Rewatching the Universal monsters! The ones on the Blu-ray box, at least. Here’s Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff on screen at the same time in Son of Frankenstein.
Here’s what happens: The long-lost son of Dr. Frankenstein rides into town to inherit his father’s property. Once there, he meets the misshapen Ygor, and the two hatch a plot to once again bring life back from the dead.
Monster! Despite the “F” name in the title, discussion of this movie begins and ends with Ygor, in a landmark performance by Bela Lugosi. Ygor is not a hunchback but a brute with a permanently broken neck. Despite being a creepy outside, Ygor is a master manipulator, able to talk the young baron as well as the townsfolk to go along with his schemes.
Also a monster! Karloff returns for his third and final turn as Frankenstein’s monster. The monster is once again unable to speak, giving the performance a real going-back-to-the-beginning feel. One highlight is the monster’s reaction to seeing himself in a mirror, which is several minutes of Karloff acting only with his expressions and body language.
Our hero: The titular son is Wolf von Frankenstein (his name’s Wolf!!!) played with maximum Englishman-ness by Basil Rathbone. Wolf initially sees inheriting the castle as a grand adventure, only to get more and more interested in recreating daddy’s experiments.
Hapless humans: Lots of great supporting characters in this one. The wooden-armed Inspector Krogh is a favorite, with his personal vendetta against the monster. Wolf’s wife and son are along for the ride, to be menaced by Ygor and the monster. I especially liked the superstitious housemaid Amelia, who is just delightfully quirky.
Thrills: Once the monster is up and about, we get some of his lurking about the countryside, including a somewhat slapstick murder of Wolf’s assistant. Later, we get the really good stuff as he goes full Hulk to rampage in and around the old lab and the Frankenstein estate. The finale, as Wolf confronts the monster at the edge of a deadly sulfur pit, is a real blockbuster moment.
Laughs: Not a lot of comic relief in this one. I do like how all the villages come out to “welcome” Wolf Frankenstein to town, only for them to all turn around and shun him as he steps off the train.
Thoughts upon this viewing: The movie is a little more sci-fi and less gothic horror than the previous Frankensteins, but that helps give this one its own identity. That, plus Lugosi killing it as Ygor makes Son an easy recommend.
Next: …now you don’t.
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