The Ghost of Frankenstein

09/21/2019 08:40

Film: The Ghost of Frankenstein

Year: 1942

Director: Erle C. Kenton

Writer: Scott Darling

Starring: Cedric Hardwicke, Lon Chaney Jr. and Ralph Bellamy



This was a film that I didn’t really know a lot about coming in for that first viewing. After college, I got interested in checking out the Universal Horror films as it was a hole in my viewing history. I sought out a boxset that them in it and started to fill in what I hadn’t seen. This is my second time viewing this one and I didn’t remember what this one entailed, as they all kind of blended. I’m now giving a third viewing for my Trek through the Twos. The synopsis is when Ygor (Bela Lugosi) brings the Monster (Lon Chaney Jr.) to Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke) for care. Ludwig gets the idea of replacing the Monster’s current criminal brain with a normal one.

We start this one in the village of Frankenstein. I don’t recall if that was the name of the village in the first one, but I will let that slide. The townspeople want the castle to be blown up as they think that Ygor is still living there and that the Monster is still around. It then shifts to show us that Ygor is playing a weird horn and is indeed still alive in the castle. They’re allowed to blow it up and when they do, they free the Monster. Ygor decides to seek out the surviving member of the Frankenstein family.

Ludwig is a doctor that works with those with trouble minds. With him is Dr. Theodore Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) and Dr. Kettering (Barton Yarborough). They have just successfully taken a brain out of a patient and repaired it. They were even able to place it back into the head of the patient without killing them.

Their peaceful town is turned upside down when the Monster and Ygor arrive. Ygor asks directions to Dr. Frankenstein, but the Monster goes off on his own. He sees some boys bullying a young girl and he decides to help her retrieve her ball on a roof. This freaks out the townspeople, including her father. In the process, a couple of men are killed trying to save her. The Monster is finally taken into custody.

Erik Ernst (Ralph Bellamy) seeks out Dr. Frankenstein and in the process, we see that he’s sweet on his daughter of Elsa (Evelyn Ankers). Erik tells the doctor they need him at the courthouse at once. The doctor states he will once he’s done. Before he can though, he is visited by Ygor who tells him that it is the Monster in custody.

They are trying to interrogate the Monster, but he won’t speak. It isn’t until the little girl arrives and then Dr. Frankenstein not recognizing that he knows the creature that a reaction occurs. The Monster frees itself and escapes. Dr. Frankenstein is guilted into helping the creature by Ygor. He is determined to make up for the mistake his family did. His original idea is to destroy the creature, but some things happen that make the monster even more deadly.

Now that I’ve rewatched this a couple of times, I will admit that I have a deeper appreciation for it from the first time that I did. There is real interesting concept being explored. It is brought up that the Monster was made with the brain of a criminal so that is why they think he becomes violent. Since Ludwig can remove the brain and successfully fix as well as replace, they want to do a brain transplant here. It is a fascinating concept to try. This is something that we can’t even do today, but I can suspend disbelief for the world of the movie. The problem though then becomes Ygor.

I find it noteworthy that this movie’s title is The Ghost of Frankenstein. There is literally a scene where we see a ghost and it could be considered that stress and overworking could be why Ludwig sees that of his father telling him what he should do. This brings me to something I questioned here. We never actually know when this movie takes place, but this one came out 10 years after the original. That one Henry had no children yet. When he gets married, things don’t go well. Now we can assume this takes place long enough after that original to allow him to be of the age he is and to have an adult daughter as well. It’s been a while since I watched The Son of Frankenstein, but Ygor and the Monster are dead from what this movie states in the beginning. I find it interesting that in The Bride of Frankenstein, The Monster can talk, but he can’t here. I’m not sure if something happened in Son that affected that or not. This is again something that doesn’t ruin this, but I did notice this. We are losing a bit of continuity.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews of films that are from Universal Monster series, they tend to be lacking a bit in the story development. This one doesn’t necessarily fall into that, aside from violating some continuity to continue it on here. The runtime is around 67 minutes, so it is short. It never gets boring and I think that it moves through the plot points. I have an issue that right around the hour mark do they finally complete the big plan and then just kind of ends immediately after. I just wanted a bit more there personally. I should also point out; this is a problem I have with a lot of Frankenstein and other Universal films.

I’ll move then into the acting in this one is good. Chaney does a good take on the Monster, even though not the biggest fan of replacing actors. He doesn’t talk so that really does help for me not hating it too much. His size works for what they needed. Hardwicke is solid as the doctor. He brings something interesting to this film, especially with what his father did. He does have a moral dilemma to deal with. Lugosi is solid as the villainous Ygor. He does care about the Monster, but he also uses him to his advantage. I like adding Atwill and where his character of Dr. Bohmer ends up. Ankers was fine as the daughter. I don’t mind Bellamy, but I don’t know if he fully fits here. I would say the rest of the cast does round out the movie for what was needed.

As for the effects here, I don’t really any issues. This is still early into cinema so there’s not a lot being used. The look of the Monster and of Ygor are good though. We get some lightening bolts that looked solid. They did some film tricks for showing the ghost of Henry, which looked fine as well. The cinematography is also well done. I don’t think there were any shots that stood out per say, but there were no issues there either.

Now with that said, this isn’t a great film, but I enjoyed it. I do like that even though this one is plagued with a shorter running time; we are getting something new to the story. I like the idea of trying to fix the Monster, but Ygor has other plans. There are some slight continuity issues that I noticed, but I can be bit forgiving there. The acting is good across the board. There’s not much in the way of effects, but I really didn’t have any issues there either. I think this is above average and would be a good starter film for younger audiences. I will warn you, this is from the 40’s, so it is in black and white. If that’s an issue, I’d avoid this.


My Rating: 7 out of 10