31 Weeks to Halloween: Son of Frankenstein (1939)
New terror - loosed upon a startled world!
Soulless Cult's weekly countdown to Halloween featuring all thirty classic Universal Monsters movies is really starting to ramp up as we enter our eighth film in the line-up: 1939's Son of Frankenstein! This film is the third in the Frankenstein series, and was the last in the series to feature the iconic (and true) face of the Monster, Boris Karloff. What makes the cast just that much better is Universal brought in a face that, by then, was well known to classic horror fans: Bela Lugosi, who played Count Dracula just eight years earlier. Lugosi was brought on to portray an aged Ygor as he welcomes Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (played by Basil Rathbone) to his father's castle and laboratory. The cast really bring a fantastic story to life as they make slight references to the original Frankenstein film, building on an already remarkable movie. I absolutely love Son of Frankenstein; I feel like this movie is the perfect follow-up to the classic Frankenstein, even though it is technically a sequel to Bride of Frankenstein. If you were to watch Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein back to back, you would have no idea there even was a bride, but that's besides the point. Son of Frankenstein still, to this day, is one of the best sequel films ever released, simply because it made sense, it followed up incredibly well, and the film was just written and executed perfectly. From the casting of Basil Rathbone as Wolf to the crazy antics of Ygor to the terrifying look of the Monster himself, Son of Frankenstein is horror sequel done right - and a perfect third addition to the Frankenstein series.
To sum up its story, Doctor Henry Frankenstein's son Wolf is on his way to the Frankenstein castle along with his wife and son. They are there to claim what was left behind by the late doctor, and while they are there, Wolf is determined to redeem his father in the eyes of the village folk, who suffered at the hands of the Monster. The villagers want nothing to do with the Frankenstein heir, and the only person to befriend the family is a police Inspector Krogh who lost his arm to the Monster when he was a child. When Ygor meets Wolf in the Frankenstein laboratory, he shows Wolf his late father's crypt which houses his grandfather, his father... and the Monster. Wolf, determined to bring honor to his father's name and now a little crazed with power, is convinced by Ygor to help fix the Monster (who cannot walk) and breathe new life into the beast. From there, things go from wholesome to horror as the Monster wrecks havoc on the village once again.
Boris Karloff's final performance as the Monster in Son of Frankenstein really does mark the end of one of the best horror series in the history of cinema. In all the films that follow where the Monster is seen, no one captures the true terror that Karloff brought to the screen in the first three Frankenstein films, and it is because of that that these films are the cinematic gold that they are. I think Son of Frankenstein was the perfect send-off for Karloff to say goodbye to the Monster look, as it's got the perfect story leading to the perfect ending to put his story to rest. Like I mentioned earlier, the plot to this film may sound tacky and basic, but it's exactly how I would have written a sequel to the classic film. The Monster's intelligence has reverted back to basics, disregarding the knowledge he gained in the Bride film (assumingly because he technically did die again), so he is easily led by Ygor to do his bidding and reign some terror down on the village folk, and it's a sequence in the film that horror fans need to see, for sure.
It's honestly hard to put to words how much I loved this sequel, especially considering how much better this movie was than Universal's two previous releases. I can see why this film ended up doing so much better and brought success back to the studio. I think the payoff in this film is worth the time you put into it, as it has an ending that can only be described as righteous. As far as sequels go, Son of Frankenstein knocks it right out of the park, and this movie deserves way more recognition for it's greatness among the other classic Universal Monster movies of the 1900s. Check it out!!!