Why’d I Buy It?: Came in the Universal Frankenstein Pack I purchased (AKA, the good thing that came out of Van Helsing)
Why Haven’t I Watched It?: I’ve always thought of Ghost Of Frankenstein as kind of a non entity. As I was loading the disc in the player I tried to think of a single thing I’d heard about it, good or bad, ever, and was buffaloed to realize I really hadn’t heard anything.
When a band of fans as nutty, passionate, and chatty as Universal Monster Fans are mum on a movie you know that’s a bad sign.
How Was It?: Not bad. But not good. Everything about the film from it’s runtime on down belies its lack of ambition.
The Ghost Of Frankenstein opens with a bunch of peasants murming darkly, occasionally raising their voices in a communal shout of anger and fear. As peasants in a Universal Monster Movie are want to do. Currently they’re haranguing the mayor, telling him to destroy the last vestiges of Frankenstein’s Castle thanks to incessant flute music and/or the possibility of curses, presenting their argument with cool logical statements like “IT’S EVIL!!!” and “YGOR DOESN’T DIE THAT EASILY.” After blowing the shit out of Frankenstein’s Castle, they predictably release the monster from his sulfury tomb. Minus his Fur Pimp Coat.
Way To Go Guys.
The rest of the film follows Lugosi as he tracks down the son of Frankenstein to help do… something to the monster, after he is struck by lightning and made more powerful. Which really doesn’t make even the faintest bit of internal logic as Frankenstein got knocked out by lightning in the last film. And… you know what, I just don’t have the heart to pick apart the logical inconsistencies of The Universal Horror universe at the moment. That way lies madness. So please forgive me for abstaining.
“But wait” I hear you say er somehow, wasn’t the son of Frankenstein featured somewhat apathetically in Son Of Frankenstein? Well yes but this is the other son of Frankenstein that Ygor seeks. And he runs a healthcare spa! No word if he is infact a brother from another mother.
Ygor blackmails Frankenstein into curing the monster (OF WHAT???). And things proceed just about how you would expect them to.
I’ve never been a huge Lon Chaney Jr. fan (Outside of The Wolfman natch), and never did he appear as out of his depth as when he was playing Frankenstein's Monster. Reducing it to the stiff armed caricature that so often served as a parody of Karloff’s. And which Karloff himself so studiously avoided. Plus his Monster always looks chubby. There I said it. I don’t know why that bothers me so, but it does. There’s no way around that.
Lugosi is fine, but his Ygor has been toned down both physically and emotionally. Lugosi’s turn; sinister, pitful and truly frightening, made Son Of Frankenstein. It was arguably the best performance of his career, and even arguably the best to appear in the Universal Movies period. And though his performance is entertaining, in Ghost, it’s not that. And he takes a reeeeeeeeeaaaaaallly weird turn around the forty minute mark that the movie never recovers from.
In fact the whole movie kind of takes a dive around that point. Everyone (the monster included) inexplicably turns into kind of a dick. And the viewer’s investment in drops precipitously.
This is not a Universal film of the first Water. But while no one is going to confuse Ghost Of Frankenstein with the true masterpieces of Whale, Browning, and Freund; it’s a tough movie to get mad at. While I won’t be in a hurry to revisit it again. It is a solid slice of B-Movie fun.
And what would an October be without a little Universal Horror?