Son of Frankenstein
1939 / Universal
By 1938, Universal Studios was certain that the public appetite for horror films had faded and they abandoned the genre. That same year, a nationwide re-issue of Dracula and Frankenstein on a double bill played to packed theatres across the nation and quickly brought them to their senses. Instead of a low-budget cheapie to cash in on the re-born craze for horror films, Son of Frankenstein under the direction of Rowland V. Lee, proved to be a handsomely-produced entry in the cycle.
Filmed on the most expressionistic sets of any horror film since The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, George Robinson’s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography captures every shadow, every out-sized distortion beautifully.
Son of Frankenstein is also blessed with perhaps the greatest horror film cast ever. Karloff gives his farewell performance as the creature and Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of Ygor is creepy, roguish, even pitiable, and one is reminded of what a fine actor he could have been with a role worthy of his talent. Presiding over all of this is the solid presence of Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein. Watch for scene-stealer Lionel Atwill, who delivers his definitive screen role as the one-arm Inspector Krogh.
This first-rate production gave a whole new meaning to the Baron’s famous shout out: “It’s alive!”
Sara Karloff and Bela Lugosi Jr. will join us onstage at the Alex Theatre to discuss their fathers’ careers and the horror films that made them famous.
Basil Rathbone was chosen to play Baron Wolf von Frankenstein. Fresh off his success in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), he would soon become his generation’s image of the master sleuth Sherlock Holmes.
Boris Karloff sat for hours each day while makeup legend Jack P. Pierce shaped the look of Baron von Frankenstein’s creature. Pierce worked at Universal for over thirty years and also created the effects makeup for The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man (1941).