Wolf von Frankenstein returns to the Baronial manor from the United States with his wife Elsa and son Peter. He not made welcome by the locals who are still terrified of his father's works and the monster he created. The local Burgomaster gives him a sealed briefcase left by his father and inside, Wolf finds his father's scientific notes. At the manor house he meets his father's assistant Igor who has a surprise for him: the monster his father created is still alive, though in some sort of coma. Wolf's initial attempts to re-animate the creature seem to fail but when Peter says he saw a giant in the woods, it appears he's met success. When people are mysteriously killed in the village there is little doubt that the monster is responsible.Written by
'Frankenstein' and 'Bride of...' pretty much told a complete story. And the story was fashioned in such a way that the viewer is watching the events as they unfold. As the events unfold, the story shifts from the torment of the creator, Frankenstein, to the torment of the creation, the Monster.
Now in 'Son of...', the emphasis is shifted back to the scientist. And Karloff no longer has a monopoly on the role of the 'Back From the Dead'; he shares that with Lugosi's 'Ygor'. Nor does he have the monopoly on the 'Artificial Human'; he shares that spot with Atwill's one-armed 'Inspector Krogh'. Nor does he possess his personality that was gradually evolving in the first two entries. The Monster has been reduced to a hulking henchman bound to the will of the evil Ygor.
The 'Monster turned pawn' had actually begun in 'Bride of...' as Pretorious used him to force Frankenstein to create the Monster's mate. You could almost say that the Monster was used as a tool for Henry Frankenstein to play God; a tool for Pretorious' dream to create a new race; and a tool for Ygor's desire for revenge on the jurors who condemned him to the hangman's noose. The difference in 'Son of...' is that the Monster no longer evolves and the character is left with no where to go.
But this is still a fascinating film. Director Lee replaces realistic sets and background with surrealism. Details from the first two films are abandoned for light background and twisted, gargantuan shadows. And much of some great action set-pieces have already occurred off screen, before the movie begins. Which means we're left with alot of talk of 'what was' and 'what happened before'. Which kind of fits into the definition of what a legend constitutes. Fortunately, the actors doing the talking are Rathbone, Lugosi and Atwill. Even Rathbone's over the top performance can be forgiven, knowing his next film(?) was his signature (& debut) role as Sherlock Holmes in 'Hound of the Baskervilles', a role he was absolutely brilliant in.
Even though Karloff has a much reduced role, the gigantic sets, dead trees and slanted architecture compels the viewer to be constantly aware of his lurking menace. It is this approach that, standing on its own, makes this a fine film. The viewer is forced to rely on imagination more than the first two movies put together. It is certainly a more polished film than the original. And Lugosi and Atwill's support acting are leagues above the wooden Mae Clarke, John Boles and Valerie Hobson.
Like the Monster; "tis better to have been made, than never to have been made at all". We would have missed out on all that fun.
7 out of 10 ! One of my favorite 'Frankenstein' films.
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