Study Guide

Young Frankenstein Science


FREDERICK: If we look at the base of a brain which has just been removed from the skull, there's very little of the midbrain we can actually see.

While we'd never recommend using Young Frankenstein to help you cram for your A&P final, there's an awful lot of accurate scientific talk at the beginning of the movie. It helps show us that Frederick's character is very serious and definitely not crazy at this point.

FREDERICK: Reflex movements are those which are made independently of the will but are carried out along pathways which pass between the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system.

This quote is a discussion of fate and free will disguised as science. While Frederick, on the surface, is talking about reflex movements, he could also be talking about his journey from respectable man of science to mad scientist. It happens independently of his will. It's his fate.

FREDERICK: In spite of our mechanical magnificence, if it were not for this continuous stream of motor impulses we would collapse like a bunch of broccoli!

For the reanimation of the monster to be even more dramatic, it must first be believed to be impossible, as it seems here at the beginning of the movie.

FREDERICK: Hearts and kidneys are Tinkertoys! I'm talking about the central nervous system!

This line ups the stakes from the previous one, and lets us know that the critical component of the reanimation process is the brain, making the "Abby normal" brain even more important later on. Transplanting kidneys, Frederick suggests, is child's play.

FREDERICK: So this is where it all happened. [Thunder. Slow pan over the laboratory.]

A scientist is only as good as his laboratory, and this is a pretty good laboratory. It is the original equipment from the first film, after all, emphasizing the fact that it belonged to Frederick's grandfather. It really did.

FREDERICK: Oh, what an awesome sight. What a profound and reverent night this is. With such a specimen for a body, all we need now is an equally magnificent brain.

The body is the easy part. It's the brain part that's difficult. Frederick knows that the brain makes the man. This is a relatively modern idea. Fortunately there's a convenient brain depository nearby…

FREDERICK: From that fateful day, when stinking bits of slime first crawled from the sea and shouted to the cold stars "I am man," our greatest dread has always been the knowledge of our own mortality. But tonight, we shall hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself!

This line, melodramatic as it is, hits on something that's probably pretty accurate—that this kind of research stems from our fear of dying. Plus, Wilder's wild-eyed appearance makes it hilarious.

TOWNSPERSON: He's a Frankenstein! And they're all alike! It's in their blood. They can't help it. All those scientists, they're all alike. They say they're working for us, but what they really want is to rule the world!

What scientists really want is an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Regardless, this guy is echoing what a lot of people think about scientists; that they want fame and glory and will do anything to get it. Is Brooks sending up the anti-science crowd here? In Frankenstein's case, the crowd is dead-on, pun intended.

DEMONSTRATION SIGN: A Startling New Experiment in Reanimation

You'd think science would be exempt from showmanship, but you'd be wrong. In Young Frankenstein, Frederick and the monster literally have to put on a show to prove the experiment was successful. In the real world, scientists have to "perform" similarly in order to earn funding. Is showmanship as important as results in this cynical world?

[Frederick and the monster are hooked up to a machine for the "transference" process.]

Which parts of Young Frankenstein do you find to be the most believable or possible, if any? This transference process seems like pure sci-fi although serious people are now talking about uploading the contents of your brain onto a computer drive. Stranger than fiction, etc.

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