Mel Brooks thinks it time for Frankenstein to dance

By Arthur Spiegelman

Mel Brooks thinks it is almost time for Frankenstein to sing and dance on Broadway.

The comic filmmaker, who made a monster hit musical out of his 1968 movie The Producers, says he is adapting another of his classic film comedies for the stage -- this time the 1974 Young Frankenstein, a spoof on the Frankenstein saga which he says is perhaps the best movie he ever made.

With no deadline set, Brooks says he is in the middle of writing the score, including a song for scary Frau Blucher, the caretaker of the Frankenstein castle still madly in love with that late, unlamented mad scientist.

When the whole musical is completed, Brooks says he will make a formal announcement to raise money.

"It is going to be wonderful," Brooks said in a telephone interview, just before he burst into a German-accented version of his Frau Blucher song:

"He vus my boyfriend; He vould come home in a snit; He vould have a terrible fit; I am the first thing he vould hit but I didn't give a shit; He vus my boyfriend."

How could a show like this miss? In fact, you might ask, how can anything that the 79-year-old Mel Brooks writes, directs or stars in miss?

To find out just how much of a national treasure he is, the Mel Brooks DVD collection has just been issued by Twentieth Century Fox Home entertainment, containing eight of his films from Blazing Saddles to Young Frankenstein. All that is missing are the two film versions of The Producers, which will be issued in May in a separate collection.

Brooks says his favourite film in the collection is To Be or Not to Be, a remake of the old Jack Benny classic which he neither wrote nor directed but rather starred in alongside his wife, the actress Anne Bancroft, who died last year of cancer.

"I miss my wife. We had such a good time making that movie and she was so damned good in it. But listen (the boxed set) is a treasure trove. People should buy 20 at a time and use them for Christmas presents. They make incredible gifts," he said.

The set contains five films never before issued on DVD, including The Twelve Chairs, a film some critics consider Brooks' neglected masterpiece. "I was damned good in it," Brooks said of his performance as a serf who loves to be beaten by his Russian aristocratic master.

The set also contains an unspoken reminder: the man many consider one of the funniest filmmakers in American history pretty much does not make movies any more.

He produced last year's musical film version of The Producers, but did not direct it. His last film directing effort was in 1995, Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

As far as Brooks is concerned, Broadway is more fun, especially since movies have become too much of a big business.

"I never had trouble getting films made. But when things got rough. I got involved on Broadway because there is a modicum of art still alive there. The movies today are a big, tough, cut and dried business. A movie opens on a Friday and it either makes its money or it doesn't. They don't let films build word of mouth any more," he said, adding:

"Broadway is like it was 50 years ago. You can get the money for a show, you can take the show out of town and try it out. The only reason I made a movie of the musical version of The Producers was so we'd have a record of it."

When he made Young Frankenstein in 1974, Brooks said he did everything he could to emulate the 1930s James Whale movie, from shooting the whole film in black and white to using many of the same shoots that Whale did.

Now Brooks says his challenge is to do the musical on Broadway with a black and white set, with all the mists and moodiness of the original movie plus laughs and songs. As he said in one of his movies, "It's good to be the king."

- REUTERS

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