Film Review - Son of Frankenstein

Starring - Boris Karloff, Basel Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson, Donnie Dunagan, Dwight Frye | Directed by Rowland V. Lee | Universal DVD FF Not Rated 95min 1939

Review By Xmortis

Guess who's back again? This marks the third film in Universal's popular Frankenstein series and also marks the final time Karloff would play the Monster for the studio.

Henry Frankenstein has passed away, and his son Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein has come to town to reclaim his heritage. Upon returning he finds out that the villagers hold him responsible for the crimes that his father's Monster committed 25 years ago. Wolf, along with wife Elsa and son Peter, live in the family mansion and learn via letter that his father hopes Wolf can clear the Frankenstein name. Inspector Krogh arrives and warns Wolf that he is not wanted in town showing the artificial arm that he must wear due because the Monster ripped his off when he was young. Krogh tells Wolf about murders that are being committed by what they think is a ghost and leaves for the night. Wolf goes to the old castle where the Monster died with his Bride. There he finds a twisted crippled up man named Ygor who was hung for stealing bodies. Ygor shows Wolf that he has kept the Monster's body away from harm, and that it is, in fact, still alive though extremely weak. Wolf decides to clear his family's name by healing the Monster and then proving that he can be a normal person. With the help of Ygor and his butler Benson, Wolf begins to work on the Monster. At first he's unable to bring the Monster out of his coma as the village starts to look into what Wolf is doing in the old ruins. When the Monster finally awakens, Wolf sees that Ygor is the only person it will listen to and starts to figure out maybe he was wrong to bring him back from his coma. Ygor is sending the Monster out to kill those who hung him, and now Wolf and his family are being blamed for all the murders. Krogh turns the heat up on Wolf to come clean on what he knows about the murders and even arrests Wolf to save him and his family from an angry mob. Wolf goes back to his lab and kills Ygor with a pistol after he attempts to attack him. As Krogh finds the body of Benson and a secret passage that leads to the lab, the Monster finds Ygor's body and gets very angry. In the end the Monster kidnaps Peter so Wolf and Krogh must team up to get the child back and kill the Monster once and for all by kicking him into a sulfur pit. Wolf leaves with his family and signs over his property to the town.

The third in the series is yet another hit, but it's not as good as the first or the second. This time around is more of a drama horror than a horror comedy like the second film, and this works well. The plot has Henry's son Wolf coming to the old Frankenstein place to claim his birth rite, but instead he finds a village that hates him, a crippled lunatic named Ygor and his father's Monster. He must try to kill that what his father made once and for all to save his son, his soul and his family's name. Boris Karloff is the Monster for the final time. They make him go back to grunting and not speaking, and while he is out killing, he once more has some of his childlike characteristics. His outfit also changed in this one, and he has traded his classic black suit in for a fur vest and tall boots. While Karloff does a good job, I feel as if his performance almost lacks the heart of his other outings, and it's as if maybe by this third time he had grown tired of the role. Basel Rathbone plays Wolf Von Frankenstein and does so with such passion that at times his performance is really over the top. It makes for one hell of a fun watch to see him go from father and husband to pissed off and guilty for what he knows. Bela Lugosi goes a great job as Ygor and is even a worse bad guy than the Monster himself. The rest of the cast do a great job and keep the film from going into the cheesy zone like so easily it could have. I do like that the film shows the Monster understands friendship even if it's with Ygor, a crazy man who is just using him to get revenge on those who hung him. Plus the Monster is still childlike as he bonds with young Peter throughout the film. The sets are mostly the Frankenstein house (which looks like it came straight from a Tim Burton film) and the lab which is pure classic mad scientist. While simple and weird, both work very well. The score is also very well done, and while it uses old music, it still fits amazingly in shots. Over all this is a great film that kept the Frankenstein Monster alive and well at Universal Pictures but failed to reach sequel gold like "Bride of Frankenstein" did years before it. I say that this is a very worthy film in the series, and I for one have enjoyed it many times.

This U.K Region 2 Pal DVD is barebones and only has subtitles. While the cover art is great as is the menu, it's a shame I had to buy an import to get a single disc release that's not just crammed into a crummy boxset like the version that was released here in the USA.

While this is a good film, I did find it to be slower moving then the first two in the series and found that the amount of drama out weighed the horror making for a good sequel but not an outstanding one. I say this is worth a watch and a buy for fans of the series. But I guess if you don't have an all-region player, you'll have to get this on a multi-pack with most of the films in the series.

This film was followed by The Ghost of Frankenstein, which followed the Monster's journey once more.