Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN


SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939). Director: Rowland V. Lee.

Boris! Bela! Basil! In the same movie! Karloff, Lugosi, and Rathbone combine forces for the third entry in Universal's Frankenstein series. Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), the son of Henry Frankenstein, arrives in the village of Frankenstein with his wife and child to reclaim the ancestral castle; the citizenry aren't thrilled. Somehow the monster survived the conflagration at the end of Bride of Frankenstein, and has been befriended -- and used for revenge -- by Ygor (Bela Lugosi), who bears a broken neck due to a botched hanging. Now the monster is failing, and Wolf decides he can somehow redeem his father's name by not only bringing the creature back to health but curing its madness. Wolf determines that the monster's seeming invincibility is due to the fact that it was inadvertently irradiated by cosmic rays. Rathbone is as wonderful as ever, Karloff plays the monster with aplomb and even a touch of pathos (cringing in disgust from his own reflection), and Lugosi nearly steals the picture in his perfect protrayal of the devilish and madly eccentric Ygor. Lionel Atwill is excellent as police man Krogh, who lost his arm to the monster as a boy, and Josephine Hutchinson also scores as Wolf's wife Elsa. Little Donnie Dunagan is the adorable boy Peter, who sees a giant coming "through the wall" of his bedroom. [NOTE: Dunagan was also the voice of Bambi.] The castle sets are weird, sparse, and presumably economical. Son of Frankenstein isn't big on logic, and is overlong and slow in spots, but it's also extremely entertaining.

Verdict: Great fun -- and possibly Lugosi's finest hour. ***.

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