Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, and I am back to review another Universal creature feature. What do you get when you take three well known actors, all famous for their icon roles based on literature and put them in a movie together? You get Son of Frankenstein.
This film is a direct sequel to the first two Frankenstein films. Of course, Boris Karloff is back but we have two new additions here. First, the man we all know as Dracula is nearly unrecognizable as Igor the hated assistant of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Also joining the film is Basil Rathbone. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He spent years famously portraying the one and only Sherlock Holmes.
This film was made in 1939 so it is pretty old but I will still put a spoiler warning here. If you feel your neck bolts tingling because you don’t want to know what happens in a movie that is 81 years old, feel free to stop reading now and come back after you have watched it.
The film takes place 25 years after the events of Bride of Frankenstein. The little town where a certain famous creature was created is altogether sick of Frankenstein’s. They tried to hang Frankenstein’s assistant Igor but botched the job and pronounced him dead even though he was not dead at all. He did come away with a broken neck resulting in him being horribly disfigured but still alive. Henry Frankenstein as he was called in the first two movies (not in the book mind you) had a son. This son has come back to collect his father’s property and take up residence. He is hoping to make a new life there. He has one of the coolest names in all of horror and Baron Wolf von Frankenstein is convinced that his father was a good man who was wronged by his assistant and the town as a whole.
Baron Frankenstein is pretty sure there never was such a creature or if there was, he was only evil due to the mistakes of Igor the assistant. When the Frankenstein arrives in town he gets a very cold reception and realizes pretty quickly that he is going to face some prejudice for who he is. Of course, the town has good reason to suspect this guy. There is a police inspector who actually lost an arm to the creature and tells Frankenstein that he is here to protect the family and also that the creature is definitely real.
Soon Frankenstein realizes he has inherited his father’s research. The thought immediately crosses his mind that he could prove his father was not mad by… yeah exactly, making a creature of his own. He goes to the lab only to find Igor who wants Frankenstein to heal the creature who is in fact, still alive. Frankenstein is more than curious and fixes the creature up at least physically. He wants to treat the creature’s mind as well but Igor does not let him. Why? Well, see Igor has been getting his revenge on those that had him hanged with the help of the creature.
This whole set up leads to a pretty intense film and that is without mentioning the fact that Frankenstein has a young son who soon starts talking about seeing a friendly giant. Karloff gets to go back to a wordless performance as the creature while Lugosi gets to mug it up as someone other than Dracula. Rathbone is dynamic in his performance and there may be an argument to be made that he could be worse than his father was, although he doesn’t fully get to act on those impulses.
As far as the Frankenstein films go, I think this is one of the best ones. It sets the tone very well and feels menacing with personal stakes. If you have never watched this one I would recommend you give it a try, it’s probably better than you think.