Script To Screen: “Young Frankenstein”

April 17th, 2013 by

A classic scene from the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein.

Setup: Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad’s castle and repeats the experiments.

109	ANOTHER ANGLE								

	as A SPOTLIGHT hits the darkness next to him.

	And there -- IN TOP HAT AND TAILS -- stands the Monster.
	he is heavily made up.

					FREDDY
				(playing the piano
				and singing)
			If you're blue and you
			don't know where to
			go to, why don't you...

	The Monster accompanies the music with short, simple
	"Soft Shoe" steps.

					FREDDY
			...go where fashion
			sits.........................

					MONSTER
			Poo -- tmmm anngh ma Ritz!

					FREDDY
			Diff'rent types who wear
			a day coat, pants
			with stripes and cutaway
			coat, perfect
			fits.........................

					MONSTER
			Poo -- tmmm anngh ma Ritz!

					FREDDY
			Dressed up like a
			million dollar
			trouper
			Trying hard to
			look like Gary
			Cooper.

					MONSTER
			Soo -- pah doo -- per.

	The Audience's faces are absolutely blank.  Inga and
	Igor are thrilled.

					FREDDY
			Come let's mix where Rock-
			e -- fellers walk
			with sticks or 'um-ber-
			el-las' in their
			mitts.........................

					MONSTER

			Poo -- tmmm anngh ma Ritz!

	The Monster gets a tomato right in the face.  He stops cold.

					FREDDY

			Dressed up like a
			million dollar
			trouper
			Trying hard to
			look like Gary
			Coo -- per.

	An EMBARRASSING PAUSE.

					FREDDY
				(to the Monster)
			That's your cue.  Go on!

					MONSTER
			MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmm.

					FREDDY
				(trying to cover)
			...Su-per du-per.
			Come let's mix where Rock-
			e-fellers walk
			with sticks or 'um-ber-
			el-las' in their
			mitts.........................

	The Monster knows it's his cue:  he just looks at Freddy.

					MONSTER
			MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmm!

					FREDDY
			For  God's sake -- go on!  Are you
			trying to make me look like a fool.
			Sing, you amateur!  Sing!!

	The Monster gets a raw egg in his face.

					AUDIENCE
			Booooo!
			Get him off!
			Fake!
			What else can your toy do?

					FREDDY
			Fake??  You stupid idiots...you call
			my creation a fake???  What do you
			know about truth?  You're the fakes!
			All of you!  I wouldn't come to you
			with a hang-nail.

	The monster gets another tomato in his face.

					MONSTER
			MMMMMMMMMM!
			MMMMMMMMMMMM!

					FREDDY
				(running to him)
			Wait!  Stop!  Don't give them the
			satisfaction.  I know it's tough,
			but look at how far we've come!
			Are you going to throw it all
			away now??

	The Monster thinks, as the tomato drips down his face.
	He is touched by Freddy's reasoning, but still burning
	with resentment.

					MONSTER
			MMMmmmmmm.

					FREDDY
			Don't you think I know that?  But
			what are you judging by?  Bucharest???
			This was always a hick town.  They
			can't get a 'Bus and Truck' company
			to come in here.  Are you going to
			let these idiots get the best of you?
			...Or are you going to stand up like
			a man and show them that you've got
			more dignity in your little finger
			than they've got in all their beer-
			bloated bodies put together?

	The Monster considers this plea for a moment.  Then gives
	Freddy a colossal W H A C K and jumps into the Audience.

110	THE AUDIENCE									

	screams and scatters for the exits.

	PANDEMONIUM.

					FREDDY
				(as he picks himself up
				off the stage floor)
			I chose the wrong song.

Here is the scene from the movie:

From IMDB:

The original cut of the movie was almost twice as long as the final cut, and it was considered by all involved to be an abysmal failure. It was only after a marathon cutting session that they produced the final cut of the film, which both Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks considered to be far superior to the original product. At one point they noted that for every joke that worked, there were three that fell flat. So they went in and trimmed all the jokes that didn’t work.

Fortunately “Puttin’ on the Ritz” stuck. Easy to see why, such a brilliant comedic moment.

Any fans of Young Frankenstein? See you in comments.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

4 thoughts on “Script To Screen: “Young Frankenstein”

  1. God bless you Scott, for posting one of the best scenes of the film and for starting off my day on a hilarious note.

    When generating movie ideas with my writing partner, Mel Brooks is often a topic of conversation. Sometimes our ideas will veer off in a Brooksian direction and I’m quick to tug the reigns when they do, bc I think his comedy style would have been a hard sell had he not been directing the scripts himself. The tone of his movies, which are usually over the top, absurd, slapstick comedy, either work brilliantly or end up being terrible. And had he not oversaw the execution of the ideas, I think there’s a good chance Mel Brooks wouldn’t be the comedic genius we know and love today.

    What do you think?

    1. Scott says:

      Brian, glad you got your day off to a rousing and “hilarious” start with this clips.

      Re your question: It’s a good one. Most of the scripts I’ve written have been comedies. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the thing we call a “sense of humor” is hugely subjective. This is especially important when writing a script in Hollywood because one exec may love broad humor and another may loathe it.

      That’s why it’s CRITICAL to get everybody on board with the TONE you are going for on a project. Here I find using specific movie examples as a way of helping people involved in the project ‘define’ the tone: Softer like “Ferris Bueller” or harder like “The Hangover,” that sort of thing.

      In terms of writing spec scripts, since you can never know which set of eyeballs will respond positively or negatively to your script anyhow, my default mode is write the tone YOU want to write. I’m facing this question right now with my next spec which is a comedy. It’s going to cut against many supposed ‘rules,’ but I’ve decided I need to do that to write the story I see in my head.

      I would say this: Slapstick is tough. Apart from send-ups like the “Scary Movie” franchise, where do we even see this anymore? Why are there no Pink Panther or Blazing Saddles? I suppose you could say “Get Smart” was in that direction, but it was still grounded in a quasi-reality.

      “The Campaign” and “Identity Thief” are probably about as far as one would expect to see nowadays, each with some pretty broad moments, but definitely each servicing characters with actual interior lives and arcs, albeit small ones appropriate to the nature of the comedy.

      That’s not to say a spec couldn’t sell tomorrow that was REALLY broad, it could get produced, make a zillion dollars, and spawn a whole generation of slapstick movies. Indeed given the internationalization of the film market, where more visually based humor will travel better than dialogue-heavy comedies, that might be a trend in the waiting.

      Bottom line, you have to write what you think works, what you’re good at writing, and what makes you laugh.

  2. Amen brother. Agree 100% with all of the above. Something I’m usually selling to my writing partner in order to keep a more translatable comedic tone with our ideas. Because, as you said, outside the Scary Movie franchise (which haven’t been funny since the second one), and the Airplane/Leslie Nielson films before them, you don’t see a ton of absurd/slapstick comedies getting made.

  3. Oh, and thanks for your detailed response! I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have been LOVING it. Like literally, loving it: I put the lights down low in my bedroom, light some candles, turn up the romantic music, and…okay just kidding. Sorry! Took that one too far :) But seriously, your blog is AWESOME.

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