Friday, September 23, 2011

Film #76: Son of Frankenstein (Filmed 1938)

Father knows best.
So whether dear olde Dad is telling you gems like “A dollar saved is a dollar earned,” “Don’t eat yellow snow,” or “Follow my legacy and reanimate the dead,” you should listen.
Like a good son, Baron Wolf von Frankenstein listened to his pep-pep, thereby creating the tale that is known the world over as “Son of Frankenstein.”

Years after the Frankenstein Monster ravaged his homeland in “Bride Of”, Baron Victor Frankenstein finally kicks the bucket alone but rich. It seems in the preceding years Victor’s wife tired of his playing with dead things and moved her ass out, taking their young son Wolf with her to England.

Now a grown adult doctor and scientist with a wife and son of his own, Wolf Frankenstein is summoned to his homeland upon his father’s death to claim his inheritance.
When he arrives the locals are none too pleased. Like father like son, they scream! Victor Frankenstein brought murder, horror and shame to their land, likely his son will do the same! Son of a...!
Oh, chill out savages, Wolf assures, I ain’t no chip off the old block. Enjoying the creepy mansion digs of his heritage, Wolf, his wife Elsa and spritely boy Peter decide to move into the old place. What could go wrong?!

As part of his inheritance, Wolf receives his father’s laboratory notes and a emotionally charged letter. If you are interested, use my notes to continue my experiments with reanimating the dead, and avenge my name!

Wolf takes up his father's challenge, but soon realizes he doesn’t have to start from scratch. While believed to be destroyed at the end of "Bride Of," the old Frankenstein Monster is actually undead and well, and being looked over by a former assistant of Wolf’s father, Ygor. Seems

Ygor has been living in the ruins of Victor Frankenstein's laboratory and ordering the Monster to enact revenge on his enemies. See, Ygor was hung for stealing bodies for Frankenstein’s experiments, and while the execution broke his neck – it didn’t kill him. He was set free a broken man. One by one, Ygor has ordered Frankenstein to kill the men who served on the jury that sent him to the gallows.
But during the most recent murder, the Monster got caught in a storm and was injured into a coma.

Vowing to prove his father was not a ghoul but a genius of science, Wolf takes up the family business of playing God and succeeds in getting the Monster back to mashing.
However, the Monster’s murders have riled up the locals who suspect old Wolf is up to his old family tricks. They summon the town Inspector to investigate Wolf and his family.
He’s the perfect man for the job, since the Monster tore off his arm during a rampage as a boy. This time, its personal!

Will Wolf Frankenstein succeed where his father failed before him?
Can Ygor get away with vengeful murder?
How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?

Find out in the 1938 filmed, 1939 premiered Universal classic “Son of Frankenstein.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 4.5
Chris Dimick reanimates:
“They should have stopped after this movie. But they didn’t, of course. The Monster shuffled his rotting superhuman bones through many more Frankenstein films.

And I’m fine with that, as Frankenstein has become a cornerstone in the horror film industry. Hell, he might just be horror’s mascot. Walking past a Hallmark store today I saw a Frankenstein Monster stuffed doll in the Halloween window display.
Do you think 70 years from now Jigsaw will be peddled to kids in plush form?

Son of Frankenstein is the last great Frankenstein movie. Sure, Hammer Studios gave old Frank a nice reboot.
And the 1940s sequels like 1942’s “Ghost of Frankenstein” (starring Lon Chaney Jr as the Monster), 1943's Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (starring Bela Lugosi as the Monster) and 1944’s “House of Frankenstein” (starring Glenn Strange as the Monster) have their campy charm.
But all of those films combined just can't induce the nostalgic heart-pangs that the first three Frankenstein films create.

Son of Frank, like the two movies before it, are pure horror fun and a damn good yarn. The film adds to the Monster mythology – it’s made known that the Monster is actually superhuman on an atomic level. It features unforgettable characters – Lugosi’s Ygor is creepily mesmerizing, the Inspector’s haunted telling of how he lost his arm is Oscar worthy, and little boy Peter's merry interaction with the giant murderer is good old fashioned fun.

Finally, this was Boris Karloff’s last portrayal of the Monster (though not the last time he would appear in a Frankenstein movie… just as other characters) signaling the end to the portrayal that would make him a legend. While others would try, none can ever replicate the role Boris was born to play.

Many Frankenstein fans consider the original, Bride Of and Son Of to be the definitive Frankenstein Trilogy; the meat of the legend. All Frankenstein films that came after it were just dessert, a chance to rekindle the magic that never quite got up to par.
Maybe that is why Mel Brook’s hilarious “Young Frankenstein” so heavily parodies this and the previous films, but none after it.

Son of Frankenstein still took itself seriously, and that may be the key to its success. Camp had not factored in… audiences still couldn’t imagine that The Monster would end up a kiddie plush doll in 2011.

This film has all the romance, bubbling lab equipment, charm, amazing off-kilter lighting, grand gothic sets, and moral lessons of the 1930s Universal classics.
In fact, I would argue that other than 1941’s The Wolf Man, this is one of last truly excellent Universal horror films of the black and white era (Creature from the Black Lagoon was fun, but can’t touch Drac, Frank or Wolf or Mummy).
If that is not enough, it stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone. That is a full house of horror!

As the fall season starts the chill the air, find a quiet moment and pop in Son of Frankenstein. It will warm your bones, heart and mind – no fire required.

Good thing too. The Monster HATES fire.”

N-Rating: 3.6
Nick Rich reanimates:
“There are some things in life that just confuse you... like this film for instance. Let's see, how can I explain this in a way that is relatable to everyone?
Ah, I know! Say you find yourself on a cinematic travel through time where you're viewing horror films from every year from 1920 to the present, so naturally as you near the end of your journey you've seen at least 10 films featuring Boris Karloff and/or Bela Lugosi. (A universal situation to be sure.)
You know both men and their offering as actors well, and if you have any sense you will have firmly concluded that Boris the the better actor... then you are rocked to your horrific core by of a viewing of Son of Frankenstein, where (GASP) BELA steals the film from Boris!

Who knew facial hair could change a man so? 

How can this be? What kind of dastardly black magic did Bela harness to arrange for such a topsy-turvy showing? My guess is that Bela was empowered by the beard he donned for this film. Men throughout the ages have been empowered by their hair (e.g. Samson, Abraham Lincoln, Boy George, participants in beard competitions, etc). I also suspect that wearing a crazy neck harness to give the illusion of a broken neck may have given him some extra mojo too... of course, he could have also been feeding off of the lackluster offering that Boris put forth in this film.

If only Boris had been drinking passion tea on the set Son of Frankenstein!
The muted emotion that seeped from Boris in Frankenstein and even Bride of was sorely absent in Son of. It saddens me to say it, but Boris seemed to phone this one in. I'd like to think it was because the monster was unconscious for the majority of the film, but in my heart I know that Boris was just not that into this film. If there is anything I've learned about him during the RDHP it's that he has a 'spark' that he brings to his roles (no matter how bad the film is - I'm talking to you Voodoo Island)... a spark that was missing in this turn as the Monster.

The rest of the cast was delightful, developing a fun film that only flirted with the darkness that its predecessors employed but still managed to be genuine. The Inspector was especially entertaining in his turn as a stoic, yet textured lawman who engaged the audience readily. I can't explain how odd it was to watch a film where Boris was the weakest link! Most times it was the opposite, with him redeeming an otherwise droll film. Oh well, I suppose Boris can't carry us away each time out... after all, he is inhuman!

Eeps! The Monster has young Chris!
The Skinny: Check this flick out if you want a solid monster movie showing (it was rather enjoyable) or if you want to experience an emo Boris Monster.”

Things We Learned from Son of Frankenstein:
-People should “let the dead past remain buried.”
-Vera West was one hell of a gown costume designer for Universal.
-Lightning really can strike twice in the same place.
-Boar teeth are too hard to clean.
-The heart can burst from fear.
-Bela really can upstage Boris.
-Cats will surely eat an infant if left alone with it:

Quote of the Viewing:
[After learning a dear friend is dead, the Monster starts tearing the hell out of Frankenstein’s laboratory and the runs off for revenge]

Nick: “Frankenstein really needs to learn to deal with his emotions in a better way.”


Special Note!
What up with “Filmed 1938”?
Our mission at the RDHP is to screen one horror movie from each year in history from 1920 to the present. However, like any great journey, we will experience some pot holes and toll booth trolls. The year 1938 was such a pot hole.

According to several online sources, not a single major motion picture from the horror genre was released in 1938. I blame the Great Depression, as it seems there was enough horror in the real world that the screen need not display it.

Therefore, in order to fulfill our mission, a bending of the rules was needed. Son of Frankenstein was filmed in 1938, but released in 1939. With no 1938 proper choices, we figured this was the next best thing to fill the 1938 year-slot. That, or time travel back to 1938 and release our own horror movie. But, Doc Brown couldn't be found. So, Plan B it t'was!

RDHP Presents:
Famous Sons
Wolf von Frankenstein was determined to finish his father’s work and show the world that his family legacy is genius, not grotesque. Sounds like somebody has a Daddy complex!
But he is not the first. Below, we list several other famous sons in history, who have struggled to emerge from their father’s shadows… many successfully, other, not so much.

Lon Chaney Jr.
While his father was a legend of makeup effects and silent films, Lon Jr. also made a name for himself in the moving spook pictures. In fact, Jr is the only person to play all of the Universal classic monsters, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, and Dracula. Atta boy!

Max Brooks
Being the son of a legendary American institution like Mel Brooks gave Max a long shadow from which to emerge. But with classic horror works like “World War Z” and “The Zombie Survival Guide” under his belt, old Max is becoming the go to guy for written zombie lore this side of George Romero. How does that sunshine feel there, Max?

Prince Fielder
Father Cecil was the rock of the 1990s Tigers. Son Prince picked up the glove, and more importantly bat just like Daddy and has been the rock of the Milwaukee Brewers. But word is these two had a falling out and aren’t speaking to each other. Come on Fielders, hug it out. That is if you can get your arms around your fat asses.

Ben Stiller
Son of classic comedian Jerry, who saw his stock soar once again with his portrayal of George’s father on Seinfeld. Holidays and family reunions must be one crazy bucket of funny at the Stiller home. Ben is even more famous than his Pep-pep.

Port Huron Sons
Fathered by the man-beast Bill Brasky, the Port Huron Sons assemble each year in the Manistee National Forest to play homage to their Dad and celebrate drunken debauchery and high-fiving friendship.

Charlie Sheen
Son of renewed actor Martin Sheen, and brother of 80s icon and Disney movie star Emilio Estevez. As for Charlie, his recent drug fueled jackassery gave him a type of popularity that is a true sign of the coming (likely zombie) apocalypse.
Dad must be so proud.

Jaden Smith
Just as annoying as his father, but with many more years left to torture us.
Enjoy your success, kid. We foresee a trip to Dr. Drew's clinic real, real soon. 

Son of Godzilla
Once a heartless hater of children, this film and the sight of Baby Godzilla was the first time in his life that Chris considered becoming a father. Seriously. But how could anyone not get misty for this baby; look how cute Baby 'Zilla is!

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