"Life! Life! Do you hear me? Give my creation... LIIIIIIIFE!!!"Mel Brooks
and Gene Wilder
's loving parody
of the classic Universal Horror
films of the 1930s
. Appearing in 1974, gorgeously shot in black and white
using laboratory props
from the original Frankenstein
and starring a cast of brilliant comedic actors all at the very height of their talents, it is generally regarded as one of the funniest and most quotable movies ever made. It was adapted into a stage musical in 2007.
It is reported that the cast and crew had so much fun making the movie that they added in extra scenes
just to keep it going.
In 2003, this movie was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. Two other works by Mel Brooks share this honor, The Producers
and Blazing Saddles
And, since it keeps coming up, "Blücher" (*Whinny*
) is not
the German word for "glue"
; it's just a common misconception
The Market-Based Title
for the film in Italy, Frankenstein Junior
, is NOT To Be Confused With
the actual Frankenstein Jr.
- Acting Unnatural: Igor begins to shamelessly flirt with Frankenstein's fiancee Elizabeth. Then Frankenstein walks up.
Igor (whispers to Elizabeth): Say nothing. Act casual. (leans against wagon and aimlessly looks around)
- Affectionate Parody: As noted, 1930s horror movies. Heavy emphasis on "affectionate," too.
- Alliterative Name
- And Call Him George: The Monster, a little girl and a seesaw. The result is of course a lot more humorous than the equivalent scene in the original book.
- Anywhere but Their Lips: It's only in their first scene together that Elizabeth says "Not on the lips," to Freddy, and the reason is that she doesn't want her makeup smudged.
- Subverted in that she doesn't seem to want to be touched anywhere, lest she mess up her hair, her nails, her dress, etc. In the end she and Frederick say goodbye by shaking elbows. She even flinches when he blows her a kiss.
- And right after all that... the train rolls past and she's enveloped in a billowing cloud of black smoke.
- Artificial Limbs: Inspector Kemp's wooden arm. Igor's hump could qualify, since it may not even be real.
- Aside Glance: By Igor several times, and a couple of times by the Monster.
- Berserk Button: Mentioning Frederick's relation to a famous cuckoo is not a good idea.
- He's also not tolerant of mistakes, like putting in Abby Normal's brain.
Frankenstein: Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-half-foot-long.. fifty-four-inch-wide.. GORILLA?!? (proceeds to throttle Igor)
- Big Electric Switch: Multiple examples on the laboratory equipment.
But I'm not going to be the first.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed/The Immodest Orgasm: Upon finding the Monster's enormous Schwanzstüke, there's "Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found yooou!"
- Bilingual Bonus: The two couples that accompany Frederick in the trains have exactly the same conversation, the first in English, the second in German.
- Black Comedy Rape: Elizabeth gets raped by the Monster. Then it turns out she enjoys his enormous Schwanzstüke and happily has more sex with him.
"All right— seven always has been my lucky number!"
- Blind and the Beast: The films parodies the blind-man scene in Bride of Frankenstein. Look carefully at this blind man, though: that's a young Gene Hackman. Gene plays it utterly straight. Even with the comedy gags, this one is still a touching scene.
- Blind Mistake: The blind man does a lot of harm to the Monster.
- Bookcase Passage: Put ze candle beck!
- Book Safe: Subverted when Frederick tries to open a secret door by moving a likely-looking book. He then inadvertently learns it's actually triggered by a candle-holder.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Igor in general. But especially in the "Quiet dignity and grace" scene.
- Bullying a Dragon: The prison guard when he discovers that the Monster is afraid of fire. Here's a piece of advice: If you're going to taunt a 7-foot tall, super-strong monster with anger issues, don't do so within arm's reach.
- Butt Monkey: For a monster, The Monster has a string of painful things happen to him.
- Chewing the Scenery: Completely deliberate.
- Cobweb Jungle: In the passage leading to Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory and the laboratory itself.
- Corpsing: Was understandably a problem throughout the shoot. In several scenes you can see Gene Wilder is just barely holding it together.
- It's one of the rare films where the crew had issues with corpsing—the "baggage" scene made them laugh so hard that it ruined takes.
- It actually saved one scene in the film! Brooks agreed that the "Puttin' On The Ritz" scene would only remain if he saw how much it made people laugh. He told the crew that, if they started chuckling, to cover their mouths with a handkerchief. Come the day of their shoot, there was not an uncovered mouth in the room and the scene stayed.
- Creator Cameo: Brooks is the model for one of the castle's gargoyles, and ad-libbed the That Poor Cat screech when Frederick accidentally throws a dart out the window, as well doing as the howl of the "werewolf".
- According to Brooks, one of Wilder's requests for the film was that Brooks not appear onscreen in a cameo designed to break the fourth wall. Brooks agreed.
- Creepy Changing Painting: A scowling portrait of Victor Frankenstein is highly visible in Fredrick's room. When Frederick finds his grandfather's instructions and decides to continue his work, a lightning-illuminated close-up shows the portrait looking very pleased.
- Creepy Housekeeper: Frau Blücher (*WHINNY!*) is the quintessential creepy housekeeper: as you may notice, every time her name is mentioned, horses rear in fear. Also, in regards to Victor Frankenstein: "He... vas... my... BOYFRIEND!"
- "He Vas" Song": Which leads to her singing about Victor in the Musical, complete with Evil Laugh and vamping by Andrea Martin for "He Vas My Boyfriend." Doubles as a Villain Song as she hints he wasn't too nice a guy other than the sex.
- Cue the Rain: You know how people tell you to keep going until you hit Rock Bottom? Well, this film demonstrates why.
- Cute but Cacophonic: "PUH'IN ON DA REEEEEEEETZ!"
- Dark Reprise: The Musical has "Life, Life" where Frederick is trying to coax Fate to let the Monster he's assembled live, and "Frederick's Soliloquy" has the same tune, but the village is about to hang him, and here he's accepted who he finally is without regrets. The newly-intelligent Monster realizes the hanged Frederick is unconscious, not dead, and is able to revive him.
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: "Nice grouping."
- Dead Man's Chest: "You're chilled to the bone!"
- And in a more Visual Pun, the film opens with a (very) dead skeleton clutching a chest.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Elizabeth, although it's more a case of getting hit with a blowtorch.
- Deliberately Monochrome: To better parody the original Frankenstein movies. (This was so important to the filmmakers that they took the project to 20th Century Fox after originally conscripted studio Columbia balked at the prospect of it being in black-and-white.)
- "Now available in black and white! No offense."
- Despair Event Horizon: Frederick accepts his initial failure with quiet dignity and grace.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Averted — during the Walk This Way scene, Igor shows Frederick what he means. It doesn't ruin the joke at all, though. Supposedly, this gag was the inspiration for the Aerosmith song of the same name.
- In point of fact, it worked so well, it's something of a Running Gag for Mel Brooks. It shows up in most (if not all) of his films. The walk is different, but the joke is always the same.
- Eyepatch of Power: Kemp has one. The funny thing is how he must wear a monocle over it.
- Expy: Inspector Kemp is one for Inspector Krogh from the Son of Frankenstein.
- Failed a Spot Check: Igor managed to miss that the brain he selected to be placed in a seven and a half foot tall gorilla was labeled "Abnormal". If that wasn't enough, the sign also read "Do not use this brain!"
- Foreign Cuss Word: "He would have an enormous Schwanzstücke!"
- Frankenstein's Monster: This one has his head attached with zippers instead of bolts.
- Fresh Clue: When the main trio follow mysterious violin music into a secret room, they find a cigar smoldering in an ashtray.
- Funny Background Event: Most scenes with Igor have him mugging or doing something strange in the background.
- Gag Boobs: "What knockers!" Subverted. Dr. Frankenstein is talking about the actual knockers. On the doors.
- Gag Penis: The Monster's enormous Schwanzstüke, mentioned three times. Also, the late Victor von Frankenstein once won a three-legged race all by himself.
- Genre Savvy: Dr. Frankenstein is this, e.g. when looking for the device to enable the Bookcase Passage.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The conversation aboard the train is almost certainly about the old couple's son masturbating.
- So many Double Entendres and sex references, but all subtly enough to get away with a PG rating (although likely would have been PG-13 had that been established at the time).
- In the UK it originally received a AA rating(14 and over without adult accompaniment). On its first release on video it received a 15 and then received a massive downgrade to PG in 2000.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Frederick's great-grandfather's work was DOO-DOO!
- Grave Clouds: Remember: Keep going until you hit Rock Bottom...
- Grave Robbing: Dittos for how they got the corpse.
- Great Big Book of Everything: How I Did It, by Victor Frankenstein
- Groin Attack: "Why, you mother-grabbing BASTARD!"
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Inga, espcially in The Musical. "Listen To Your Heart" helps her calm down Frederick; this performance by Sutton Foster as Inga also allows for this.
- Hair Trigger Sound Effect: (*beat*) BLUCHER! *whinny* *grins*
- Heir Club for Men: On his will, Baron Frankenstein described Frederick as his only male heir and never considered leaving anything to his granddaughter.
- Here We Go Again: In the final number of the musical, Frederick is approached by a Dracula Expy inquiring about the castle. Frederick says it isn't for sale. He's planning to live there, because:
I'm going to join the family business,
Learn the family trade,
Make another monster,
Make the world afraid!
We'll take another hayride when we go on our honeymoon,
And make the Son of Frankenstein
, the sequel's coming soon
- High-Class Glass: Kemp's monocle is memorably paired with an eyepatch. That he wears over the same eye.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: The Monster and Elizabeth.
- Hollywood Torches: Outside Castle Frankenstein. Done deliberately.
- Hypocritical Humor: After what seems to be the failed attempt at resurrecting the dead, Frederick states that it is better to accept both loss and success with "quiet dignity and grace," then promptly loses his shit and takes out his frustration on the monster, choking and hitting the corpse all while screaming incoherently; all of this is lampshaded by Igor who just repeats Frederick's "quiet dignity and grace" line.
- Identical Grandson: The Frankensteins.
- I Didn't Mean To Turn You On: "Iff I could just giff you a little peace!" (Frankenstein moans.)
- The Igor: Heavily, heavily parodied by Marty Feldman. So much that he's the Trope Namer.
- As well as Christopher Fitzgerald originally in The Musical. He takes it Up to Eleven when Igor leads the village in "Transylvania Mania" to distract them from the Monster's moaning—and it gets worked into the number, with Frederick and Inga joining in.
- Instant Thunder: Could be worse. Could be raining.
- Insufferable Genius: Frederick has his moments.
- In the Blood: "Des-ti-ny! Des-ti-ny! No es-caping that for me!"
- Also something of a subversion; Frederick is doing just fine escaping the family tradition (aside from a hamtastic moment in his lecture on neurobiology) until his great-grandfather's will and then his "servant" Frau Blücher (*WHINNY*) railroad him into it.
- The Musical also has "Join the Family Business" as a number where the ghosts of Victor Von Frankenstein and other ancestors iron that point home.
- It Is Pronounced Fronken-STEEN: An extended gag with Frederick and Igor.
Igor: Dr. Frankenstein…
Igor: You’re putting me on.
Frankenstein: No, it’s pronounced Fronkensteen.
Igor: Do you also say Froderick?
Frankenstein: No… Frederick.
Igor: Well, why isn’t it Froderick Fronkensteen?
Frankenstein: It isn’t. It’s Frederick Fronkensteen.
Igor: I see.
Frankenstein: You must be Igor (pronounces it as Eeee-gor).
Igor: No, it’s pronounced EYE-gor.
Frankenstein: But they told me it was EE-gor.
Igor: Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?
- Victor reverses himself, proudly taking on the traditional pronunciation when he starts working on the monster.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Deliberately, this being a Mel Brooks film. The movie takes place in Transylvania (located in Romania), but the townsfolk generally have bad German or Cockney accents. Kemp's is so terrible that his own countrymen have trouble understanding him.
- Lampshade Hanging: After the horses Running Gag is established, Igor stays around, listening intently, and says, "... Blücher." (*WHINNY*) Then grins with satisfaction.
- Large Ham: Gene Wilder.
- Marty Feldman could also count, as he's clearly having fun as Igor (EYE-gor).
- Kenneth Mars as Inspector Kemp.
- Let Me Get This Straight: Frederick to I-gor upon learning about "Abby Normal"'s brain.
Frederick: Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-half-foot-long.. fifty-four-inch-wide.. GORILLA?!?
- Locked into Strangeness: Elizabeth's white streak and hairdo after being abducted by the Monster. Also a homage to Bride of Frankenstein, naturally.
- Mad Scientist
- Mad Scientist Laboratory
- Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Frau Blücher (*WHINNY*) is able to calm the Monster down by playing the violin. Later, it is used to lure him to capture.
- The Musical: And it's awesome.
- My God, What Have I Done?
- Mythology Gag: The book "How I Did It". In the original Frankenstein novel, we never do hear any details of just how the monster was brought to life. All the stuff with the lightning and stolen brains was added in later adaptations. Some of the lines he reads from the book are taken directly from the novel, however.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Just saying "Frau Blücher" (*WHINNY*) causes horses to rear up in fright. Just the name; the woman's actual presence doesn't bother them at all.
- Neck Lift: The Monster, to the police officer tormenting him.
- Nonverbal Miscommunication: "SEDAGIVE!?!"
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the villagers in Transylvania. (Strangely, one exception is a young boy.)
- No Matter How Much I Beg: "..I was joking! Don't you know a joke when you hear one?! HA-HA-HA-HA!!''"
- "OPEN THIS GODDAMN DOOR OR I'LL KICK YOUR ROTTEN HEADS IN!!!"
- Nuclear Candle: Subtly parodied with candelabra-bearing Frau Blücher's (*WHINNY*) comment "Stay close to the candles, the staircase can be treacherous." None of the candles are in fact lit.
- Offscreen Teleportation: During final preparations to reanimate the monster, Igor is up on the roof.
Frederick: Now tie off the kites and hurry down as fast as you can.
Igor: What's the hurry?
Frederick: There's a possibility of electrocution! Do you understand?
Igor: [looks down through the skylight]
Frederick: I say: There's a possibility of electrocution! Do you understand?!
Igor: [now stepping in from offscreen next to Frederick] I understand, I understand! Why are you shouting?
[Frederick looks back up at the skylight and does a double take]
Frederick: Did you...Did you tie off the kites?
Igor: Of course.
- On One Condition: A deleted scene explains how Frederick inherited the estate of his very distant and disliked great-grandfather: said Baron Frankenstein had left his estate to his much closer relatives, naming each of them specifically, to be divided up evenly, unless Frederick had of his own choosing become a doctor and achieved some esteem in his field. As this had indeed happened, all the money and property went to him. The idea was that the Baron wanted to give his inheritance to someone who would have some chance of erasing the stain on his family name.
- Frederick also had to meet the terms before the day Baron Frankenstein would become one hundred years old. Said Baron Frankenstein left instructions that his will was not to be read until then.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "The Happiest Town in Town"
- Parlor Games: Charades.
- Parody Assistance: Props were recycled from the 1931 version of Frankenstein. Done not to save money but as an homage to the original film. It actually cost them quite a bit to use them.
- Passed Over Inheritance: Baron Frankenstein had closer relations than a distant great-grandson but they got nothing because he felt Frederick redeemed the family name by becoming a respected doctor.
- Percussive Maintenance: Igor whacks one piece of machinery that doesn't turn off with the rest.
- Personality Swap: Done partially and deliberately.
- Pig Latin: "Ixnay on the ottenray!"
- Precision F-Strike:
Kemp: Und now, let us all go back to my place for a little spongecake, und a little vine, und - (his wooden arm pops off) - Ah, shit!
- Pretty in Mink: Elizabeth has a few furs, but even Inga gets to wear a silver fox cape during the ill-fated presentation.
- Produce Pelting: During Frederick and the Monster's performance.
- Prussia: Inspector Kemp is possibly the defining example.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Numerous examples.
- Punny Name: "Abby someone... Abby Normal".
- Rabble Rouser:
- At a town meeting one of the townspeople tries to stir up a lynch mob against the newest Baron Frankenstein.
Townsman: He's a Frankenstein! And they're all alike. It's in their blood. They can't 'elp it. All those scientists, they're all alike. They say they're working for us. What they really want is to rule the world!
- Later on Inspector Kemp (an authority figure who had earlier argued against violence) changes his mind.
Kemp: A riot is an ugly thing. Und I think that it is just about time that we had one!
- Reluctant Monster: The Monster even more than the original
- Repeat After Me: "Walk this way." And the line inspired Aerosmith's song.
- Reprise Medley: "Finale Ultimo" in The Musical.
- Reverse Polarity: Apparently this is the ultimate secret to raising the dead. Either that or Victor plugged his equipment in backwards at first, the scene isn't clear.
- Robbing the Dead: In the first scene, a ledger is taken from the coffin of the late Beaufort von Frankenstein.
- Rock Bottom: Frederick Frankenstein and Igor are digging up a grave.
: What a filthy job! Igor
: Could be worse. Frankenstein
: How? Igor
: Could be raining. (Thunderclap. Torrents of rain.)
- Roll in the Hay: Inga invites Fronkenstein "to roll in ze hay" with her.
- Running Gag: BLÜCHER! *WHINNY!*
- Igor's hump always changing positions between shots
- Spell My Name with an "S": "It's Frahnk-en-steen!"
- The Scottish Trope: "Blücher!" ''*WHINNY!*''
- Shaggy Search Technique: "Put - the candle - back!" Part of the parody is that Dr. Frankenstein was using legitimate means to search for it before the trope kicked in
- Shaming the Mob: The Monster himself does it, with a speech mostly cribbed out of Shelley's original book.
- Shoe Shine, Mister?: When Frederick's train pulls in, he asks a shoeshine boy, "Pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania Station?" The boy replies "Ja, ja. Track 29. Oh, can I give you a shine?" This is a Shout-Out to the 1941 song "Chattanooga Choo Choo".
- Shout-Out: To Groucho Marx and Glenn Miller, among others.
- Silly Will: The aged Baron Beaufort von Frankenstein leaves instructions that his estate shall be given to his distant great-grandson rather than shared among a cadre of mooching relatives if said great-grandson has become a respected doctor of his own accord. One of the relatives tries to pass this clause off as insanity but the executor reminded her that civilization is based on law. The scene was removed from the final film.
- Smoking Hot Sex: first, Frederick and Inga. Later, Elizabeth and the Monster.
- The Musical gave the song "Deep Love" where Elizabeth sings about it, and the Monster also reprises the song in "Finale Ultimo" and proposes to her in his version. She accepts.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The somber musical score is squarely at odds with the screwball tone of the film, yet somehow works perfectly well.
- Mel intentionally kept the fact that the film was a comedy secret from the composer, resulting in serious music to a seriously funny movie.
- Stand-In Head: Igor pretends to be one of the heads in the lab in order to surprise Inga and Frankenstein.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Igor. It's never explained how he got down so easily from the top of the lab to Frederick's side and why his hump always changes positions
- Sting: "Call it a... hunch! Ba-dump tsch!"
- Stock Sound Effects: Castle Thunder, repeatedly throughout the movie.
- Also a Shout-Out, given that the stock thunder sound effect used in movies for decades was created for the original Frankenstein.
- Tempting Fate: Go back until you reach Rock Bottom.
- From the play: "I may just be the village idiot, but what are the odds of a New York doctor ever coming to Transylvania?"
- That Poor Cat: Hit with a dart.
- Bonus points for being a Throw It In moment Mel Brooks improvised while shooting the scene.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Parodied; as the monster tries to climb up the castle, Frederick keeps Igor and Inga from helping him, saying "He wants to do it himself!" The monster's expression might as well be saying "No I don't, help me!"
- Thunder Equals Downpour: Go back until you reach Rock Bottom.
- Title Drop: It's hard to catch thanks to Kemp's accent slurring the sentence, but it's there:
Inspector Kemp: Und... ve had better cunfeeeerm de fect that yung Fronkenshtein ish indeed... vallowing in his grandfadder's footshtops!
- Torches and Pitchforks: "A riot is an ugly thing. Und, I think that it's just about time that we had vun!!"
- Also an Ironic Echo, since he'd earlier solemnly cautioned the townspeople about the dangers of a riot. ... Well, as solemnly as he could with that accent.
- To The Bat Noun: "To the lumberyard!!"
- Train-Station Goodbye: Frederick has a hard time since his fiancee is so "delicate".
- Understatement: In a deleted scene, it was revealed that, to be allowed to inherit his great-grandfather's estate, Frederick Frankenstein had to become a medical doctor of his own free will and earn some measure of esteem in his field. A relative then asked if Frederick did acquire a "measure of esteem" and was told he's the fifth most respected expert in his field.
- The Unintelligible: Inspector Kemp borders on this, even with his fellow countrymen. (See Title Drop above.)
- The Monster also qualifies before Frederick gives him some of his intelligence. The Musical uses this for effect for two numbers:
- "Transylvania Mania" has Igor, Frederick and Inga trying to cover up The Monster's musical moaning with the song and later, the village joins in as well as a trombone.
- "Puttin' On The Ritz" has The Monster do a scat-singing solo, showing he knows the tune even if he can't say the words.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Schwanzstucker", which is semi-accurate Yiddish; "schwanz" is indeed a word used to refer to the male member.
- Video Will: Frederick Frankenstein's great-grandfather left a recorded message in an actual record.
- Complete with Broken Record, where, after the news of their not getting any inheritance has been relayed, the will gets stuck on the unfortunate phrase - "Up yours... Up yours... Up yours..."
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: While most of the movie's antagonists are played as silly, one policeman who tormented The Monster with his fear of fire is notably played very seriously. (It's implied that he does it For the Evulz.) This is jarring compared to the light-heartedness of the rest of the film.
- The Von Trope Family: Frederick's great-grandfather, Baron von Frankenstein.
- Walk This Way
- Wham Line: Frankenstein is almost finished giving half of his mind to the monster when the rioters burst in to kill him. It looks like he was a minute too late...
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: At the beginning and end of the movie.
- A very subtle gag - if you count them, the clock actually strikes thirteen!
- Whole Plot Reference: The film is specifically a parody of Son of Frankenstein more than any other movie. The inspector with the wooden arm and the part where he talks with Frankenstein while playing darts are a direct lift.
- Wipe: Some scene transitions happen via left-to-right linear wipe.
- X-Ray Sparks: The Monster's creation.
- You Just Had to Say It: A silent one occurs following the exchange listed above under Rock Bottom, when Frederick turns to stare at Eyegore...
- "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Between the good doctor and Inspector Kemp:
Inspector Kemp: Then I may give the villagers your complete assurance that you have no interest whatsoever in continuing your grandfather's work?
Monster: (in background) MMMMMMM!
Inspector Kemp: May I take that for a yes?