Tonight on MeTV- to kick off a month of classic horror- we bring back a real milestone in the Universal Frankenstein series- with Boris Karloff making his final appearance as the Monster on film- Bela Lugosi making his first appearance as one of his best characters,the wily and dangerous Ygor- and Basil Rathbone as Wolf Frankenstein, making a return to his family home and being forced to deal his father's legacy- as the "Son of Frankenstein"!
In this 1939 classic, Dr. Frankenstein’s son returns to his father's estate- in the town named after the family- bringing his young wife- with their precocious son already waiting there for them. They arrive on a damp and dreary night, meeting a crowd of local authorities and villagers- who seem none too happy to see him. Their blunt and cold reception stems from their memories of the painful horrors created by his father's experiments- and his murderous creation. Even the old Frankenstein homestead seems to echo this bleak greeting. Wolf tries to put a happy face on it all for his family, but- when he checks out the crumbling remains of his father's old laboratory, he meets a sinister squatter - the hunchbacked Ygor- a sadistic blacksmith who claims he used to "do things" for Wolf's father. This mis-shapen misfit was actually hanged for his crimes- but somehow – he survived! When Ygor finds out that Wolf , like his father, is also a doctor, he wants to enlist him to help to heal his “friend”- and Wolf is shocked to see that Ygor's friend is none other than his father’s greatest creation- the Monster! The creature barely hangs onto life ( as, alas, he can’t die) and is kept hidden by Ygor in the family catacombs! Wolf is awestruck by this discovery, is suddenly overwhelmed by the amazing accomplishment of his father- and is determined to restore his family name- and his father’s reputation in the village, as well as in the annals of science. Meanwhile, Ygor has his own reasons for wanting to see the Monster restored to his full strength and life force; a master plan for revenge against his original accusers, to be carried out by the creature, no matter what the expense- even if the collateral damage includes Wolf and his family!
Wolf begins the process of rejuvenating his father’s creation- while the townspeople become more and more suspicious about what he’s up to. The stern but fair local constable, who has had previous experience with the Monster, and bears a horrible reminder of his clash with it, hopes to protect the family and stands ready to help them- but questions Wolf’s actions more and more. Meanwhile, Ygor is working on his own agenda- and the villagers get those torches and pitchforks ready for a final confrontation!
This film is a strong continuation of the Frankenstein series, and a moving finale to Karloff’s portrayal of the Monster on film. Basil Rathbone, who felt appearing in this horror film required him to play the role “over the top”, seems at the point of hysteria at times - and his young son Donnie Dunagan seems to grate on some viewers’ nerves a wee bit. The most impressive turn always seemed to me to be Bela's incredible portrayal of Ygor- creating such a unique and singular character unlike most of what we’ve seen him play before, and showing he was a more versatile actor than many give him credit for. We've got plenty of info about the cast, including the one character that Mel Brooks appropriated so well- and some fun Sven stuff as well. Please note, as we'll mention- this is a VERY long film, and has necessitated curtailing some of our Sven segments and doing some judicious and careful editing - but the end result seems to work well.