Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Ghost f Frankenstein (1942 Universal Pictures)

(1942 Universal Pictures) Director: Erle C. Kenton Starring: Cedric Hardwicke, Lionel Atwill, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers

A few years back when they were released, I bought the Universal Monsters Legacy collections....and, recently decided to finally watch 'em, rather than have them sit around on my DVD shelves gathering dust...

....and boy, am I havin' a blast. These things are great, and for the number of flicks available on each of the three sets (Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman) along with the tons of extras, the price (I paid a cool 19 bones apiece for 'em) can't be beat with a stick. While my favorites of Universal's golden age of horror have always been either The Mummy (with Karloff) or The Invisible Man (with Claude Rains), my tastes, as always, tend to gravitate towards the not-necessarily cheesier end of the spectrum, but certainly cheaper by way of budget end (though they usually end up being both) of the studio's latter day terror flick productions.

And The Ghost of Frankenstein definitely is one of those cases. The fourth of five Frankenstein films produced by Universal, "Ghost" was the beginning of the formula in which the plot line moved further away from Mary Shelley's original novel (like the original 1931 film is anything close to it to begin with) and the Creature basically became not so much a character himself, but instead a set-piece to drive the principle actors towards his eventually re-animation.

The Plot: The town council of the lovely village of Frankenstein convene after deciding to blame all of their troubles on the "accursed Frankenstein family" and their beloved monster. Wouldn't local civil proceedings be much funner if this was a probable course of action? I mean, I've sit in on some local Chamber of Commerce meetings that woulda been a hoot if someone decreed that a zoning ordinance couldn't be passed because of the old crazy-ass doctor who lives in the spooky house at the end of town was re-animating bastard creations of science again. Hell...I'd vote for it. I'd then grab a rake and/or hoe and join the mob to hunt him down. What can I say? I come from a long line of Republicans and witch hunts are in our blood....

Ygor the Hunchback (Bela Lugosi) is still hanging out in the ruins of the Frankenstein homestead after the events of the previous flick, Son of Frankenstein (1939), and the town mob assault the castle, blowing it up, releasing the creature from his entombment in the sulfur pit located below Doc F's old lab. The two then take to the road, in search of Wolf Von Frankenstein's brother, Ludwig (Cedric Hardwicke) hoping he has the knowledge to "fix" the ailing monster. Jesus...for a looney quack, Henry Frankenstein definitely made time to sire enough offspring to populate a small town, it seems. Along the way, we meet Ludwig and his medical associate, Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill), Ludwig's former teacher who secretly covets his former pupil's accomplishments. Whaddaya expect? He's Lionel Atwill...he's bound to be a heavy.

After arriving at Ludwig's residence, Ygor blackmails Ludwig into helping them, and after examining the creature, Frankenstein comes to a startling conclusion. You guessed it: brain transplant. I wonder if MetLife covers such a procedure, and if so, do they consider it cosmetic? Ygor secretly plans with Bohmer to have his brain taken from his misshapen body and placed into the Creature's noggin, with disastrous results. The End.

Some Conclusions I Have Come To After Viewing This Film:

Being struck by lightning and entombed in sulfur have rejuvenating effects on the human body.
All Europeans speak perfect English...some with heavy British accents.
Blackmail is easy when you buddy up with bastard creations of science gone mad.

If yer last name is "Frankenstein", perhaps it's a wise idea to have it legally changed.
Superhuman monsters really dig creepy swami music of the horn variety.
Public trials for re-animated undead beasts----not a good idea.
Reading from your father's journal will cause flashbacks to footage from earlier film in your franchise.
Kenneth Strickfadden's electrical equipment is haunted by rear projection images.
Europeans draw conclusions quickly and are enraged by coincidence, especially in connection to a crime, with or without substantial evidence.

The Ghost of Frankenstein, even though more formula and cliche than actual plot, is a fun romp through a more subdued and innocent period in horror movie history. Just sit back and have fun...and have a few giggles giving thought to the fact that at one point this was as scary as it got. Highly recommended....

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