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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Son Of Frankenstein (1939)

Starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Josephine Hutchinson
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
(actor & director credits courtesy

After his father's death, the son of Henry Frankenstein moves into his ancestral castle, and upon discovering that the Frankenstein monster has survived, tries to return him to conscious life.

The second sequel to Universal's original Frankenstein film returns Boris Karloff for the last time in the role of the Monster, who has now become an instrument of murder in the hands of the villainous broken-necked Ygor, played with relish by Karloff's horror rival, Bela Lugosi.  With Rathbone cutting a noble but deluded figure as the son striving for redemption for his father, and Lugosi impressing in a role bereft of his customary accent, it's regrettable that Karloff doesn't have more to do in the film.  Nevertheless, the menace of the Monster pervades the movie, with angry villagers treating Rathbone's arrival with dread, and Atwill's stern but personable police inspector retelling how the creature savagely tore out his arm in childhood.  The gothic imagery and witty satire of James Whale's previous Frankenstein films is largely absent from Lee's production, although there are some impressive sets, but the marvelous music score by Frank Skinner is incredibly effective in establishing a macabre mood, which led to it being reused in several horror and mystery movies by Universal in the ensuing years.  However, it's not all grim horror, as Lugosi's amusing denials of his villainy and Donnie Dunagan's charming and outspoken performance as Rathbone's young son engender smiles between the chills in what has become my favorite entry in Universal's long running Frankenstein series.

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