Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
Literary, science fiction, horror
Approx. 78,000 words
A new Dr. Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), centre, joins Ygor (Bela Lugosi), right, in reviving the monster.
Chip off the old blockhead
Son of Frankenstein (1939): Director Rowland V. Lee; writer Wyllis Cooper; featuring Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi
Actually, the "son" in the next sequel, Son of Frankenstein (1939), is progeny of the mad scientist named Henry Frankenstein in the previous films, not of the monster.
Wolf von Frankenstein is played by Basil Rathbone, who had achieved fame the previous year as the swashbuckling villain in The Adventures of Robin Hood and was just starting his run as the sleuth in the Sherlock Holmes films.
Frankenstein, Jr. takes over the old man's castle and is convinced by evil blacksmith Ygor to revive the monster. The story also extends the Frankenstein family further, bringng the doctor's wife and son into the plot.
Ygor is Bela Lugosi, the equally famed portrayer of Dracula, unrecognizable here with full beard, peasant clothes, and a stooped walk—reinforcing the hunchbacked assistant sterotype. (This role may be making up for Lugosi having originally turned down the part of the monster, which Boris Karloff has since played to acclaim.)
Son of Frankenstein again stars Karloff. This is his last serious film as the flat-headed creation, as he is obviously tiring of the role. Somehow the monster, now sporting a fur vest, has forgotten his language lessons of the second film and is back to grunting and screaming.
But this was also the first Frankenstein film without the stylish, expressionist direction of James Whale, who had left Universal.
Yet it is still a relatively well-told, intelligent and relatively nuanced story. Perhaps the most intricately plotted of the great American-made Frankensteins.
Not quite at the level of its two predecessors, but still miles above what was to follow.
Incidentally, Mel Brooks's hilarious Young Frankenstein is said to take the first four Frankenstein movies as material for spoofing, but for my money the comedic treasure lode is based on this one, Son of Frankenstein.
— Eric McMillan