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Click above to purchase "The Ghost Of Frankenstein/Son Of Frankenstein" at amazon.com

 

The Ghost Of Frankenstein/ Son Of Frankenstein

review by Anthony D.

Studio: Universal

Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Evelyn Ankers, Lon Chaney, Sir Cerdric Hardwicke, Lionel Atwill

Written by Eric C. Kenton, Rowland V. Lee

Directed by W. Scott Darling, Willis Cooper

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Theatrical Re-Issue Trailer, Production Notes, Talent Bios, Universal Newsletter, Recommendations

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital Mono, Chapter Search

Things you can learn by watching Frankenstein movies. Universal Studios sure did have a limited supply of character actors; kill 'em off in one movie, they're alive and another character in the next. Ygor, the village blacksmith is smarter than he seems - - and he plays a mean Tyrolean Horn! Wolf is the first son of Heinrich Frankenstein, Ludiwg is the second son. Time flies in the Mittel European mountains. The Monster is called "Frankenstein" by the villagers. Heinrich may be the monster's father, but Lightning is his mother. Frankenstein is not only a family name, it is the name of a village. Vassaria is another village. Good help is hard to find, one must hire Tyroleans instead of local help. The sins of the father affect the lives of his children. Being encased in sulphur is very good for you, well it is if you're a man-made monster; whereas inhaling sulphur fumes is not a good idea if you're human. Brains sure do get mixed up in doctors' laboratories. Everything takes place in a sort of "Brigadoon" location where costumes and props from the 17th Century seem right at home with centuries following.

"Son of Frankenstein" is the third entry in Universal's Frankenstein franchise, and with "The Ghost of Frankenstein," starts off Universal Home Video's return to Classic Monsters on dvd. No longer "Special Editions," these discs are special because they contain a double feature of similarly themes Universal near-classics. The entertainment value is the bonus, along with the budget-conscious pricing.

For all Mel Brooks fans out there, "Son of Frankenstein" will pack some unforseen belly laughs. For it is in "Son of Frankenstein" that we meet the mechanical-armed Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill), who was keenly parodied by Kenneth Mars in "Young Frankenstein." Krough is hot on the trail of "The Monster" (the amazing Boris Karloff reprising his role from the two previous outings), who in the minds of the simple villagers, did not die, but remained in hiding, coming out only to murder six people since his supposed demise. The Castle Frankenstein is inhabited by what local children call a ghost, but it is Ygor (call him a blacksmith, call him a shepherd, but DON'T call him a grave robber) who had been hanged for supplying bodies to the first Baron von Frankenstein. The noose, however, did not kill him, though he was pronounced dead; thus allotting a legal loophole: since Ygor is legally dead, he cannot be tried or convicted for any other crimes.

Entering into this German Expressionistic village, is the first son of Frankenstein, Wolf (A highlight in the horror genre, as the role is played with finesse by Basil Rathbone). Wolf's family in tow, he plans to set up a research facility in his family's homeland. Wolf is blessed with a gorgeous wife, and the most irritating son imaginable (well the son is not that bad, but the actor playing him is atrocious)! Of course they arrive on a dark and stormy night...and are met by the townspeople, and the Burgomaster who presents Wolf with his father's legacy: a locked box containing Heinrich's research notes and diary. This inheritence will prove to be invaluable as Wolf finds Ygor, and a comatose Monster hiding in the dark recesses of the burnt-out laboratory. Ygor wants his "friend" back to normal, Wolf wants to restore his family name. Unwittingly, both of these aspirations can be acheived with the aid of the original Frankenstein diaries.

"Son of Frankenstein" is a worthy addition to the franchise, as it introduces us to the brilliant Bela Lugosi as Ygor, a role for which he discards his cape and fangs, keeps the accent, and creates a memorable character who would be the focal point of the following film as well. Though no longer the debonair Dracula - - which truth be told, doesn't hold up as a film any longer - - Lugosi goes full-throttle with this characterization. Karloff, as always remains my favorite Monster, there's a hungry heart and a wanting sold behind his eyes (and behind all that make-up). Basil Rathbone brings a clearheadedness to the title role, with shadings which would be used to far better advantage when he made a career out of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The fiery finale once again proves that Frankensteins may be destroyed, but with monsters, there's just no telling: as "Ghost of Frankenstein" proves.

"Ghost of Frankenstein" also demonstrates that neither noose nor bullets are fatal attractions to Ygor, who also survive's the destructive behavior of Wolf Frankenstein. Ygor finds the Monster encased in hardened sulphur, and declares, "Sulphur is good for you, ya?" Ygor suggests to the Monster (now played by Lon Chaney, Jr. - - the sulphur might not be all that good) that a trek to Vassaria to see the other Frankenstein son, Lud, might be beneficial for both of them. Lud, it seems is performing brian surgery, with his aide, Dr. Bohmer ( a very fine Lionel Atwill, las seen as the Inspector in "Son of Frankenstein"), who longs to get out from Frankenstein's shadow, and make a name for himself in the medical profession. (Now, here confusion reigns supreme if viewing the Double feature back to back: Mr. Atwill was featured prominently on the side of the law in "Son of Frankenstein," here he is a mad scientist; one of the many his career would offer him). After some resourceful blackmail from Ygor (I told you he was smarter than he appears), and a timely visit from his father's ghost, Lud agrees to exchange the brain of the Monster with that of a deceased colleague. Unbenknowst to the good doctor, however, Ygor has also tempted Dr. Bohmer with promises of greatness IF Dr. Bohmer will use Ygor's brain in the monster. According to Ygor's perverse sense of logic, his bullet-ridden, broken-necked body should be dead, but his brain should live on in the indestructible creature. BUT, the monster has a different plan than any of them: he wants the brain of a little child he has befriended, and brought to the Frankenstein chateau for that purpose. (At least this actress is nowhere near as annoying as the boy in "Son of Frankenstien," or we'd be rooting for this particular transplant). Well the Vassarian villagers will have no monsters of any kind running around their village, even a friendly one, so they become a vigilante group, intent on destroying ALL of the Frankenstiens and their possessions. Quite a lot of plot fits deftly into this short film, which clocks in a t only an hour and eight minutes; all of it rather fresh, and original. Lon Chaney steps adequately into the great Karloff's shoes, and his scenes with the young girl are both gripping and tender. Both Atwill and Sir Cedric Hardwicke are all eye-popping, eyeball rolling gestures as the scientific end; while the lovely Evelyn Ankers is eye-candy, but as bland as her romantic interest, Ralph Bellamy.

Plagued by a pulsating picture, "Son of Frankenstein" is difficult to watch. Whether this pulse is a result of the Macrovision encoding, or a mistaken contrast setting, the picture flares from dark to light often enough, and not in a solitary instance, that it cannot be called a glitch. This near-flickering lasts for approximately the first twenty minutes of the film's one hundred minute running time. When stable, however, the picture is relatively free of grain, but suffers from a lack of shadow detailing. The contrast level of the full frame transfer is very much on the dark side. Universal has carefully taken the majority of dirt and scratches out of each film, with "Ghost of Frankenstein" boasting the better picture. Watching these two films in succession, I was amazed at how much better "Ghost of Frankenstein" appeared. It is a dynamically stable presentation, complete with shadow detail, as well as a remarkably clean transfer. (There is, to my eyes, only one watermark of sorts, late in the film, which is surprising, considering how clear the remainder of the transfer is). Both films are presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with "Ghost of Frankenstein's" opening credits window boxed at 1.37:1.

The audio source materiel, for both films, either underwent a massive overhaul, or the original mono tracks are in very good shape, as the sound presentation is quite good. On occasion, the musical stems are a bit on the harsh, thin side; but dialogue remains remarkably understandable - even through Lugosi's dialect. Sound effects have a tendency to sound manufactured. No alternative language tracks have been encoded, but subtitles are available in Spanish or French; with Closed Captioning for the Hearing Impaired in English.

Apart from a re-issue trailer for "Ghost of Frankentein," the disc has very little supplemental material. Universal might be considering that fact that it is a "Double Feature" disc to be a bonus of its own, but I would rather see a short documentary, like the David Skal tributes on previous Universal Classic Monsters," than read the several pages of text documents devoted to "Production Notes" and "Cast and Filmmakers." With Skal, one could feel the love for the genre, with text documents, there's no real gain, as the information can be found readily in any library with little research. Universal also include a page of recommendations, featuring four of their double feature series titles, as well as information as to how to subscribe to the studio's online DVD newsletter.

Genre fans are more than likely to be divided on this double feature disc. After a few full-fledged Special Feature discs from Universal, this series of double bills offer only entertainment value. Glorious entertainment, to be sure, with a slight edge given to "The Ghost of Frankenstein." Universal monster fans will not want to be caught dead without these titles in their libraries.

,(3/5 - Son of Frankenstein, 3.5/5 - Ghost Of Frankenstein. NOT included in final score)

,(1.5/5 - Son of Frankenstein, 4/5 - Ghost Of Frankenstein)

(2.5/5 - both)

(1/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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