I watched Young Frankenstein for the first time a couple nights ago. (Spoilers for both YF and the original below).
Obviously, Young Frankenstein is a comedy, while the original was a tragedy. But the most interesting thing for me is how clearly Mel Brooks understood the source of the tragedy in the original.
Frankenstein is a story about (among other things) parental abandonment. Victor creates a “son” but abandons him, and does not give him a father’s love. Adam’s primary motivation throughout the book is to find some place he will be accepted and someone who will love him. But Victor fears annd hates him and can’t offer that support.
From this perspective, it’s clear that the most important scene in YF is the one where they’ve recaptured the monster and are holding him in a cell, and Gene Wilder/Frederick Frankenstein announces that he will go in “and show him that he is loved!” This is clearly a very clear, specific decision to not make his grandfather’s error.
And indeed, it works! Frederick convinces the monster that he is loved, and this support—and his willingness to risk his life to help his creation—is what turns the story from the tragedy it almost is, into the comedy it becomes.
I have to imagine Mel Brooks knew exactly what he was doing. Props to him.