There’s a warm familiarity about Universal’s fourth Frankenstein instalment. Where other classic monster films have struggled to continue their respective story arcs, the Mary Shelley inspired creature horror manages to breathe new life into the story this far.
Serving as a companion piece to its predecessor, Son of Frankenstein, the story follows the devious Ygor (Bela Lugosi reprising his role) who managed to survive alongside the creature and tries to exert his power once again.
Despite Karloff’s absence as the walking husk, Lon Chaney Jr steps into the big shoes and dons the bolts effectively. In particular the running theme with the creatures’ connection with a young village girl, Cloestine, a symbol of innocence and purity. In James Whale’s original Frankenstein, this is snuffed out, so the threat hangs in the air despite it coming from a genuine place of curiosity and the need to be like her.
Joining the main players is another strong ensemble with Cedric Hardwicke as Frankenstein’s descendant, Lionel Atwill as the misguided assistant Dr. Bohmer, Ralph Bellamy as the steadfast representative of the law Erik Ernst, and Evelyn Ankers as Elsa Frankenstein (whose name is a delightful nod to The Bride of Frankenstein’s Elsa Lancaster).
The drive in this film is a mixture of writing the wrongs and striving to better oneself. The creature longs to be accepted, Frankenstein sees the opportunity to clear his family name through a brain transplant using a suitable host: not a criminal mind, and Dr. Bohmer driven by the need to be recognised in his profession.
This is Lugosi’s show though and he relishes expanding on the character of Ygor wanting initially to strive away from his deformity but throughout the film transforming this gaze to one of power.
The screenplay written by W. Scott Darling weaves in some weaves in some typical tropes that is instantly recognisable from the franchise such as the lynch mob wielding torches that bookends the film and even places the shocking theme of gassing into the mix, a subject that would have had strong reactions at the time. This combined with the direction of Erie C. Kenton delivers another strong entry into the franchise and Universal Horror.
- Saul Muerte