1/4, 1940s, Erle Kenton, Horror, Review, Universal Monsters

The Ghost of Frankenstein

#27 in my ranking of the Classic Universal Monster movies.

It seems as though it is the Frankenstein franchise that has run out of steam first (The Mummy never got going, to be honest). Very little of this movie makes any sense. Characters don’t seem to have any real motive to do anything they do. Dead characters from the previous film come back with borderline no explanation. There isn’t even real monster action until the very end. It just drags with nonsense until the monster gets to flail around and pound on doors until they come off their hinges while a crowd of villagers with torches and pitchforks scream outside. I can see why Boris Karloff wouldn’t want to come back.

Son of Frankenstein very clearly showed Ygor (Bela Lugosi) shot and killed and the monster (now played by Lon Chaney Jr.) thrown into a boiling pool of sulfur. So, of course they survived because they can’t die. I guess? Whatever. Ygor has a great idea after having gotten away with his friend and hiding in a cave when he sees the monster struck by lightning (exactly on his right electrode sticking out of his neck) and grows in strength. Ygor will take the monster to Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke) who will make the monster better. Appearing in the town Visaria, the monster kills two men after he picks up a little girl and tries to take her up to her missing ball that some mean boys threw up on the roof. It recalls the incident in the first film where the monster threw the little girl into the water, killing her. This is probably the one time in the whole film that it’s interesting, but it’s short lived. The monster gets arrested and Ygor finds Ludwig to convince him to take in and fix the monster.

This whole thing makes no sense. Ygor threatens Ludwig with the coming out of information that he’s related to the man who created the monster that just killed two men in the town. They don’t know? Seriously? Henry Frankenstein’s first experiment and the chaos that erupted from it was presumably decades before in a small European country (though Ygor has dialogue that makes it sound like it’s in a state in America, which is weird), and the monster just returned recently walking distance away. The idea that the people don’t know their local, highly specialized brain surgeon has a tangential connection to the monster that terrorized the countryside is ridiculous. The idea that Ygor would be able to scare Ludwig into doing his bidding with this is ludicrous, and the whole movie hinges on it.

Ludwig has a daughter, Elsa (Evelyn Ankers), who is engaged to the local constable Erik (Ralph Bellamy), and Ygor freaks her out. None of her story matters, by the way. She’s just there to provide some female screams.

Ygor somehow figures out that Ludwig and his former teacher Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) have completed a successful brain surgery that involved completely removing the brain and putting it back. Combined with Ludwig’s consultation of his father’s notes where he reads about the abnormal brain, they all come to the conclusion that they’ll transplant the brain of their young assistant into the head of the monster, but Ygor convinces Bohmer to use Ygor’s brain instead.

So, this idea hinges on Bohmer being frustrated because his earlier experiments at this surgery failed, but Ludwig was the key in helping him succeed. So, Ygor is playing on Bohmer’s desire to be recognized as the true genius. Fair enough. How does Bohmer using Ygor’s brain instead of the dead assistant’s brain help that? It’s nonsensical.

The actual mechanics of all of this are stupid, but I like the underlying idea of the broken body of Ygor desperately trying to get his brain into the body of the invincible monster (considering that Ygor easily survived two gunshots to the chest, he seems pretty invincible to me). It’s a sort of ironic take on the monster that hadn’t been done before. The story built on that idea makes no sense whatsoever, though. I could imagine a much better, cleaner story about a dying Ygor, shot and left for dead, using the miraculously survived monster to kidnap Ludwig and perform this surgery under duress. It’d at least make more sense.

Then there’s fire and things burn down and whatever.

This movie is dumb. It’s probably the worst of the Universal Horror franchise up to this point. This is Universal brainlessly chasing dollars by continuing a story that hasn’t needed continuing since the first entry. The problem isn’t the continuation, but the brainlessness of it. Flatly directly by Erle Kenton and really poorly written by W. Scott Darling from a story by Eric Taylor, The Ghost of Frankenstein is just dull and awful.

Rating: 1/4

3 thoughts on “The Ghost of Frankenstein”

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