'Young Frankenstein' Quotes: Behind The Scenes Of The Wilder-Brooks Masterpiece
Marty Feldman in a still from the 1974 film Young Frankenstein. Source: (Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images)
In Young Frankenstein, the quotes come as fast as the sight gags and slapstick humor -- Gene Wilder's writing and Mel Brooks's direction made the 1974 a comedy classic. With the perfect cast of Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, and Cloris Leachman, the horror parody relied on behind-the-scenes magic and skilled delivery to deliver a nuanced and extremely re-watchable experience. As with Mel Brooks' best work, these movie lines from Young Frankenstein make its comedy broad but not zany, literate but not tedious, hilarious yet sly. Young Frankenstein came out just ten months after Brooks' western sendup Blazing Saddles, and it shows a more fine-tuned approach -- perhaps fewer bust-a-gut laughs than Blazing Saddles, but an overall atmosphere of absurdity that puts Young Frankenstein at or near the top of fan lists.
'Young Frankenstein' Is A Loving Parody Of Classic Horror Films
In 1972, Gene Wilder, who had the idea for a film about the grandson of Victor Frankenstein, began writing the screenplay for Young Frankenstein and eventually, Mel Brooks began helping him. The film brilliantly weaves humorous dialogue, innuendo, and physical comedy into a film that is both a parody of and an homage to the early Frankenstein films, and for those familiar with the classic horror films, the connections are quite clear. In fact, according to those involved in the creation of the film, one of the hardest things about the process was that they couldn’t stop laughing. A film that drew on the classics became a classic in its own right and was one of the top-grossing films of 1974.
'A Worm... With Very Few Exceptions... Is Not A Human Being.'
Medical Student: Isn't it true that Darwin preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case until, by some extraordinary means, it actually began to move with voluntary motion?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Are you speaking of the worm or the spaghetti?
[the class laughs]
Medical Student: Why, the worm, sir.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Yes, I did read something of that incident when I was a student, but you have to remember that a worm... with very few exceptions... is not a human being.
The original Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley drew inspiration from galvanism, a belief that living being could be reanimated with electricity; the belief arose when Galvani noted that a dead frog’s muscles would twitch if an electric current ran through them. In the opening scene, Professor Frederick (Freddy) Frankenstein, grandson of Victor Frankenstein (the infamous one), is lecturing to students. As a doctor and scientist with the name of Frankenstein, Wilder's character is constantly fighting off suggestions that he might go down the same path as his grandfather. When a student tries to engage him on the subject of re-animation, Freddy calmly shuts him down.
'Walk This Way'
Igor: Walk this way. [descends a small staircase with the aid of a cane, which he hands to Frankenstein, so that he may hobble down in the same fashion] No...this way.
Wilder wrote the first four pages of the script prior to Mel Brooks coming on board, and those four pages remained in the script, comprising the Transylvania Station scene in the film. This line, which is just silly, was almost cut from the film, but Brooks decided to keep it after witnessing an audience’s reaction to it during a screening.
Good thing he kept it, as it was the inspiration for the Aerosmith song, “Walk This Way.”
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: You know, I'm a rather brilliant surgeon. Perhaps I can help you with that hump.
Igor: What hump?
Like any good movie Igor, Marty Feldman's character is hunchbacked, which gives him a loopy gait. In this scene, Igor is puzzled by Frankenstein's offer, because apparently he is unaware of his hump. Later in the film, Igor is describing a moment of intuition and adds the very deliberate pun "call it a hunch -- badoom-chi."
Feldman kept shifting the humpback and forth between his left and right sides, which eventually became a joke itself.
'There, Wolf. There, Castle.'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Werewolf?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What?
Igor: There, wolf. There, castle.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Why are you talking that way?
Igor: I thought you wanted to.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No, I don't want to.
Igor [shrugs]: Suit yourself. I'm easy.
Gene Wilder convinced Mel Brooks, who frequently had cameo appearances in the films he directed, to stay off-screen. Brooks did, however, provide a sound effect: the werewolf’s howl. Brooks also extemporaneously added the sound of the cat as it got hit by a dart.
This exchange between Frankenstein and Igor is very simple wordplay, but it reveals how on-edge Frankenstein's character is in this spooky, ancestral setting. When he hears the sound of a howling wolf, he assumes it's a supernatural monster and not simply a wolf.
The train station/hayride scenes are also a mishmash of horror elements. They're at Transylvania Station, which would be appropriate if this were a vampire movie parody. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was set in Switzerland, 800 miles away from Romania. And although myths of lycanthropy (wolfman-ism) are widespread throughout Europe, the famous Universal wolfman movies were set in the UK.
'Roll, Roll, Roll In Ze Hay.'
[from inside the haycart]
Inga: Hallo. Vould you like to have a roll in ze hay?
[Dr. Frankenstein stutters]
Inga: It's fun.
[She begins to roll in the hay]
Inga: Roll, roll, roll in ze hay.
This is our first meeting with Inga (Teri Garr), who seems to be offering Dr. Frankenstein sex from the get-go. She isn't, though -- she's merely inviting him to play in a cart full of hay as children do. In her book Remaking the Frankenstein Myth on Film: Between Laughter and Horror, author Caroline Joan Picart writes that Inga's appearance, sunny demeanor, and unintentional eroticism all set her up as the foil to Madeline Kahn's Elizabeth, who is cold and sexually unavailable to her fiance.
Interestingly, Teri Garr was not originally cast as Inga, but Madeline Kahn did not want the role. When Garr spoke in a German accent, she got the part. Garr based her character’s voice, incidentally, on Cher’s hairdresser.
[Frankenstein, Igor, and Inga in front of HUGE castle doors]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What knockers!
Inga: Oh, thank you, doctor.
The double-entendre is so forced (can you imagine staring at a door and raving about its knockers?) it makes the joke funnier, in typical Mel Brooks or vaudeville style. As with the "roll in the hay" line that precedes it, "what knockers" is more than just a throwaway boob joke. Inga's enthusiasm for the perceived lewd compliment has a friendly sexuality that appeals to Frederick, making him all the more aware that he is miserable with Elizabeth.
'Put... The Candle... Back.'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein [to Inga from behind the bookcase]: Put... the candle... back.
The movie was filmed at the studio and the set was quite impressive, especially the bedrooms in the castle. This line is said by Frankenstein as he is caught in the secret revolving door he has discovered. He is a brilliant scientist, but he is helpless here and must rely upon the spacey Inga to free him, but she doesn't quite understand how the door works.
'Damn Your Eyes!'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Damn your eyes!
Igor [to camera]: Too late.
This line is a simple crack about the bulging eyes of Marty Feldman, who played the role of Igor (pronounced, of course, Eye-gor). Feldman had a health condition that led to his unusual appearance. Prior to being cast in Young Frankenstein, he had done work with members of Monty Python. The influence of Buster Keaton, whom he emulated, was visible in his physical comedy.
'He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker.'
Inga: In other vords: his veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Exactly.
Inga: He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That goes without saying.
Igor: He's going to be very popular.
The quasi-German word schwanzstucker would literally translate into "tail tucker." But Inga isn't wholly wrong to use it to refer to the male sexual organ. Schwanz does have that meaning in contemporary German slang.
Incidentally, it's a myth that Cloris Leachman's character's last name -- Blücher -- means "Glue" in German. It doesn't, but audiences like the idea that her name prompts the whinnying of and off-screen horse. The joke isn't clear but has something to do with the notion that old horses are taken to a "glue factory" to be destroyed.
But that's blücher. We were talking about schwanz -- yes, it means what you think it means.
'Abby... Normal. Yes That's It, Abby Normal!'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Whose brain did you put in him?
Igor: Err... Abby something...
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Abby who?
Igor: Abby... Normal. Yes, that's it, Abby Normal!
Though he is a procurer of brains, Igor isn't exactly a brain surgeon. Though the brain he steals is clearly marked "Do not use this brain! -- ABNORMAL --," Igor misreads the last word as a name, Ab Normal.
One of the low tech special effects was the glowing creature’s head. They made it glow by using a plastic Peter Boyle head with a 60-watt bulb in the center of it. Mel Brooks decided to get rid of tracks and zoom lenses to help recreate the original style of the 1930s films. Additionally, they used the actual props from the 1931 film. And though the film was in black and white, they used green makeup to make Peter Boyle more realistically dead.
'He Vas My Boyfriend!'
[Frau Blücher plays the violin]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That music...
Frau Blücher: Yes. It's in your blood - it's in the blood of ALL Frankensteins. It reaches the soul when words are useless. Your grandfather used to play it to the creature HE vas making.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Then it was you all the time.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: You played that music in the middle of the night...
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: ...to get us to the laboratory.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That was YOUR cigar smoldering in the ashtray.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: And it was you... who left my grandfather's book out for me to find.
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: So that I would...
Frau Blücher: Yes.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Then you and Victor were...
Frau Blücher: YES. YES. Say it. He vas my... BOYFRIEND.
In this pivotal moment, Frau Blücher reveals that she and the deceased Victor Frankenstein were lovers, although her choice of the term "boyfriend" is odd when referring to an elderly mad scientist.
One of her other classic lines comes as she is offering a nighttime beverage to Freddy. She begins with brandy, continues with milk and ends with the ad-libbed line “Ovaltine?”
'I Was Going To Make Espresso.'
The Blind Man: Where are you going? I was going to make espresso.
Gene Hackman was Gene Wilder’s tennis partner. When he learned about Young Frankenstein, he requested a role (he had wanted to try his hand at comedy) and was cast as the lonely blind man, Harold. For the scene, Peter Boyle had to wear a protective pad (over his schwanzstucker) as Harold keeps spilling hot soup in his lap. The line about espresso was another improvised line that was not in the original script. The scene cut to black immediately after the line because the actors were laughing.
'You... Are... Good'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein [to The Monster]: Hello handsome. You're a good looking fellow, do you know that? People laugh at you, people hate you, but why do they hate you? Because... they are jealous. Look at that boyish face. Look at that sweet smile. Do you wanna talk about physical strength? Do you want to talk about sheer muscle? Do you want to talk about the Olympian ideal? You are a God. And listen to me, you are not evil. You... are... good.
This monologue delivered by Frankenstein illustrates his tortured morality -- he has created a childlike and dangerous brute but romanticizes the Monster as a superior being and a noble achievement.
'May I Now Present A Cultured, Sophisticated Man About Town.'
Dr. Frankenstein: From what was once a mass of inarticulate lifeless tissues, may I now present a cultured, sophisticated man about town.
The scene with the creature performing “Puttin’ On The Ritz” was almost cut, but Gene Wilder argued for it so passionately that Brooks kept it. During the scene itself, Boyle improvised the lines that the creature sings.
The show is a riff on the monster-movie device of dressing up a dangerous creature as harmless entertainment. A famous example occurs in King Kong when a chained-up Kong is made the centerpiece of a Broadway show -- you know this isn't going to end well.
'You Take The Blonde, I'll Take The One In The Turban.'
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Igor, help me with the bags.
Igor [imitating Groucho Marx]: Soitenly. You take the blonde, I'll take the one in the turban.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I was talking about the luggage.
Just after these lines, Marty Feldman bites Madeline Kahn’s mink scarf. The scene required so many takes that it ended up with a gag role of its own since the actors could not stop laughing. In the final cut, Gene Wilder still could not completely contain his laughter, and he is visibly trying to suppress it in the film.
'Oh, Sweet Mystery Of Life!'
Elizabeth [singing, while having sex with the monster]: Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last, I've found you! At last, I know the secret of it all!
Both Elizabeth and Inga say this line, expressing the joy of sexual fulfillment. Elizabeth says it while getting it on with the Monster, while Inga says it later, in bed with Freddy, when we learn that Freddy has gained the Monster's sexual prowess:
Inga: You know, there's something I've been meaning to ask you. In the transference, the monster got part of your wonderful brain. But what did you ever get from him?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein [growls suggestively]
Inga [gasping]: Oh my goodness, I don't believe...
[emits several somewhat painful-sounding moans and grunts]
Inga [singing]: Oh, sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you!
The line is pilfered from a song, "Ah! Sweet mystery of life!" from the 1910 opera "Naughty Marietta," by Rida Johnson Young and Victor Herbert. Here is the first stanza:
Ah! Sweet mystery of life
At last I've found thee
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning
'Oh, You Men Are All Alike. Seven Or Eight Quick Ones...'
[after sex with The Monster]
Elizabeth: Oh. Where you going?... Oh, you men are all alike. Seven or eight quick ones and then you're out with the boys to boast and brag. YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Oh... I think I love him.
After their sexual interlude, the Monster hears violin music is lured away, while the supremely satisfied Elizabeth falls into a parody of clingy female cliches, expressing love while imagining the Monster "out with the boys." Not that the Monster has any friends that we know of...
Tags: Cloris Leachman | Famous Movie Scenes | Famous Quotes From The 1970s | Gene Wilder | Madeline Kahn | Marty Feldman | Mel Brooks | Peter Boyle | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Teri Garr | Young Frankenstein
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