“Nothing in nature is terrifying when one understands it.”
The grown son (Basil Rathbone) of Dr. Frankenstein returns to his father’s hometown with his wife (Josephine Hutchinson) and son (Donnie Dunagan), finding that the villagers still live in fear of the Monster (Boris Karloff) who terrorized them years before. When a rash of murders occurs, the town’s chief inspector (Lionel Atwill) begins to suspect Rathbone of colluding with a blacksmith named Ygor (Bela Lugosi) to revive the Monster.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this follow-up to Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) — two of the most highly regarded horror films in cinema history — remains an atmospheric, effective little flick in its own right. The sets are once again highly expressionistic, the cinematography is stark and moody, and director Rowland Lee confidently frames his actors for maximum effect. The performances throughout are memorable: Bela Lugosi is surprisingly effective as a crook-necked murderer obsessed with bringing his best friend, the Monster, back to life; Rathbone does a nice job showing his character’s gradually increasing interest in carrying on his father’s work; Lionel Atwill is memorable in a critical supporting role as the one-armed detective determined to prevent the Monster from resurfacing in his hometown; and young Donnie Dunagan proves himself to be one of the more natural child actors of his generation, holding his own with quite a bit of important dialogue. Karloff, unfortunately, isn’t given much to do this time around; he was right to refuse further roles as the Monster, recognizing that the creature’s character arc was essentially complete. The film’s biggest liability is its contrived premise, which essentially just recycles the original film’s storyline via a new generation of Frankensteins — but it’s nonetheless remarkably easy to get drawn into this well-crafted, timeless tale of scientific madness and hubris.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Bela Lugosi as Ygor
- Lionel Atwill as Inspector Krogh
- Basil Rathbone as Wolf von Frankenstein
- Jack Otterson’s expressionistic sets
- Atmospheric cinematography
- Accomplished direction by Rowland Lee
Yes, as an enjoyable follow-up to two of cinema’s most famous early horror films.