Tuesday, October 23, 2007
31 Days of Halloween - Day 23 - Movie 1
Basil Rathbone plays Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, son of Henry Frankenstein in, appropriately enough, "Son of Frankenstein" (1939), Universal's second sequel in their Frankenstein franchise. Moving into his father's estate with his wife, and young son Peter, the Frankenstein family is less than warmly welcomed by the locals, who are convinced that Henry Frankenstein's monster still haunts the region and is responsible for a recent rash of murders. Naturally, Wolf discovers the monster in a coma under the ruins of his father's laboratory, being ministered by Ygor, who declared dead after a hanging, survives with a broken neck and a thirst for vengeance. Wolf, believing his father's tarnished reputation can be saved if he succeeds in reviving the monster, and proving him less monstrous than believed, does bring the monster back to life, only to discover that he is completely in Ygor's control, and being used as a murder weapon in his revenge scheme. Wolf begins to unravel under the strain of responsibility for reviving the murderous creature, and for falling under the suspicious watch of local police inspector Krogh. It isn't until his own son's life is threatened that Wolf, literally swings into action against his father's monster.
The look of the Frankenstein movies almost completely changed with this one with sets that were very modernistic vs gothic. The Frankenstein monster, having learned to speak in "Bride of Frankenstein" is mute again here, no doubt due to brain damage caused by the same lightning strike that put him in a coma. Boris Karloff returned to the role of the monster for the last time, and had very little to do in this movie, and was in no way the sympathetic creature he'd portrayed in the previous two films. This time, Ygor was the star villain. Superbly played by Bela Lugosi, in what might be his finest role, Ygor delivers plenty of menace to the film. Rathbone also does an excellent job playing Wolf von Frankenstein, beginning as a calm, cool man of reason, and degenerating into a complete nervous wreck over the course of the movie. Another stand out performance comes from Lionel Atwill. A staple of the horror genre, his performance as one-armed Inspector Krogh is perhaps the finest role of his career as well. Among the towns people you'll notice familiar faces from the previous movies, though in different roles, including Michael Mark who had the iconic role of Maria's father in the first movie, and Lionel Belmore who played the burgomeister her Vogel in that same film.
Donnie Dunagan who plays Peter von Frankenstein was also the voice of young Bambi, in the 1942 Disney movie.