Monday, October 31, 2011

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Happy Halloween!

Well, I have to say not bad. I got four versions of Frankenstein in before the month's end. Still, there are many more, it would have been nice to do some of them. Maybe I still will. Let's see if I can't get this in before any monsters arrive. Too late!

Anyhow, Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) travels to the village of his father's to claim his birthright. In today's episode, that village is called 'Frankenstein'. Shouldn't be too hard to remember (it was called 'Goldstadt' in the first two films). Wolfie laments that people have taken to calling the monster by his surname. Sounds like someone I know. Wolfie, hot wife, and annoying child arrive by train and are greeted by less than hospitable townsfolk. He offers his condolences and tries to reassure them that they have nothing to fear, but they aren't buying anything. Neither are we.

The good people settle in their sparsely decorated scary castle in hopes of proving their good will, while the village council will have none of that. While strolling around his dad's partially destroyed laboratory, he meets Ygor (Bela Lugosi), who shows him his secret. That being his dad's monster (Boris Karloff), sleeping soundly, right in the middle of the room. Jeez, talk about being oblivious.

Seems Ygor and Monster have struck up a friendship. Monster trusts Ygor and "does things" for him. Nudge nudge, wink wink. But monster was struck by lightening and now all he does is sleep. Doctor, fix!

Lionel Atwill played Inspector Krough, the most memorable character after maybe Ygor. He seems to crop up in movies I am looking at, like the title character in Doctor X (anyone got a copy I can borrow?) plus three more Frankenstein movies, never as the same character. Between him and Dwight Frye (who was in four, maybe five Frankensteins), the franchise seems almost Star Trekian in how they recycle their actors. Frye is unconfirmed in Son of.

Anyways, back to Atwill. A respected stage actor had a successful screen career, but threw an orgy-christmas party one year and that ended everything for him. Watch Young Frankenstein and pay attention to the inspector who plays darts with Gene Wilder. That's Kenneth Mars doing a better than fair Atwill/Krough impersonation. Mars died in February. Remember him also as the Nazi screenwriter from The Producers.

A nod must be given to Bela. When his good roles are listed, Ygor is mentioned alongside Dracula and Murder from White Zombie. His crappy roles are too numerous to mention. Interesting to note that his hunch-backedness was actually two inches taller than the monster. A good job was done camouflaging that fact.

Rathbone will forever be remembered for the detective in the silly hat, but he also played in a large number of Horror movies, apparently not liking them much. His slow burn from reasoned outsider to bombastic scientist was the model for Gene Wilder's version.

It's annoying how significant details of the story are changed with each new version (Highlander anyone?) like the look and proximity of the laboratory, and the presence of a castle to begin with. And what's up with the empty castle anyhow? Props department closed that week? They used bare walls and clever shadows to express moods. Not sure it worked all that well.

Still, reasonable story, good acting, and a strong addition to the franchise. AMRU 3.5.
"One doesn't easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots."

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