Over the last couple of weeks, the wifey and I decided to cancel our DirecTV service. It got too expensive, and we are using more streaming services than before. However, the wifey didn’t want to cut the cord completely, so we bundled with Charter Spectrum. The switch has nearly tripled the number of channels I have, but it’s costing me at least $80 less a month, including internet.
I’m still trying to learn where all the channels are. But last weekend when I couldn’t sleep, I landed upon a 1939 movie called “Son of Frankenstein.” I thought I had seen most of the Universal monster movies, but somehow this one had escaped me. But I wasn’t about to miss a Frankenstein movie starring Boris Karloff as the Monster, Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, and Bela Lugosi as Ygor.
In the film, several years have passed since the events of the first film, and we are introduced to Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), the son of Henry Frankenstein, as he prepares to move his family into his father’s castle. I guess this is the castle that was destroyed at the end of a previous movie, but I’m not positive.
Anyway, the local residents aren’t too pleased with their new neighbors, and become predictably hostile. To the townsfolk, the Frankenstein name us a curse upon the village. The only friendly face in the crown is the local chief of police Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill). Many find this surprising, since Krogh was a victim of the Monster as a child when, he claims, the beast ripped off his arm. This is something that will play a role later in the film.
From there Wolf runs into Ygor, a creepy blacksmith who mysteriously survived his own hanging. ygor was convicted of grave-robbing, and of course, it wasn’t any old grave he robbed. Later when Wolf visits the family crypt, he discovers the Monster’s body and decides to revive him in an effort to prove his father’s right, and to restore honor to the Frankenstein name. You can probably guess how this decision played out from here.
I can’t say “Son of Frankenstein” is on a par with any of the other Frankenstein movies out there. But I also can’t deny that this was one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen from that era. It all comes down to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi who give some epic performances. Karloff is as scary and sympathetic as ever, and Lugosi is a scene stealer despite being hidden under layers of hair and make-up. He was so good, I didn’t even realize it was Lugosi because I had missed the opening credits.
The grand finale of “Son of Frankenstein” was more action packed than I expected. There’s even a scene where Frankenstein rips off Inspector Krogh’s fake arm, and starts beating him with it. But the old inspector has another arm, and is able to shoot the monster. He doesn’t kill him, but he stuns Frankenstein long enough so that Basil Rathbone can impersonate Tarzan by swinging across the laboratory, and kicking the monster into the ooze below.
Speaking of Basil Rathbone, it was really strange seeing him play kind of good guy, only because I know him best as a bad guy in classic movies. However, in “Son of Frankenstein,” Rathbone really shows his acting range. Towards the end of the film he goes from meek victim, to homicidal maniac, to action hero. This might be my favorite performance by Basil Rathbone.
“Son of Frankenstein” may not the best of the classic Universal monster movies, but it’s certainly not the worst. This movie has some great scenes filled with suspense, horror, and even a little humor. The acting is easily the best part of the film, and you’ll never go wrong with Karloff and Lugosi in the same movie. All in all, I’m glad I couldn’t sleep that night, and I discovered this great monster mash.