The parody of horror that likes more than horror

Try to think of one of the comedies that are in the cinema today and imagine which of these could be honored, as a cult, in half a century. The answer is very easy. None. Because now, the films are all written with the Cencelli manual of political correctness. First they make as inclusive a plot as possible and then they build some gag or joke around it. And not because Hollywood is really all liberal, but to follow the sacred verb of show business which at the moment aims at «All Inclusive». In short, it goes where the wallet takes you, exactly as happens, in Italy, for certain authors with a clenched fist on the left, but with an open wallet on the right. Would they have shot a masterpiece like Frankenstein Junior today? Almost certainly not.

And if, given what the convent goes through at the cinema, we are still here to celebrate it, postponing it for three days in theaters, from February 27 to March 1, thanks to Nexo Digital, in a restored and digitized version of the film, with a selfie next to to the celebratory poster and/or special themed arrangements, there will be a reason.

“It could be worse, it could rain”; “It can be done!”; “Where’s Wolf, werewolf”; «Se-da-ta-vo??». It is enough to quote one of these jokes to trigger, in fans and otherwise, the nostalgia of the masterpiece written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks. The former also played it, the latter directed it. As well as Igor’s hump that continually moved from right or left (gag born from a gimmick by Marty Feldman) or the horses of the castle that neighed in terror every time Frau Blücher’s name was mentioned. It was December 15, 1974 when this irresistible comedy was released in American cinemas, becoming a blockbuster and also earning two Oscar nominations and as many Golden Globes. In short, this year we are at 49, one step away from 50 candles, but, since then, no one has managed to make such an amusing parody of horror films which, after ten decades, remains by far the best of its kind. All the classic clichés of thriller films are made fun of in an intelligent way, just like the goliardic vulgarity of double meanings, starting with the famous Schwanzstück, the enormous sexual organ of the Creature, so renamed thanks to a play on Yiddish words.

Mel Brooks was five years old when, in 1931, he went to see James Whale’s Frankenstein, returning home terrified. A film that was shot following the techniques of German impressionist cinema, which knew how to play divinely with light and shadow. Hence the idea of ​​making a parody of it years later, rigorously in black and white. He relied, not surprisingly, on the photography of Gerald Hirschfeld, in order to play with long dark shots and clear close-ups, so as to enhance the comic tempos of the protagonists. And that gimmick was one of the keys to the film’s success.

Fans will know every line of Young Frankenstein by heart, but maybe there’s something they don’t know. For example, that the two female protagonists, Madeline Khan and Teri Garr, originally had to reverse the roles of Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s girlfriend and Inga, his assistant with a Teutonic accent. Kahn rejected Inga, wanting to play the part of the Creature’s lover at all costs and her choice was spot on given the iconic characterization she gave to the character of Elizabeth. Thus, Brooks called Garr asking her if she wanted to audition again for the part of the German assistant: «Vell, yes, I could do zee German ackzent tomorrow, I could come back zis afternoon», the actress promptly replied and the part it was his, without an audition.

Do you know what the scene repeated several times was? That of Elizabeth’s arrival at the castle. Completely improvised. Brooks asked Feldman, an actor unrivaled in comedic timing, to bite the fur that the woman had around her neck. Only, every time, a piece remained in his mouth, causing everyone to laugh and forcing Mel to repeat the scene over and over again. Speaking of anecdotes. Gene Hackman, who had carved out a cameo as the blind hermit who pours hot soup on the poor Creature, found out about the film project while playing tennis with Wilder. Enthusiastic, he offered to work for free, just to be part of the operation, so much so that, at first, his name did not appear in the cast credits. Instead, there was that of Ken Strickfaden, the maker of the electrical machinery used for the ’31 Frankenstein. He had stored them in the garage and Brooks, finding out, agreed to lease the whole thing, even giving him credit, in the credits, which he hadn’t received in the original film. The film is 105 minutes long, but was originally almost twice as long. However, Wilder and Brooks realized that many jokes didn’t work and decided, during editing, to cut them. Looking back on how long movies are today, one might say that the lesson has not been learned. Furthermore, the original has not always had an adequate translation. «It can be done!», for example, was a more possibility «It could work!». A bit like «Se-da-ta-vo??», the best thing that had been found to translate the original play on words «seda-give/seda-tive». Yet despite this, the film has become immortal, because at its core there was a story of true friendship between Gene and Mel and a comic work that went beyond any translation, performed by artists with a capital “A”. Today, a film like this cannot «be done!» more, unfortunately.

The parody of horror that likes more than horror