All well and good but then he suddenly knees the subject in the groin to exact a response. Owwww! Parody of the pseudo science of early horror films that has just devolved into violent slapstick. Back to parody with the explanation of the band on the back of the subject's skull to repress the response, zing, back to slapstick with the knee again to the groin. I love the assistant taking his lab coat, how he washes his fingers and the aside, "Give him an extra dollar," as the man writhes in pain on the gurney. All parody. Even when he is verbally confronted by the student and defends his theory, more early parody, there was always a desenting opinion. Wilder then proceeds to jab his thigh with a scalpel, more violent painful slapstick but he keeps his composure a la The Great Stone Face. Great clip.

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

No. Brooks and Wilder need the black and white to pull off their slight of hand especially in terms of the parody of the earlier Frankenstein movies. But it also helps emphasize the violence of the gags as both parody and slapstick. Because of the black and white they work on two distinct planes, as stand alone slapstick gags and as parody of earlier black and white slapstick. Color would have detracted and brought us too far forward into the present day.
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#70 Mandroid51

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:02 AM

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

I'd say the B&W is certainly parodying it. Wilder's characters name is definitely parodying it, the subject of discussion is death which parodies it. The showmanship and grandeur seems to be parodying it as well.

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 subtlety in performance and expression of his eyes moves between slapstick and the contrary because there is only a gag (scalpel) that reflects the more outrageous and physical. Other than the props the wordplay "Doo-doo!" marries both subtly and lack of subtlety enough where the line is not easily spotted. All his words in the scene I'd use to defend the complexity of word play and slapstick. His performance would be proof of his ability within the silly writing of the fruit of their labor. If it was played more traditionally it would not be as funny...

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 color would have played as well because we lose the sense of modernity by them bringing back black and white. It has a more period feel much like the Universal films of the 30's
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#71 Russell K

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Posted 27 September 2016 - 08:39 AM

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!  


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