Ygor resurrects Frankenstein's monster and brings him to the original doctor's son, Ludwig, for help. Ludwig, obsessed with the idea of restoring the monster to full power, is unaware that his various associates all have different ideas about whose brain is to be transplanted into the monster's skull. Written by
Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
No one envied George Lazenby when he became the first actor to play James Bond after Sean Connery bowed out of the role. I can only imagine that Lon Chaney Jr. must have felt the same sort of pressure when he was signed to take over the role of Frankenstein's Monster from the great Boris Karloff.
Ghost of Frankenstein is, for some reason, one of the more obscure of the Frankenstein series -- I guess in the same way Lazenby's On Her Majesty's Secret Service is considered one of the lesser known Bond films. Coming on the heels of the Karloff trilogy, it does have a second-hand feel to it that doesn't allow the film to reach the heights of its predecessors.
This is unfortunate because the movie isn't that bad, actually. In terms of inter-film continuity it probably has the strongest ties with the previous film, Son of Frankenstein, thanks to the continuing presence of Ygor (who, for reasons never explained, survived being shot in Son of Frankenstein). Ygor continues to act as Svengali/Pied Piper to The Monster, and Bela Lugosi turns in a performance that in my opinion rivals if not surpasses Dracula. Anyone who thinks Lugosi was a one-note ham actor capable of only variations on Dracula should check out this film and Son of Frankenstein for a revelation.
As the Monster, Lon Chaney isn't bad. Being considerably stockier than Karloff, he somehow appears smaller (blame the sulfur pit, perhaps?). Chaney also chooses to play the role completely mute, a departure from Karloff's growling portrayal. There are several moments where he manages to evoke the types of emotion Karloff was capable of showing under the flat-top -- including a rather puzzling moment where the Monster recognizes Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, the son of the original Dr. Frankenstein (maybe there's some backstory that we are unaware of?).
Cedric Hardwicke as Ludwig Frankenstein tries hard but is unable to produce the same sort of near-madness that his predecessors Colin Clive and Basil Rathbone exhibited, while Lionel Atwill (playing a different role than the policeman from Son of Frankenstein) has a fairly thankless and somewhat confusingly written role to play in the eventual fate of The Monster.
Universal was not known for its inter-film continuity, and although Ghost manages to tie in quite successfully with Son (if not the earlier films) there are still a few jarring continuity gaffes, the most notable being the use of a different actor for the scene when the original Dr. Frankenstein pays a ghostly visit to his son (hence the source of the title in case you're wondering) -- even though Colin Clive, the original (but by the time this film was made, sadly deceased) actor is clearly shown in a flashback sequence.
Ghost of Frankenstein is far from being the best of Universal's Frankenstein series, but as a middle-of-the-pack entry, it's quite worthwhile. And for serious fans of The Monster who feel that the later "team-up" entries in the series are abominations (that is to say Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein), then this film is pretty much the end of the Frankenstein Monster story.
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