Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Erle C. Kenton
Cast: Cedric Hardwicke, Lon Chaney Jr., Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi
I’m not in the habit of digging into noticeably mediocre films. I am however in love with vintage pictures, particularly those of the science fiction and horror varieties. Favorites span from 1930 to 1960. Universal fronts the charge in regards to studio adoration, though Hammer began pumping out some stuff that I can really get behind during the ‘60s. The Mummy, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein serve as my diehard picks. Those are the movies I can’t imagine living without. And yes, I get a kick out of a great many of the sequels. Even the ones that, quite frankly, aren’t good flicks.
The Ghost of Frankenstein is the perfect example of a crappy movie that I find fascinating and thoroughly entertaining. It’s got all kinds of problems in regards to story and it never once feels like a smooth, cohesive and coherent film. But what it has working in its favor is the iconic monster looking a bit different (this is the first time Boris Karloff stepped away from the role, Lon Chaney Jr. being the man to step in as a replacement), but nearly as creepy as ever, and it’s got one of horror’s earliest legends, Bela Lugosi featured as Ygor, in what proves to be a surprisingly dynamic showing from Lugosi. Aesthetically it really is a generally rewarding film. It’s the screenwriting and editing (some will argue the change between Karloff and Chaney made a major impact, although, while noticeable, it doesn’t tend to bother me much) that put a damper on things.
But I still dig it, faults all present and accounted for.
The fourth Universal Frankenstein flick, The Ghost of Frankenstein sees Ygor desperately trying to revive Frankenstein’s monster. And he’s successful, ironically thanks to the frightened and vengeful townspeople who show up to burn Frankenstein’s castle – where Ygor resides – to the ground. In the process, the damage done by their assault actually frees the entombed monster. Ygor and the monster then pursue Ludwig Frankenstein – son of Henry Frankenstein, the warped mind who set this madness in motion. Ygor is hoping to convince the doctor to perform a procedure. He wants to have his brain removed from his skull and surgically implanted in the monster’s body, where he can live an endless, powerful life.
It’s a good concept to work with, but the details weren’t properly sorted out, or major edits affected the overall flow of the film, because it doesn’t come across as a very suave story. But it does look good, and it’s always a welcome thing when Frankenstein’s monster stumbles into frame. It’s atmospheric and the sets are still extremely magnetic. This may be one of the weaker Frankenstein films that Universal released in the old days, but it still earns a definite pass from me.