Dr. Frankenstein's plans to replace the brain of his monster are hijacked by his scheming and malevolent assistant Ygor.Dr. Frankenstein's plans to replace the brain of his monster are hijacked by his scheming and malevolent assistant Ygor.Dr. Frankenstein's plans to replace the brain of his monster are hijacked by his scheming and malevolent assistant Ygor.
A generation or so has passed since the villagers last destroyed the Monster in a sulphur pit. But, of course, he's only mostly dead, and his old pal Ygor (Bela Lugosi) holds vigil outside the old Frankenstein castle, hoping the creature will revive himself. At the same time, angry villagers are mobilizing; they decide that there's a Frankenstein curse that's prohibiting their crops from growing and businesses outside of town (named after Frankenstein, for some reason) are refusing to deal with them. The curse must be broken, so off the villagers go to burn down the castle. The explosion indeed wakes up the preserved Monster, and he's reunited with his old pal Ygor.
There's another Frankenstein a village or so away, as the crow flies - Ludwig. Ludwig, who runs an insane asylum out of his house, also works for the police; when the Monster is captured and put on trial, the good doctor is called in to deal with the situation. But Ygor, he's a cunning sort, and he persuades Ludwig to get the Monster remanded to Ludwig's own castle so that Dr. Frankenstein can work on giving the Monster a nice, new brain. (There appears to be some brain damage for the big guy; he can't speak, as he could - haltingly - in previous films, and simple logic isn't his forte.) Ygor, he of the broken neck from being ineptly hanged, wants his own brain to be placed in the creature's cranium.
The setting is as eerie and stark as in other Universal monster movies. Hidden rooms, long staircases, vaulted ceilings - it's a realtor's dream. Ludwig also has a grown daughter Elsa (Evelyn Ankers, another Universal staple), who's probably named after Elsa Lanchester, who starred in Bride of Frankenstein. Elsa's boyfriend is Erik Ernst (Ralph Bellamy), who's stuck between the mob rule of the town and his fondness of the Frankensteins. Lionel Atwill plays one of Dr. Frankenstein's doctor associates. Lon Chaney, Jr., by the way, grunts his way around a macabre set as the Monster itself.
For a movie that's the fourth in a series, Ghost of Frankenstein (so named, perhaps, because the ghost of the original Doctor appears) is competently acted, directed, and shot. No, more than that, it's expertly done. There's some overacting (Ankers), to be sure, but overall it's a very well realized hidden gem among Universal's many horror movies of the early 20th century.
- Oct 14, 2014