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Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14- Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Today, the film is Son of Frankenstein, made in 1939. This is the last major performance as the monster by Boris Karloff. Other notable characters in this film are Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, played by Basil Rathbone (best known for playing Sherlock Holmes) and Ygor (played by Bela Lugosi).

Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein
This story is about the son of Henry Frankenstein, the new Baron, Wolf von Frankenstein. This film takes place many years after Bride of Frankenstein. The Baron is returning to the village of Frankenstein to receive his father's things, which include the journals from his father's experiments. The townspeople, however, are not too thrilled about the Baron's arrival, still remember the horrors Henry Frankenstein unleashed on the town.

As Frankenstein, his wife Elsa (played by Josephine Hutchinson), and his son Peter (Donnie Dunagan) settle into his father's old house, the young Frankenstein's are greeted by Inspector Krogh (played by Lionel Atwill), who is the only ally of the Frankenstein's in the entire village. He has a false right arm, having had his actual arm ripped out "by the roots" during an encounter with the monster as a child. After Krogh leaves, Frankenstein decides to explore his father's old lab, now in ruins, having heard all the things that supposedly happened there.

While exploring the old lab, Frankenstein is almost killed by a falling stone pushed by Ygor (Lugosi). After forcing Ygor down from the ledge, Ygor explains that he used to be a blacksmith until he was accused of robbing graves and body snatching. He was convicted by the jury and sentenced to death by hanging. While being hung, Ygor's neck was broken and he was pronounced dead, but he somehow came back to life. After talking for a while and realizing that the new Baron von Frankenstein was a physician, Ygor leads Frankenstein to the family crypt, where both his father and grandfather were put to rest. Also resting there is the monster that Henry Frankenstein created, though it is revealed that he is in some sort of coma. Ygor pleads for Frankenstein to revive the monster, and Frankenstein agrees, wanting to prove that his father was a brilliant man and not the "Maker of Monsters" that everyone else saw him as.

Karloff and Lugosi, together again.

The next couple scenes show Frankenstein bringing supplies into the lab from the castle and explaining the monsters physiology. It is revealed that the monster has an unnaturally high blood pressure, along with showing signs of mental illness and a very high heart rate of in excess of 250 beats per minute. Frankenstein then surmises (out of nowhere, I might add) that it wasn't lightning that brought the monster to life. He states that his father found a way to use cosmic rays from space, undiscovered at the time of the monster's creation,  to bring the monster to life, actually making him a being from another world. Finally, the rig is set up to bring the monster back to life is set up, and after what appears to be a failure, Frankenstein leaves the lab upset.

The monster's even been shot in the heart twice, and still lives.

Frankenstein and Inspector Krogh

In a meeting at the castle with his wife and Inspector Krogh, Frankenstein appears to be unwilling to explain much of what has been occurring at the castle with the inspector. Then, Peter, the Frankensteins' son, comes into the room to tell his parents about a "giant" he came into contact with while playing outside. After dismissing the inspector, Frankenstein returns to the lab to see if the monster did actually wake up. Upon returning to the lab, Frankenstein is surprised to find that the monster is awake, and after speaking with Ygor, it is revealed that the monster is under the control of the demented blacksmith. Frankenstein wishes to do more experiments (citing that the monster may be alright physically, but not mentally quite yet), but Ygor refuses, saying that the monster is "alright enough for him."

Frankenstein meeting the revived monster

What begins to occur is the methodical murder of all the remaining jurors from Ygor's trial, each dying under mysterious circumstances. Ygor is shown to be playing classical music using a woodwind of some kind, which is probably how he befriended the monster in the first place. Frankenstein realizes what's going on and goes to confront Ygor, and in the ensuing conflict, Frankenstein shoots and kills Ygor (so everyone thinks). The monster returns to find Ygor's dead body and, enraged, decides to kidnap Peter as a result. Frankenstein and Inspector Krogh follow the monster to the lab to save Peter. During the fight, Peter is saved, Krogh has his fake arm ripped off (it gets replaced), and the monster is destroyed. The end shows the Frankenstein's leaving the village, and while at the train station, the family is praised and sent off by the entire village, proud of what Wolf von Frankenstein had done.

Lugosi's really good at playing crazy.

Overall, this movie was a good addition to the series, but in no way matches either the first Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein. The movie did, however, revive the horror genre for Universal Studios in a time where the company was slipping out of the genre. Despite its place in history, however, I do have a couple complaints/gripes about the film. First, the monster isn't able to talk at all, even though he could in Bride of Frankenstein, which could be explained by whatever put hi to sleep in the first place, but still, it sets the character back a step. Secondly, I didn't think the explanation of the monster being brought to life by cosmic rays was unnecessary. I mean, I'm already suspending disbelief watching this movie, so it's not necessary to go into an elaborate explanation of the monster's "true" origins. Other than those two complaints, the movie was pretty decent. Both Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi played their roles beautifully, with Karloff, disappointingly, wasn't as spot on with the monster as he had been in the past. Nonetheless, still a movie for the horror movie fan.

The last time Karloff would play the iconic role of the monster.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5.

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