Monday, April 26, 2010

Son Of Frankenstein - 4/5

When someone mentions the Frankenstein, the original 1931 Universal film and its popular sequel Bride of Frankenstein are the first films that spring to mind. Even people who haven't seen the films know of their imagery. The mob outside the burning windmill, the father carrying his dead daughter, the rising of the bride are just a few of the scenes burned in our memory. Sadly however the third entry in the series Son of Frankenstein is seemingly forgotten. Most people today (unless you're a hardcore film fanatic) don't seem to know this film exists. I for one was one knew of its existence but did not view the film for the first time until recently. I am now kicking myself for not doing so sooner.

Like title suggests this time we have the son of Dr. Frankenstein coming to town with the brilliant casting choice of Basil Rathbone (a role that helps him break the type-casting of his Sherlock Holmes character). He arrives on a train and the towns folk give him the cold shoulder as he accepts his father's inheritance. This is understandable because his father's creation did kill many of their kin folk a number of years ago. I myself would hold a grudge. While at his father's castle he meets the humpbacked Ygor (better known today by the spelling as Igor). Yes this film marks the debut of Ygor who is again brilliantly cast with Bela Legosi. Ygor leads Frankenstein Jr. to a sickly monster (Boris Karloff in his final portrayal of the famed beast). Frankenstein heals the monster but Ygor has secret plans for the beast and uses it to do his bidding.

Besides the casting other great things about this sequel is the lighting. Frankenstein's house has an interesting angular pattern to the rooms which makes the lighting show up beautifully (the stairway makes a great creaking shadow). The off-the-wall the character of the inspector is also very compelling. In a character that could have been very bland, the writers gave him an interesting tick in that he has a wooden arm that he moves into odd positions throughout the film (this character would be spoofed grandly in Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein). The film is also longer clocking in at an hour forty minutes. Most films back then were barely over an hour long (Frankenstein was an hour ten minutes, Bride was an hour fifteen minutes and the next entry Ghost of Frankenstein was only an hour seven minutes!). Films were usually shorter because theaters could get more showings in a night hence more money. I liked the long length as it allowed more character and plot development. Another good thing is filmmakers wisely decided to do away with the awkward intro that was present in the past entries (Bride of Frankenstein had an odd intro that had author Mary Shelley telling friends of her story.)

Once difference in the Frankenstein monster character as opposed to the last entry is this time the monster doesn't talk. This could be a good or bad thing for some fans. Boris Karloff was against the monster being able to talk in the last film as he thought it took away from his creepiness. This is explained in the plot as the monster was struck by lightning while on the prowl and messed up his brain. I am indifferent to this fact but many fans won't be.

One thing I didn't like so well is the tidy wrapped up quickie ending. (Spoiler Alert) After Ygor uses the Frankenstein monster to kill for him, Frankenstein kills the beast when it threatens his family. Frankenstein leaves the town gleefully with no lawful punishment despite the fact that he healed the monster knowing damn well that it was capable of evil and that he was in turn responsible for many deaths.(End Spoiler Alert)

Overall this third entry may not be as quit as good as the first two films in the series but its damn close and it deserves more attention that it gets. This is truly an A-picture and the further sequels to come had the series turn into B-pictures (still very entertaining though). If you love the first two entries then you owe it to yourself to view this very entertaining sequel.

Written by: Eric Reifschneider

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