Known for his brilliantly dark sense of humor and his witty, satirical takes on pop culture, Mel Brooks gave his version of the classic “Frankenstein” story back in 1974. Like most of his projects, it was hilarious, and remains a comedic classic to this day! So in honor of its 45th anniversary today, here are 45 fun facts about Young Frankenstein!
1. Gene Wilder always claimed that Young Frankenstein was his favorite movie he ever made (even over Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)!
2. Starring in the film turned out to have a positive effect on the rest of Peter Boyle’s life, as he met his wife Loraine Alterman on set. She was a reporter for “Rolling Stone” at the time, and was visiting to write up a piece about the film.
3. While in preproduction, Mel Brooks discovered that Ken Strickfaden (who made the original electrical equipment props) was still alive, and had many of the props in storage. So they were able to be used for Young Frankenstein, and Brooks gave Strickfaden the credit he never officially got in the original film.
4. The original idea for the movie came from a conversation between Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder on the set of Blazing Saddles.
5. 1974 proved to be a very busy year, as not long after wrapping on Blazing Saddles, production on Young Frankenstein began, and both films were released that very year.
6. While known more for his acting, Gene Wilder co-wrote the script with Mel Brooks. And he would even go on to have a writing career after he semi-retired from acting in the late 1990’s.
7. Apparently the person who thought the film was funniest was Gene Wilder himself. Cloris Leachman reported that he had such a bad habit of breaking out in laughter, that they’d often have to do up to 15 takes per scene!
8. Initially the film was going to be distributed by Columbia, but they hated the idea of releasing it in black and white. In response Brooks threatened to take the film elsewhere, which he did to 20th Century Fox.
9. Despite agreeing to shooting in black and white, Fox still tried to “trick” Brooks by asking if he could shoot on color stock, simply so that it could be released in color in Peru (as they had just gotten color film recently). Brooks saw through their agenda however, and promptly refused.
10. As part of the deal, Brooks (and Wilder) signed a five-year contract with Fox, which proved to be very fruitful for both Brooks and studio. They would go on to distribute many of his later films including Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World Part 1, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
11. As many know, Aerosmith’s iconic “Walk this Way” was inspired by this film. Reportedly, they took a break from a long day of recording and went to see this movie.
12. Much like Poltergeist, most of the skulls under the castle in this film were in fact real human skulls!
13. Young Frankenstein wasn’t even the only “Frankenstein” film released in 1974. The other was a British Hammer film called Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, starring Peter Cushing and Darth Vader himself, David Prowse!
14. Igor actor Marty Feldman’s bulging eyes weren’t achieved with makeup or prosthetics. Feldmand had suffered from Grave’s disease as a child, and a surgery meant to help him went wrong and left his eyes permanently distorted.
15. Reportedly Kenneth Mars got the part of Inspector Kemp because he showed up to his audition wearing a monocle over an eyepatch, which Brooks found hilarious (and kept in the film). However, he had already worked with Brooks on The Producers as Franz Liebkind, so that probably helped him secure the part as well.
16. Despite being known for his cameos (as well as full supporting roles) Mel Brooks was discouraged from doing so here by Gene Wilder, who feared it would be too distracting. As a compromise, Brooks’ cameos are in the form of his voice for a howling wolf, as well as a few other background noises.
17. Apparently during filming, Wilder and Brooks got into a heated argument over the writing which resulted in Brooks getting uncharacteristically angry and shouting. After storming out, he called Wilder a few minutes later asking who the crazed yelling man in his house was. Wilder always felt that this was Brooks’ own way of apologizing.
18. “Young Frankenstein” is also the name of a DC comic which debuted in 2006, and has absolutely no connection to this film.
19. While it is primarily a spoof/adaptation of Frankenstein, it includes elements from other classic horror, such as Dracula (the Transylvania setting).
20. As was the case with Brooks’ other film, The Producers, Young Frankenstein was turned into a Broadway musical in 2007.
21. Final film of Oscar Beregi Jr., of 77 Sunset Strip fame.
22. Famed critic Gene Siskel gave the film 3 out of 4 stars stating it was “very funny in its best moments, but they’re all too infrequent”.
23. The amazing production design was done by Dale Hennesy, who also did the same for other classic films like King Kong (1976), Annie, Logan’s Run, and the original Dirty Harry.
24. Gene Hackman had been an occasional tennis partner of Gene Wilder, which was how he heard about the film in the first place. He begged for the part, even saying he would play a blind hermit for free, which of course he wound up doing.
25. Hackman made quite the impression on his few days on set, as his “espresso” line was ad-libbed and caused everyone to burst out laughing. This explains why the scene immediately faded to black, so that no one would see everyone breaking character.
26. Despite being a somewhat sequel to the original Frankenstein, Universal had nothing to do with Young Frankenstein. But at that time, the original novel was in the public domain.
27. Hogan’s Heroes star Leon Askin originally had a part as lawyer, but it was deleted from the final film.
28. Mel Brooks enjoyed making this film so much, he actually added scenes to shoot, simply to extend the length of production.
29. During Hackman’s blind man scene, Peter Boyle was actually wearing a cup to prevent from getting scalded.
30. The film shows the monster speaking and even having sex, which isn’t that far off from his portrayal in the original novel. There he was able to speak, read, write, and wanted Dr. Frankenstein to make him a wife.
31. The costumes were designed by Dorothy Jeaksin, who also did the same for The Sound of Music, Ten Commandments, True Grit, and The Music Man.
32. While the film is set in 1800’s Europe, most of the main cast was actually American (Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr).
33. Final film of Richard Haydn of The Sound of Music and Alice in Wonderland fame.
34. The theater scenes were shot at the Mayfair Theater in Santa Monica, CA. That very same year however, that theater was used in filming an episode of The Rockford Files.
35. In an interview for his 90th birthday, Mel Brooks confirmed that Young Frankenstein is his best film, although it’s only the 3rd funniest (behind Blazing Saddles and The Producers).
36. Ironically Madeline Kahn wasn’t allowed to show as much cleavage as had been shown in the 1931 original, because at that time the Motion Picture Code wasn’t being enforced.
37. According to Brooks, the original cut of the film ran quite long (over 3 hours) and for every one joke that worked, another 3 missed completely. This forced him to cut the film down to its current 105 minute runtime.
38. Initially Brooks told Cloris Leachman that her character’s name of Blucher was close to the German word for “glue”, which explained why the horses screamed whenever they heard it. The actual word is “Kleber”, and to this day Leachman is unsure if Brooks was just joking or if he was honestly misinformed.
39. Many have pointed out a possible error in that Frederick is supposed to be the grandson of the original Victor Frankenstein, but appears to live in the same time period. However, given Brooks’ style and tendency to break the fourth wall, it’s possible this was intentional.
40. Marty Feldman “improvised” the switching of Igor’s hump by just doing it and no one noticing for a few days. Once they did, Brooks found it hilarious and just kept it.
41. The iconic poster was made by poster artist John Alvin, who also did the same for E.T., Blade Runner, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Little Mermaid, Batman Returns, Aladdin, and even The Lion King!
42. Upon release, it gained commercial and critical acclaim, even earning an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Which was a rare feat for both horror and comedy films!
43. It was also nominated for Golden Globes in 1975. In fact, Cloris Leachman was up for Best Actress and Madeline Kahn for Best Supporting Actress, despite the fact that Kahn actually had more screen time than Leachman.
44. Brooks would later revisit classic horror in 1995 with Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Unfortunately however, it wasn’t nearly as well received that time, and even remains Brooks’ lowest critically rated film.
45. In 2003, Young Frankenstein was given the honor of being inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.
Which of these did you know already, which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments below! And for more reviews, rankings, and other fun horror content, follow Halloween Year-Round in Facebook and Twitter!