Son of Frankenstein (13 days of Halloween)

October 26, 2008

Thanks to AMC’s Fear Fest ’08, Overlord has been collecting Frankenstein movies for me. I know Frankenstein is really a monster for all seasons so I ought to stick to the ghost stories for my 13 Days of Halloween film fest, but since I recently read Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s excellent book Frankenstein: a Cultural History I feel I should watch some extra Frankenstein this year.

After I watch Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Dracula (1945), House of Frankenstein (1944), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Curse of Frankenstein (1957), and, of course, Young Frankenstein (1974) I may not think so anymore.

Tonight is Rowland Lee’s Son of Frankenstein, the 1939 Classic that asked the immortal question, “What if Dr. Frankenstein had a son named Wolf Frankenstein and what if he was as batshit insane as his father?”

This is the film that introduces the viewer to the character of Ygor (played by Bela Lugosi) and introduces the police inspector (Lionel Atwill) with a wooden arm – details Mel Brooks would later have great fun with in Young Frankenstein. Starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, this is actually the 3rd outing in Universals Frankenstein’s monster franchise, Bride of Frankenstein being the immediately sequel to Frankenstein. Since the Frankenstein movie mythology begins it’s decent into nuttiness with this picture it’s probably better not to include the first two in discussions with the rest. In Son of Frankenstein, we also get a precocious curly-headed child who pops in now and again to attempt to humanize his father, Dr. Wolf Frankenstein. Or annoy the viewer. Maybe both. (Why the hell does that kid have a Colonel Sanders drawl?)

…sorry, got distracted, Ygor just showed Wolf Frankenstein the Monster and Wolf shrieked like a girl, “It’s alive!” which made me jump….

While I’m getting my thoughts back on the rails I should make a confession: I’ve actually taken a few days off to rest my eyes and recover from a migraine, so the last few Halloween posts were drafts I already had ready that I had my blog auto-post. I think some wacky things have been happening and a few posts have auto-disappeared in the process so if things seem weirder than usual around here it’s not you, it’s me. Really.

I’m slowly resuming my television watching by sticking with older black and white movies with nice steady camera work so as not to become nauseated and have to shelve the project again. So, that brings us back to Son of Frankenstein. The first two films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, were directed by James Whale and have a sense of gravitas and pathos. From Son of Frankenstein on the films engage in a race to the middle of the Saturday morning Creature Feature pack.

Next up I planned to scare myself witless watching (the original) The Haunting, after which I could awake all night listening to my house creak and those fucking banana leaves slap against my windows. I wised up in the nick of time and put on the loopy William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill. As a bonus, I remember enough of the movie that I can pretty much listen to the movie while resting my eyes and just peek in on it periodically to catch the best shock effects. The 1999 remake lacks the goofy charm of the original and, most importantly, Vincent Price. Also, Elisha Cook, who was in Rosemary’s Baby and pretty much everything else ever made.

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