The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) … Remembered

Frankenstein Returns in Svengoolie Special


You need a new brain! It’s a good plan! Ack!

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) is not a classic by any means, but notable for beginning the first in a series of successful B-Movies by Universal. This is the third sequel that was recently on the late night cable show Svengoolie. The famous Bela Lugosi plays Ygor, although his performance is over-the-top and B-Movie typical for a movie from 1942. Boris Karloff was replaced by this film with whoever wanted the part and Lon Cheney Jr plays the monster in this movie. The performance is alright, but a little erratic and apathetic. I think the best part of this movie is the establishment of many of the Frankenstein tropes that we still remember today, such as the monster walking around with his arms outstretched and being kind to children.

The story begins with the Frankenstein town villagers becoming so upset that they destroy the Doctor’s castle with dynamite. Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant Ygor is helpless to stop them, but finds the Frankenstein monster still alive at the bottom of the castle, trapped in the sulfur where he apparently fell in the previous movie. Ygor helps him escape the town and takes him to Dr. Frankenstein’s brother for help. Apparently, Ygor gets the idea that lightning will help the monster after it gets struck accidentally.  That must be some tough monster.

Ludvig Frankenstein takes custody of the monster after Ygor brings him over and Ludvig promises himself that he must destroy it.  But lo, the ghost of his brother motivates him to give the monster a new brain, which they figure, was the cause of all his problems.  Dah brain.  Braaaaaaains.  Apparently, a new brain is the solution to all things.  This is not a zombie movie by the way.

In any case, the monster’s brain is replaced by Ygor’s brain.  And the villagers get angry at the end.  Big surprise, but it is sorta amusing I suppose.  The monster perishes in fire.  The end.

The actual first-half of this movie is pretty good, but it goes downhill fast.  The escape from the town and the destruction of the castle is pretty nicely filmed.   They actually show the castle crumbling and blowing up. I also like the compassionate scene with the child trying to talk to the monster for the first time.  But the lab scenes and the rest of the movie is schlock.  The explanations for some of the plot points don’t make sense.

It is a fairly short film at 67 minutes and does what it can to entertain.  When you have a monster that doesn’t talk and seems blind, there’s just not a lot you can do.  Keeping this movie short was a good choice because the director repeating the angry villagers trope was somewhat disappointing and I became tired of seeing that same thing over and over.  However, it’s better than most B-Movies, especially because of the memorable scenes I mentioned earlier.  The acting from Bela Lugosi is somewhat cheesy and I prefer Karloff’s monster.

B-Movie specialist Erle Kenton directed this movie, who also directed Horror of Dracula for Hammer, a much better movie that I like.  The Ghost of Frankenstein is largely forgotten as part of the Frankenstein legacy and could be regarded as simple, B-Movie fun.

Next week on Svengoolie…House of Frankenstein