In honor of the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting (which had about 10,000 times as many attendees as we did at movie night) we held a Viewer’s Choice with an appropriate theme: Neuroscientists Gone Wild! (And seriously, have you ever seen 30,000 neuroscientists set loose in New Orleans? Maybe we should have called it “Neuroscientists Acting Way Tamer Than All You Inebriated Folks In The Big Easy”.)
The movie that won the vote was Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein, wherein the going wild part turns out to be the reanimation of a dead man’s brain. But if I’m going to summarize the film as usual, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
Frederick Frankenstein begins the film as a perfectly reasonable neuroscientist, teaching at an elementary medical school (I think the lesson we see would bore a sixth grade class) and so horrified by the legacy of his famous grandfather Victor’s work that he has taken to pronouncing his name to rhyme with “Honkin’ Bean” to distance himself. Of course, inheriting the Frankenstein estate in Transylvania is the first step in his path to recidivism.
So Frederick leaves behind his frigid fianceé Elizabeth and heads out to the new digs to…well, I don’t know. Check it out, I guess. I have to admit, as a comedy the script isn’t necessarily tightly plotted. Once in Transylvania he meets a trio of main characters.
For one, there’s Frau Blücher, the decidedly German maidservant who was once in love with Victor and who hopes to lure Frederick into continuing his experiments for no particularly clear reason.
Then there’s Inga, the decidedly German woman who has been hired on as Frederick’s assistant, as they felt he would need help in pouting. One notices that the German population of the Romanian Transylvania is quite high.
Finally there’s Igor, the pop-eyed, hunchbacked (though it swaps sides) physical servant. When Frederick decides to begin in on his grandfather’s experiments again, Igor is tasked with collecting a suitable brain. Unfortunately, he accidentally drops the suitable one and famously replaces it with one from “Abby Normal”.
The experiment, as you would expect, is a success. However, the abnormal brain results in the creation of an undead monster rather than the intended undead genius. It’s the small things, you know.
Before too much more plot is expended, the monster escapes (set free by Blücher) and makes his way through the outlying village.
The monster’s encounter with a young girl goes well enough, but then he runs across a lonely, blind hermit. The hermit intends to treat the monster (whom he assumes is just a mute visitor) with charity, but instead pours hot soup in the monster’s lap and sets his thumb on fire trying to light a cigar for him.
This naturally sets the previously well-behaved monster off and inspires its fear of fire. Although he is recaptured by Frankenstein, the villagers’ fears overcome them and Frederick tries to save the monster’s life from the mob with a little song and dance.
A literal song and dance. And it might have worked, had not a stage light burst into flame, sending the monster into another fearful rampage. This time he’s captured by the townspeople only to escape their chains and kidnap Frederick’s recently-arrived fianceé.
The monster would have raped her, but Elizabeth’s refusals turned to encouragements when she saw the (implied to be enormous) size of his member. I guess you can get away with that kind of thing in a comedy film.
Still, Frankenstein manages to lure the monster back to the castle and perform another mad experiment (note: not a zero-sum game) which results in the monster being given intelligence equal to Frankenstein and Frederick being given, erm, an endowment equal to the monster’s.
Everything ends happily ever after with Elizabeth marrying the smartified monster, and Inga marrying the biggified Frederick (who has already been cheating with her anyway, as her other assistance was pretty useless).
Sure, it has no “artistic merit” to speak of, but as far as dumb comedies go, it’s pretty high up there on the “yuks” list, and that’s my verdict.