Director: Erle C. Kenton
Writer: Scott Darling and Eric Taylor
Cinematographer: Woody Bredell and Milton R. Krasner
by Tory Maddox
Finding a list of Frankenstein movies on Wikipedia, I discovered that there have been 35 versions of the film. I didn’t dig in deep enough to pull out which of those were part of the original series, which of the Hammer Series, and which were stand alone sequels or additional remakes. No matter the number, Ghost of Frankenstein is a very difficult film to watch. Although it’s only 67 minutes long - about 20% shorter than other films in the series - and feels twice as long.
Like the slashers series of the 80s, we start where the previous ended and realize that although the Monster (Lon Chaney) was burned alive in lava, he actually survived thanks to the sulfur in some way preserving his body, assisted by Ygor (Bela Lugosi) who also made it through the estate's destruction. Son of Frankenstein's Baron Wolf's brother Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke) practices medicine in town below the former film's estate. Keeping in mind that this movie picks up immediately where SoF left off (think Halloween 2), and that it's in no way implied that Ludwig has just arrived in town, we're left with massive and illogical plate holes - namely, how Ludwig didn’t know about his brother’s return to the estate? Was the brother in town during Son of Frankenstein’s entirety and why he help? Wouldn’t Ludwig have wanted the estate, which the town is about to destroy? None of these questions are addressed or even hinted upon, which makes me it all the more frustrating as they’re so obvious and glaring.
It’s only when I’m reading the lengthy synopsis on the Wikipedia page that I realize how bloated this story is. Suffice it to say Ghost of Frankenstein doesn’t just jump, but soars over the shark. It involves Ygor wanting to have a brain transplant, Ludwig getting a visit from his father’s ghost telling him to replace Frankenstein’s brain, and then Ygor’s brain going into Frankenstein’s brain. The whole narrative descends fast and hard into farce, never approached with even the slightest hint of comedic absurdity which could have made the convoluted story at least kind of work.
Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein didn’t turn to complicated narratives. You could sum them up in one sentence - BoF is when the monster gets a wife and SoF is when Frankenstein’s son returns to father's estate. They worked by having good characters, an excellent plot, and high production value. As often happens with later sequels, the powers that be are attempting to do far more than a 67 minute plot allows for. So much happens that I can just hear the executive in the development meeting saying “And then...and then...and then...come on, faster now!’ I can’t find how well it was received, or what it earned. I’d guess very poorly on both fronts. After this they began to merge the Universal monsters with films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), and Karloff returning with House of Frankenstein (1944), which included both the Wolfman and Dracula, receiving decent reviews. I haven't seen them yet, but it looks somewhat promising.
BELOW: The Misfits music video for "Ghost of Frankenstein", which might be just as bad as the movie
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