Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Overview: The son of a doctor tries to play God with predictably bad results.
Trilogy: Son of Frankenstein is the final movie in the Karloff trilogy, though nowhere near the final Frankenstein movie of this era. It is Karloff’s swan song to the character he made famous, so it is a little sad that this is not a great movie, though it does have great elements. Picking up some years after the events of Bride of Frankenstein with Baron Frankenstein’s son Wolf returning to the town from the earlier movies, which is now called Frankenstein (originally it was Goldstadt). He receives a frosty reception from the townsfolk but decides to stay and eventually stumbles upon the comatose creature from the earlier movies. He resolves to resurrect the once dead, then alive, now seemingly dead again creature in order to fix his family’s reputation.
Ygor: Frankenstein Junior is helped in his endeavor by one of those great elements I mentioned in the beginning, Ygor played by Bela Lugosi. If we’re looking to get blasphemous, and I always am, then I’m going to call it now and say that Lugosi’s Ygor is a better character than his Dracula. Perhaps because looking back we’ve seen his Dracula spoofed, copied, and parodied within an inch of it’s life/undeath, his Ygor feels like a more rounded, richer character. Ygor is a grave robber who was caught and hanged, his neck breaking in the noose, but not killed. He hobbles around, seemingly everywhere the story needs him to be, looking like the wolf man with a large spike of broken bone sticking out of his neck. I found myself halfway between laughing and gagging when Ygor decided to knock on the bone with his fist to show the people who hanged him that he had a souvenir of their judgment.
Karloff: Karloff does his best, but with the monster unable to speak and Ygor pulling in the lion’s share of the scary scenes, this makes his character seem obsolete. Bride gave the monster pathos and a sense of tragedy; Son turns him back into a wild animal or just a weapon for Ygor to dispense with his enemies. It is odd to see a Frankenstein movie in which the creature is about the fourth most interesting character.
Overall: The longest of the Universal Monster movies, Son of Frankenstein has some great ideas but spends too long doing nothing or doting upon an annoying child character to do anything with them. Without Lugosi’s Ygor, the movie would be an utter flop, but he manages to give so much to the usual assistant role that he steals the movie clean away from everyone else.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures