‘Young Frankenstein’ Borrowed Its Props From A Horror Movie Legend
The horror-comedy movie can be a tough nut to crack; sometimes you get a classic like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, other times you get a remake of The Blair Witch Project exclusively starring a talking thumbs for some goddamn reason.
One of the greatest horror-comedies of all time, unquestionably, is Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, starring Gene Wilder as a descendent of the disgraced Dr. Victor Frankenstein – plus Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle and Teri Garr just to name a few. Also, screw The French Connection, this one brief scene was Gene Hackman’s finest hour, dammit:
What really makes Young Frankenstein work is its authenticity; at times it truly feels like you’re watching an old Universal monster movie from the 1930s, albeit one with far more dick jokes. This was no small feat, either. According to Brooks, to make any satire work, “the walls, the floors, the costumes; everything surrounding the comedy has to be real.” Which is why he insisted on shooting Young Frankenstein in black and white, and even walked away from a deal with Columbia after they demanded that he release the film in color internationally, ultimately taking the project to 20th Century Fox instead.
As for the various machines and contraptions occupying Frankenstein’s laboratory, they are the actual props from the original 1931 Frankenstein movie. How? Well, the original inventor and designer, unsung electronic effects legend Kenneth Strickfaden, had all of the vintage gear stored in his garage in Santa Monica. A delighted Brooks and Wilder visited Strickfaden, who dusted off the various gizmos, and as Brooks later recounted: “miraculously it all still worked!” Strickfaden only asked for a rental fee of “one thousand dollars” which Brooks and company rejected because it was too low. Instead they paid him $2500 for the iconic inventions, either out of respect for his artistry, or because they thought it could actually reanimate the dead.
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Thumbnail: 20th Century Studios