Who’s in this?
Boris Karloff as the monster. This was his third and last go around as the monster for Universal. Playing the monster was the role that launched a long career in horror film whether Boris like it or not. You know him for playing this monster, the mummy in the first of Universal’s Mummy films, he of course voiced the Grinch and was tons of other stuff for decades.
Bela Lugosi as Ygor the crazy old dude who survived being hanged, but has a big chip on his shoulder over it. Lugosi is best known for having played Dracula in the 1931 version of the film. He also did tons of other mostly horror films including some great ones like the Black Cat and White Zombie, but unfortunately a bunch of crap too including his brief ties with Ed Wood in the 50’s. Lugosi starred in a lot of films, but he gave some fine supporting roles too like in this film and the Island of lost souls.
Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein son of Henry who originally made the monster. He returns to the family home with his wife and son. Rathbone is likely best known for having played Sherlock Holmes in a series of movies in 30’s and 40’s. He was in quite a few other movies frequently playing a stuffy or arrogant villain. Rathbone had a great voice and a really cool nose too, he could use his nose to it’s best ability.
Lionel Atwill as police inspector Krogh who has a wooden arm due to the monster having ripped his arm out years ago. Atwill acted for decades and was in quite a few monster and detective films in the 30’s and 40’s. He frequently played policeman, doctors and mad scientists. My favorites roles he did were this one and playing Moriarty to Rathbone’s Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.
Uh, I meant that you were a monster in the good sense of the word.
What’s this about?
Wolf Frankenstein decides to return to his family home and take his family with him. He figures since time has elapsed the people of the village will be forgiving about what happened with his dad and the big square headed monster-he’s wrong. The townspeople don’t like that he’s coming back as they would love to forget about anyone named Frankenstein and they don’t like that old broken neck Ygor who hangs around the old castler either-what a kook. The Frankenstein family move into the old castle which is now a rather empty and everything seems to have been built at odd angles. Eventually Wolf meets Ygor and learns that the monster is still around. Wolf decides to revive it you know to prove his father was really doing something noble and to clear the family name. Yeah, good look with that. The monster is revived but only responds to nutjob Ygor whose goals seem to revenge and village domination. Eventually Wolf stops Ygor, but he and Krogh have to go after the monster who has taken Wolf’s son Peter. We are left to think that Wolf destroys the monster, but hey this film made money so we know old Frankie will be back again. Roll the credits.
The negatives? Fans of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein will see that film spoofs several parts of this film and it’s funny, but those parts work in this film. Karloff is given less to do or say and some fans of the series feels this robbed the character of some of the sympathy that was important to the character in the previous two films. Rowland V. Lee took over as director of this one and you can notice the sets and style are different from what James Whale did in the previous films. I like what Lee, but not everyone will.
The positives? There had been a brief dip in Universal Horrors for a few years before this one, but this film got the series back in style and launched even more films for almost another decade. The cast is one of if not the best in the Universal Frankenstein film. Lugosi and Atwill almost steal the show from Karloff in their supporting roles. Lugosi with those crazy eyes as Ygor and Atwill sticking darts in his wooden arm add to the oddness and greatness of their respective characters. The sets are also top notch for the time. Really a great film that doesn’t always get the respect that it deserves.
That’s going to wrap up Frankenstien week. Hope you enjoyed it.
Who’s a good monster, who’s a good monster? Yes, you are.