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Son of Frankenstein

Son of Frankenstein (1939), starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill

Movie review of “Son of Frankenstein” starring Basil Rathbone as the son of the deceased mad scientist, who tries to repair and revive the Monster to vindicate his father – all the while Ygor (brilliantly played by Bela Lugosi) schemes to use the Monster for his own plans … for revenge.


Son of Frankenstein - Basil Rathbone as Wolf Frankenstein, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's MonsterSon of Frankenstein is the third entry in Universal Studios’ series of Frankenstein movies, and quite frankly my favorite — in no small part due to the acting of Bela Lugosi.  The basic plot has this movie beginning years later after The Bride of Frankenstein with  the late Baron Frankenstein’s son, Wolf, played by the great Basil Rathbone, now grown up and returning to his ancestral home with his wife and young son. Wolf is upset by the cold reception that he receives, with the villagers remembering all too well the pain and destruction created by the previous Baron Frankenstein. Wolf meets Ygor, his father’s old assistant, played brilliantly by Bela Lugosi — a man who has been hung for grave robbing and survived, although with a bitter neck, and a bitter hatred for the people who sentenced him. And Ygor is keeping a secret

Son of Frankenstein - Lionel Atwill as the InspectorThat secret is that Frankenstein’s monster (played by the great Boris Karloff, for the final time in the movies) is still alive, although nearly comatose. Ygor manipulates the young Baron into reviving the monster, enticing him with the idea of validating his father’s work — but secretly plans to use the monster to get his revenge on the judge and jury who he blames for his condition.

In short, the acting is excellent all around – Ygor is possibly Lugosi’s finest  role, and Lionel Atwill is memorable as the police constable, whose childhood dream of becoming a great military man was dashed during a childhood encounter with the monster — who ripped his arm from it’s socket. In short, it’s an excellent movie, with wonderful acting, directing and atmosphere, and highly recommended.

Editorial review of Son of Frankenstein (1939), starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, courtesy of Amazon.com

>Basil Rathbone comes to Transylvania to inherit his father’s estate in this second sequel to Frankenstein. The townspeople are suspicious, but young Frankenstein has no interest in reviving his father’s work–until he discovers the monster hidden away in the castle, inert but very much intact and watched over by Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a sinister, snaggle-toothed peasant with broken neck. Convinced to revive the creature and vindicate his father’s name, he toils away in the lab not realizing that Ygor plans to use the monster to revenge himself on the jury that sentenced him to hang. Boris Karloff makes his final appearance as the Monster, now little more than a mute, lumbering robot under the hypnotic control of Ygor. Rathbone is a dignified, suave scientist and a marvelous match to Lugosi’s mad Ygor, a richly malevolent performance that dominates the film. Lionel Atwill makes a marvelous addition to the Frankenstein gallery as the wooden-armed constable, a legacy of the monster’s rampage 25 years before (Mel Brooks’s loving lampoon Young Frankenstein, a veritable remake of this film, features the constable and his lumber limb in a major role). Universal abandoned horror films in 1936, but the success of this sequel single-handedly revived the genre. Though lacking the gothic splendor and macabre humor of James Whale’s originals, Rowland V. Lee’s handsome production remains an intelligent, well-made classic of the genre and Universal’s last great horror film. Lugosi returns as Ygor in Ghost of Frankenstein. —Sean Axmaker

Movie quotes from Son of Frankenstein

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): [about the Monster] Have you ever even seen him?
Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill): Most vivid recollection of my life. I was but a child at the time, about the age of your own son Herr Baron. The Monster had escaped and was”¦ ravaging the countryside, killing, maiming, terrorizing. One night he burst into our house. My father took a gun and fired at him but the savage brute sent him crashing to a corner. Then he grabbed me by the arm!
[Krogh lowers his wooden arm]
Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill): One doesn’t easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots.

Elsa von Frankenstein: What a dreadful storm and awful lightning
Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): It’s magnificent. Nothing in nature is terrifying when one understands it. Darling, my father drew that very lightening from heaven and forced it for his own will to bring life to a being he created with his own hands. Why should we fear anything?

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): I should turn you over to Inspector Krogh!
Ygor (Bela Lugosi): No! Krogh no want dead man, Ygor is dead!
Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): What are you talking about?
Ygor (Bela Lugosi): They hanged me once, Frankenstein”¦ they broke my neck.
Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): Hanged you”¦ well, why did they hang you?
Ygor (Bela Lugosi): Because I stole bodies”¦ they said”¦

Ygor (Bela Lugosi): They hanged me once Frankenstein. They broke my neck. They said I was dead. Then they cut me down. They threw me in here, long ago. They wouldn’t bury me in holy place like churchyard. Because I stole bodies, eh they said. So, Ygor is dead! So, Dr. Frankenstein. Nobody can mend Ygor’s neck. It’s alright.

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): [reading] My son, herein lies my faiths, my beliefs and my unfoldments. A complete diary of my experiments, charts and secret formulas. In short, the sum total of my knowledge, such as it is. Perhaps you will regard my work with ridicule or even with a distaste. If so, destroy these records. But if you like me burn with the irresistible desire to penetrate the unknown, carry on. The path is cruel and torturous, carry on. I put secret after truth, you will be hated, blasphemed and condemned. You have inherited the fortune of the Frankensteins, I trust you will not inherit their fate.

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): It appears that my father thought that he could extract from lightning some super-violet ray of life-giving properties.

Ygor (Bela Lugosi): [after faking a coughing fit and pointing to his broken neck] I’m sorry. I cough. You see, bone get stuck in throat!

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): And what did the giant look like?
Peter von Frankenstein: [stiffens his arms and legs as he walks] Well, he was a great big man, with a hairy coat, and he walked like this”¦

Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): That’s enough Benson. Left ventricle. And look here Benson, look at this. Do you know what those are?
Benson: No, Sir.
Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone): Bullets. Crude bullets in his heart but he still lives.

Peter von Frankenstein: Here we are.
Elsa von Frankenstein: Peter! Peter! Peter! Peter! Open the door!

Ygor (Bela Lugosi): [laughing] I died living they all died dead.

Trivia for Son of Frankenstein

  • Makeup artist Jack P. Pierce estimated it took four hours to transform Boris Karloff into the monster.
  • Bela Lugosi’s performance in this film is considered by many to be his greatest.
  • Due to the lack of a prepared script, much of the picture was written just moments before the actors were to shoot their scenes. This was how director Rowland V. Lee was able to keep Bela Lugosi working throughout filming, and built up the role of Ygor, which never appeared in the original Willis Cooper screenplay. The actor was forever grateful to Lee for allowing him to create what turned out to be one of his very best characterizations.
  • Despite his frequent appearances in horror films, Basil Rathbone had a particular disdain for them. This is likely the reason for his ‘over the top’ performance. (Source: ‘Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror’ by Michael Mallory”)
  • After learning to speak in Bride of Frankenstein, the Monster is once again mute in this film. No explanation is given for the change.
  • Boris Karloff became a father for the first time while filming this movie.


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