Wednesday, October 24, 2007
31 Days of Halloween - Day 24 - Movie 1
The fourth film in Universal's Frankenstein series "Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942) is a bit of a turning point for the series. Not only has Boris Karloff abandoned portraying the monster, but the overall quality of the series seems to have dropped from being a high end production to a b-movie.
Both Ygor (Bela Lugosi) and the monster (Lon Chaney, Jr.) have survived their aparent demises at the end of "Son of Frankenstein." Now they seek out Henry Frankenstein's other son, Wolf's brother, Ludwig (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) also a doctor, but this time a psychiatrist (also in possession of a copy of his father's diary). Ygor blackmail's Dr. Frankenstein in helping him hide and help the diminished monster. Frankenstein gets sucked into perfecting his father's work, deciding that he can redeem him, by taking the criminal brain out of the monster and replacing it with the brain of a murdered associate. But Ygor wants his own brain removed from his damaged body and placed inside the monster, and he may get his wish with the help of Frankenstein's ambitious assistant, Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill).
Karloff was wise to leave when he did. The monster is pretty much reduced to even more of a sidekick in this movie than the last. He has very little to do other than become infatuated with a little girl who was kind to him, and to push and hit the occassional adult. Jack Pierce brought back the heavy eyelids to the monster, perhaps to help hide the fact that it isn't karloff wearing the make-up this time around. Lon Chaney, Jr., excellent in the previous year's "The Wolf Man" is a rather stiff Frankenstein monster. For most of the movie his expression never changes. His performance picks up a bit at the end when his personality changes with the new brain placed in his head. Also appearing from "The Wolf Man" is Evelyn Ankers, my favorite of the Universal horror actresses, though she doesn't have much of a role here. Lionel Atwill, so great as Inspector Krogh in "Son of Frankenstein" is back to playing the typical mad scientist role that seemed to make up the bulk of his career. Ralph Belamy also stars, and again, you'll notice a number of familiar faces from the previous films in the series.
One oddity, is following a flashback sequence from the first movie, showing Colin Clive creating the monster, there is a sequence with a "ghost" of Henry Frankenstein, which while filmed in very soft focus, features an unbileld actor who neither looks, nor sounds like Colin Clive.