“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?”
~John Milton, Paradise Lost
Two weeks ago I learned that I would become ASM (assistant stage manager) to our spring musical production: (Mel Brooks) Young Frankenstein. Funny enough, that same week I had just finished Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The difference between the two was enormous.
In Frankenstein the monster is an unwanted, failed creation that is shunned the moment it opens it’s eyes. It is branded a demon, a failure, an abomination. Victor abandons his creation and damns him to a life of isolation, a life with no hand to guide him, no parent to teach him right from wrong. The monster longs for a better life with friends who will accept him and a wife who will accompany him. He gets neither. I won’t give the ending away but what I can say is that ultimately, he ends up alone.
It’s kinda depressing.
Young Frankenstein, on the other hand is a different story entirely. It begins with Victor’s grandson, Frederick. A young teacher at a school of medicine, Frederick has no interest in his grandfathers work. But after visiting his grandfather’s house after Victor’s death, he becomes obsessed with creating his very own monster. After months of work he creates his own monster. Unlike Victor in Shelly’s Frankenstein, Frederick is kind and fatherly to his creation. He takes the time to help his creation take his first steps and even when the monster becomes wild and causes havoc, Frederick uses his parenting skills to fix the monsters “behavior issues”.
The whole thing is very fairy-tale-esque.
As I said: vastly different yet almost the same. Which leads to the question: even though they share similar concepts, characters, and ideas how, or better why, does Mary Shelly’s and Mel Brooks stories differ from each other?
On the how aspect, veering away from the plot, I’m aware there are some more obvious answers: one is a musical while the other is a book, one is a comedy while the other is a dramatic tragedy, one is set in the 1930s while the other is set in the 1800s. But there are other things too, more subtle things. According to Young Frankenstein, Victor was actually a kind man who loved his creations. Also, Victor was never married and instead held a long time girlfriend. Unlike Frankenstein, Victor made not only one, but many monsters, one of which got free and rampaged through the village. This, we assume, is Mary Shelly’s particular creature.
As for the why? Well, I guess that’s really down to Mel Brooks. Since I’m not Mel Brooks, I can’t really say much. However, since it is Mel Brooks I would say it’s because he enjoys poking fun at things (in a good way). I think he just enjoys taking well known stories and making them his own. Just look at Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It’s not plagiarism exactly, it’s clever. Besides, if we want to get on the topic of plagiarism, just look at the original Frankenstein. Marry Shelly combined a lot of other books to make Frankenstein (Paradise Lost, the story of Prometheus, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, etc).
Well, I better stop this blog post before I get more off topic.
If you would like to learn more about the difference between Young Frankenstein and Frankenstein, you can click here.
One last thing, just food for thought, what do you think a movie would be like if Mel Brooks and Quentin Tarantino joined forces?