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20th century fox

15 Things You Might Not Know About Young Frankenstein

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20th century fox

1. Studio Executives tried Tricking Director Mel Brooks into Shooting the Film in Color

By the mid-‘70s, black and white cinema was an endangered species. Nevertheless, Brooks felt strongly about replicating the feel of Universal’s classic Frankenstein films by going colorless. However, not everybody shared his vision. Columbia Studios’ brass thought the style was unmarketable and, as Brooks explains in this delightful interview (skip to 47:40), used some slippery tactics in an attempt to get their way:

“They said ‘Okay, we’ll make it in black and white, but on color stock so that we can show it in Peru, which just got color. And I said ‘No. No because you’ll screw me. You will say this and then, in order to save the company, you will risk a lawsuit and you will print everything in color. It’s gotta be on… black & white thick film.”

Thankfully, Brooks prevailed, though 20th Century Fox wound up taking charge of the project.

2. Star and Co-Writer Gene Wilder Convinced Brooks to Forgo his Usual Cameo Appearance

Like Alfred Hitchcock, Brooks usually gave himself a part in his own films, from Blazing Saddles’ loopy governor to the wine-selling Rabbi of Robin Hood: Men in Tights. These characters regularly broke the fourth wall and “winked” at the audience, something Wilder felt would clash with Young Frankenstein’s tone. So, as a condition of his taking on the lead role, Wilder made Brooks agree to remain off-camera.

However, the director did provide some howling:

As Frederick Frankenstein (Wilder) takes his first ride to the family castle, the distant wolf cry which startles him is a sound Brooks actually vocalized himself.

3. Early On, We Hear the Exact Same Conversation Repeated in Both English and German

En route to Romania, our protagonist catches a train to New York, whereupon he hears an American couple bickering. In the very next scene, Frederick (now on a Transylvania-bound locomotive) witnesses a European pair having an identical, word-for-word exchange in German

4. One of Igor’s Best Moments Inspired a Hit Aerosmith Song

“Walk this way!” Marty Feldman’s Igor instructs his master, who proceeds to copy the hunchback’s shuffling gait. Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler found this line hilarious and repurposed it as the title of a track about high school lovers.

5. Hans Delbrück Was a Real Person

As Frederick readies his monster, he sends Igor to fetch a very special brain which rests in a jar labeled “Hans Delbruck: Scientist and Saint”. The actual Hans Delbrück (1848-1929) was an accomplished military historian whose son, Max, won a Nobel Prize for his work with viruses.

6. Several Props Had Previously Appeared in the Masterful 1931 Frankenstein Film

Taking his feature-length tribute to the next level, Brooks included much of the faux lab equipment used in that earlier picture.

7. Teri Garr Based Her Character’s Voice on Cher’s Hairdresser

Garr made several appearances on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and used Cher's German wig-stylist as a model for ditzy lab assistant Inga’s heavy accent.

8. Brooks Hired Kenneth Mars After the Actor Signed Off on an Odd Costuming Choice

The two had already collaborated in 1968’s The Producers, and while casting Young Frankenstein, Brooks offered Mars the role of grumpy Inspector Kemp, but not before pitching an eccentric wardrobe gimmick that ultimately wound up on-screen.

“He [said],” Mars later reminisced, “‘Let me ask you this… if you’re wearing an eye patch and you’ve got a monocle on top of the eye patch, is that too much?’ I said ‘Of course not.’ He said ‘Good, you’re hired!’”

9. Gene Hackman Specifically Asked Wilder for a Part in Young Frankenstein Because he “Wanted to Try Comedy”

According to the movie’s Blu-Ray commentary, Hackman—who’d been thrice nominated for an Academy Award (and won one in 1971)—learned about Young Frankenstein through his frequent tennis partner Wilder and requested a role. Ultimately, ‘Harold’—the lonely blind character he briefly portrayed—sparked one of the most memorable sequences in comedic history.

10. Peter Boyle Had to Wear a Special Pad Over His Crotch to Avoid Getting Scalded During the Famous Blind Man Scene

During their hysterical encounter, sightless Harold winds up accidentally dumping a bowlful of hot soup onto the poor creature’s lap. Fortunately, Boyle’s protective gear kept him from having to method act his way through the ordeal.

11. A Huge Percentage of the Movie Had to Be Deleted

“For every joke that worked, there were three that fell flat,” says Brooks, who whittled Young Frankenstein down to its current runtime after observing several mixed reactions from test audiences. This cut material included a clip in which Frederick’s relatives listen to a recorded will left by his great grandfather Beauvort von Frankenstein whose message starts skipping and nonchalantly repeats the phrase “Up Yours!”

In addition, the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number was nearly axed as well. Brooks reportedly felt that having Dr. Frankenstein and his monster tap dance to an old Irving Berlin song seemed “too crazy.” Hearing this, Wilder—who though it brilliant—snapped and came “close to rage and tears” before Brooks unexpectedly changed his tune. “I wanted to see how hard you'd fight for it,” said the director, “And I knew if you fought hard enough, it was right...You did, so it's in.”

12. Wilder was Constantly Cracking Up During Takes

According to Cloris Leachman, “He killed every take [with his laughter] and nothing was done about it!” Shots would frequently have to be repeated as many as fifteen times before Wilder could finally summon a straight face.

But, to be fair, he certainly wasn’t the only one who couldn't always keep it together.

Young Frankenstein sees Marty Feldman’s comic genius on full display, which was often more than his castmates could handle. For example, the scene where Frederick’s fiancée Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) greets him at the castle generated a lengthy gag reel because Feldman—whose character starts ravenously gnawing on her mink scarf—kept everyone in stitches with his manic over-acting.

13. Brooks’ Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein were the 1st and 3rd highest-grossing films of 1974, respectively

“It’s good to be the king!” Before this pivotal year, the funnyman’s earlier efforts—The Producers and The Twelve Chairs (1970)—netted mixed reviews and had lackluster box office performances. But after turning out these back-to-back hits at breakneck speed, Brooks’ reputation as one of Hollywood’s greatest comedic directors was secured.

14. Leachman Was Asked to Reprise Her Role for the 'Young Frankenstein' Musical

After getting eliminated from ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Brooks offered the 82-year-old actress a chance to take a second stab at playing Frau Blücher for his on-stage Young Frankenstein musical, but the show’s run ended before her schedule freed up.

15. Throughout the Shoot, Brooks Offered Wilder Directing Advice

Knowing his star dreamed of one day sitting in the director’s chair, Brooks made a point to give him as many pointers as possible before shooting concluded. Wilder reminisced, “Mel would say, ‘Do you know the trouble I’m in because I didn’t shoot that close-up? Don’t do that.’ I would say, ‘To whom are you talking?’ ‘You, when you’re directing.’”

Though both headed various productions after Young Frankenstein, they’d never collaborate on another flick. Nevertheless, the pair’s shared legacy is unimpeachable. All three of Brooks’ movies in which Wilder appeared—The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein—have been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry and included on the American Film Institute’s “100 Funniest Movies of All Time” list.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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CardNinja Ultra-slim Self Adhesive Credit Card Wallet for Smartphones, Black for $6.95 (list price $12.99)

Anker Quick Charge 2.0 36W Dual USB Car Charger, PowerDrive+ 2 for Galaxy S7 / S6 / Edge / Plus, Note 5 / 4 and PowerIQ for iPhone 7 / 6s / Plus, iPad Pro / Air 2 / mini, LG, Nexus, HTC and More for $12.99 (list price $59.99)

Timex T235WY AM/FM Dual Alarm Clock Radio - White for $19.65 (list price $24.95)

Lexar JumpDrive P20 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive - LJDP20-64GCRBNA for $34.47 (list price $41.49)

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ThermoPro TP03A Digital Food Cooking Thermometer Instant Read Meat Thermometer for Kitchen BBQ Grill Smoker for $10.49 (list price $29.99)

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12-Pack KEURIG Compatible Water Filters by K&J - Universal Fit (NOT CUISINART) Keurig Compatible Filters - Replacement Charcoal Water Filters for Keurig 2.0 (and older) Coffee Machines for $9.95 (list price $19.95)

Hamilton Beach 22910 Brushed Stainless Steel 2-Slice Toaster for $9.24 (list price $24.99)

Spiralizer 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer, Strongest-and-Heaviest Duty, Best Veggie Pasta & Spaghetti Maker for Low Carb/Paleo/Gluten-Free Meals, With 3 Exclusive Recipe eBooks for $29.99 (list price $49.99)

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls by Finedine (Set of 6) Polished Mirror Finish Nesting Bowls, ¾ - 1.5 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 8 Quart - Cooking Supplies for $22.95 (list price $39.95)

Hiware 12-piece Good Stainless Steel Dinner Forks Cutlery Set, 8 Inches for $15.59 (list price $22.00)

HOME

Furhaven Orthopedic Mattress Pet Bed, Large, Cream, for Dogs and Cats for $25.49 (list price $30.44)

12 Air Plant Variety Pack - Bulk Assorted Species of Live Tillandsia House Plants for Sale - Wholesale Indoor Terrarium Air Plants by Aquatic Arts for $22.99 (list price $25.08)

Estilo 1 gallon Glass Mason Jar Double Beverage Drink Dispenser On Metal Stand With Leak Free Spigot, Clear for $27.98 (list price $31.88)

Poly and Bark Ralston Writing Desk - Standard Height - in Ash Grey for $49.99 (list price $55.99)

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Sterilite 25306P01 3 Drawer Wide Weave Tower, Espresso Frame & Drawers w/ Driftwood Handles, 1-Pack for $19.83 (list price $22.44)

AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair for $49.58 (list price $64.99)

Mpow LED Solar light, Bright Security Lighting Outdoor Motion Sensor Lighting for Garden, Patio for $14.99 (list price $19.99)

HOMFA Fashion Heavy Duty Garment Rack with Shelves 3-Tier Shoes Rack,Coat Rack Hooks,Clothes Rack with Hanger Bar (Black) for $49.99 (list price $110.99)

Premium 8 Piece Towel Set (Grey); 2 Bath Towels, 2 Hand Towels and 4 Washcloths - Cotton - Machine Washable, Hotel Quality, Super Soft and Highly Absorbent by Utopia Towels for $25.99 (list price $43.99)

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VicTsing 300ml Cool Mist Humidifier Ultrasonic Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser for Office Home Bedroom Living Room Study Yoga Spa - Wood Grain for $49.99 (list price $29.99)

Nerdwax Stop Slipping Glasses as Seen on Shark Tank for $12.99 (list price $14.99)

Redken Short Sculpt 19 Touchable Texturizing Gel, 3.4 Ounce for $12.46 (list price $20.00)

Oak Leaf 7X Magnification LED Lighted Makeup Mirror,Bright Shaving Bathroom Vanity Mirror with Strong Suction Cup,Touch-Activated,Rotates 360 Degrees,Daylight Color,Battery Operated for $19.99 (list price $59.99)

BraceUP Stabilizing Lumbar Lower Back Brace and Support Belt with Dual Adjustable Straps and Breathable Mesh Panels (S/M) for $23.99 (list price $45.98)

Brightdeal Replacement Brush Heads for Philips Sonicare Toothbrush E Series HX7022/66, Essence, Xtreme, Elite and Advance (6-pack) for $19.99 (list price $25.99)

Philips Sonicare Essence Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, White for $24.95 (list price $49.99)

Swiffer Duster Refills, Unscented Dusters Refill, 20 count for $13.97 (list price $15.99)

Braun Series 9-9095cc Wet and Dry Foil Shaver for Men with Cleaning Center, Electric Men's Razor, Razors, Shavers, Cordless Shaving System for $299.99 (list price $499.99)

Johnson's 24 Hr Moisturizing Wash Soft Body Lotion 12 fl oz (6 pack) for $26.99 (list price $29.99)

Germ-X 1000042965 Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer Lotion 4 oz. (Pack of 12) for $38.53 (list price $55.28)

Radha Beauty Natural Therapeutic Frankincense Essential Oil, 4 oz. for $16.95 (list price $49.99)

FHI Brands Stylus Thermal Styling Brush, Black for $79.99 (list price $99.99)

Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera, 12 oz for $10.51 (list price $19.95)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

AmazonBasics Wireless Presenter for $21.00 (list price $24.99)

Anycolor 3 Pack Compatible Brother M221 M-K221 MK221 M Tape Black on White Label Tape for Brother P Touch Label Maker PT-90 PT-M95 PT-70BM PT-70 PT-65 PT-85 PT-45 (3/8" x 26.2' 9m x 8m) for $32.49 (list price $32.49)

EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Fine Tip, Assorted Colors, 8-Count for $7.37 (list price $11.49)

HIRALIY CH019 Aluminum Portable Laptop Stand for 13" & Smaller Laptops/Notebooks/ /Tablets (Grey) for $29.99 (list price $49.99)

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Clipboards (Set of 10) by Office Solutions Direct! Low Profile Clip Standard A4 Letter Size clipboard for $12.88 (list price $29.95)

VANRA Metal Mesh Desktop File Sorter Organizer Desk Tray Organize with 3 Letter Trays and 2 Vertical Upright Sections, Black for $33.98 (list price $68.80)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Assorted Colors, 12 Count for $6.69 (list price $17.09)

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EXPO Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Chisel Tip, Fashion Colors, 8-Count for $4.94 (list price $8.92)

Board Dudes 18" x 22" Magnetic Dry Erase/Cork Combo Board (CYH10) for $13.19 (list price $20.23)

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OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

SHINE HAI Double Camping Hammock, Portable Lightweight Parachute Nylon Garden Hammock, Two Persons Bed for Backpacking, Camping, Travel, Beach, Yard for $23.99 (list price $139.99)

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Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle (24-Ounce) (Starburst) for $8.92 (list price $11.99)

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Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker (Black, Medium/XX-Large) for $41.12 (list price $58.49)

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JOOLA Conversion Table Tennis Top with Foam Backing and Net Set for $308.39 (list price $374.99)

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TOOLS

Schlage FE595 CAM 619 ACC Camelot Keypad Entry with Flex-Lock and Accent Levers, Satin Nickel for $87.73 (list price $109.67)

Etekcity 3 Pack Portable Outdoor LED Lantern with 9 AA Batteries - Camping Friendly (Black, Collapsible) for $17.99 (list price $50.99)

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Maxcraft 60626 8-oz. Stubby Claw Hammer for $10.89 (list price $12.48)

Coleman Cable 02309 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord, Orange, 100-Feet for $22.92 (list price $26.30)

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First Alert SCO5CN Battery Operated Combination Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Alarm for $31.24 (list price $33.93)

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Custom Leathercraft 1100 Multi-Purpose Clip-on Zippered Poly Bags for $6.72 (list price $7.82)

Campbell Hausfeld 17-Piece Air Tool and Accessory Kit (MP284701AV) for $11.78 (list price $17.07)

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