Saturday, March 29, 2008

Movie of the Week: Son of Frankenstein!

As you can see, this week's film spotlight is on "Son of Frankenstein," and it's going to be a bit different this week, because there seems there's no YouTube or any other embeddable video available to include in this post!

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"Son of Frankenstein" would be Karloff's third and final time playing the Monster, although it wasn't his last part in the Frankenstein Saga, returning in "House of Frankenstein" in a different role, which we'll get to when that's the movie of the week!

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From what I've read, Karloff felt that the way the series was going, the Monster was going to become more of a monster, with none of the characterization or pathos seen in the first two movies... or even "Son". And, indeed, the Monster is more of a lumbering beast after this entry.

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(Belgium poster)

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This movie would also mark Bela Lugosi's first appearance in the Frankenstein series. Of course, you know he'd originally turned down the role of the Monster for the first movie, but now, he's entered the series as Ygor, the hunchbacked criminal who's befrended the Monster... and indeed, as others have noted, Lugosi really shines in this part -- it may sound presumptuous on my part, but I think Ygor was Lugosi's high point in horror movie acting, not Dracula! There's a lot more "meat" in the Ygor role, if you ask me.

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(French movie card)

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Basil Rathbone, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, plays the titular character, Wolf, the son of Victor (although he's called Henry here). He brings his family with him to the site of his father's experiments, and ends up reviving the monster, who wasn't destroyed when his father's lab was exploded by the Monster.

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(Italian poster)

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Well, okay, so the monster didn't need revival as much as a recharge. Ygor, who had been hung for his criminal acts, had his neck broken by the hanging, but didn't die, so they let him go (apparently the legal system is a bit skewed in that country). He'd been hanging around the ruins of Castle Frankenstein, and discovered the Monster. Befriending the creature, Ygor plans to use the Monster to wreak revenge on those who convicted him...

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...which he pretty much does as soon as the Monster's recharged by Wolf! Frankenstein, of course, discovers what's been going on, and attempts to stop things, but by this point, Ygor's had the Monster kidnap Wolf's young son (who trusts the Monster implicitly... the kid has no friends except for the nanny, after all).

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Another memorable character is portrayed by Lionel Atwill as Inspecter Krogh, whose backstory is that the Monster pulled his arm off as a child (an act that seems way out of character for the Monster, who seemed to always treat children tenderly... but perhaps there was more to the story than the movie presented?). Krogh was brilliantly parodied in "Young Frankenstein."

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Krogh, naturally, suspects that Wolf is going to try to duplicate his father's experiments, and the good Inspector is right -- in fact, Krogh visits the Frankenstein home after Wolf's revived the Monster!

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The Monster is all-too-easily dispatched by Wolf, who swings on a rope to knock the Monster into the sulphur pit that is accessible via a large hole in the laboratory, presumably to be gone forever, but we know better, don't we?

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As is the case with at least all the earlier Frankenstein movies, the production values on this movie were very good, and the lighting is just plain amazing, as are the sets. The kid aside, the acting is very enjoyable, and the makeup still looks great on Karloff!

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(Yugoslavian poster)

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(Spanish poster)

Overall, it's a very enjoyable movie, and a worthy installment in the series. Lugosi would be back as Ygor in next week's "Movie of the Week" installment, "Ghost of Frankenstein," and the role of the Monster would be assayed by Lon Chaney, Jr., after his success playing the Wolf Man (whom we'll get to after "Ghost"). Yet another son of Frankenstein shows up for that installment, as well!

Jon

6 comments:

  1. God those posters are great!

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  2. Yes, they are, aren't they? They'll crop up again on this blog in a future "Monster Mondays" post, too, since it's from those archives I'm pulling the pics.

    Jon

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  3. Interesting blog, I've just linked you!

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  4. Thanks, Mella, I've added a link to your blog here, too!

    Jon

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  5. Jon,
    The way I heard it, Karloff felt that getting the Monster to talk in "Bride of Frankenstein" ruined the character, and refused to play him again after this film.

    There are home movies of Jack Pierce and Karloff hamming it up while preparing for this film. In them you see the Monster with green makeup, which I believe is why you see so many later depictions of a green Monster. Actually, the purpose was to have the black-and-white film of the day portray his skin tone with a deathly pallor.
    Thanks!

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