Young and Old Frankenstein, A Parody Parallels.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has been adapted in an amplitude of ways for both the stage and screen. Often in the screen adaptations many different aspects of the original are changed however one adaptation, surprisingly sheds many of the same themes. The adaptation in question is Mel Brook’s masterpiece and parody Young Frankenstein. The most famous of film adaptation is directed by John Whale, and Young Frankenstein satirizes a lot of the things Shelley never wrote in her novel. For example the character of Igor who is common amongst many horror and Frankenstein adaptations is the but of many jokes in Mel Brooks’ work.
Mel Brooks surprisingly enough encompasses some of the same dread and character complexes in his satire. The equivalent of Victor Frankenstein is the character Dr. Frederick Frankenstein played by the brilliant Gene Wilder. Frederick Frankenstein not unlike Victor, his grandfather in the film, is constantly running from the truth and his own doings and actions throughout Shelley’s novel. Frederick even mispronounces his last name as to not be familiarized with his grandfather who is famous for attempting reanimation himself. Kristi Haas writes in an article ; “Frederick begins pronouncing his name as ‘Fronk-en-steen’. Of course, the movie satirizes this futile search for identity; Frankenstein is well-known by his students as the descendant of the crazy scientist… The movie makes it clear that a change in name, however, will not suffice to remove him from what he considers an undesirable identity. “(Haas)
Not only is the creator somewhat accurately inflicted with the same complications as in the text, but as is the Monster. Similar to most film adaptations, the monster in the film is not one of a normal brain or consciousness , at least not entirely. For comedic purposes we see the monster in Brook’s film played by the late Peter Boyle have some cognitive and learning abilities. However his brain being taken from a jar labelled “Abnormal” hilariously mistaken for a name “Abby Normal” creates a character very similar to the arms stretched out heavy footed creature we are familiar with in film. We see the Monster of Brooks parody the 1931 Frankenstein and even parallels certain scenes in the novel. For example Shelley’s creature communicating with the blind father of the De Lacy family is parodied in another blind character who doesn’t have a family. This separation from a family to explicate the appearance of the monster is really the Monster’s only hope for companionship, just as he possibly could have made a friend out of De Lacy if his family had never let it known the hideousness of the creature.
The two stories were different in so many ways. Mel Brooks may have been trying to show the view of what would have happened if Frankenstein had tried to love the creature(Young). However sadly, Brooks’ work is a parody for a reason, and Shelley’s creature and creator both have an amazing amount of similarities for a parody, the deep dark complexities just simply aren’t there.
Haas, Kristi. “Name and Identity in Young Frankenstein.” University of Notre Dame Open Course Ware. n. page. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://ocw.nd.edu/political-science/mary-wollstonecraft-and-mary-shelley/frankenfilm/name-and-identity-in-young-frankenstein-by-kristi.>.
Young, Neil. “Young Frankenstein vs. Old Frankenstein.” N.p., n.d. Web. <http://neilyoung9.tripod.com/id7.html>
Image from <http://do512.com/event/weekly/thu/young-frankenstein-quote-along> A clip of Gene Wilder from the Movie Young Frankenstein.
- “Young Frankenstein”: Not a Frankenstein Adaptation (berkeleylitsci2013.wordpress.com)
- Young Frankenstein Review (moviereviewguys.wordpress.com)