The Ghost of Frankenstein(1942)

Directed by Erle C. Kenton

The Ghost of Frankenstein is an American monster horror film released in 1942. The movie is the fourth in a series of films produced by Universal Studios based upon characters in Mary Shelley‘s novel Frankenstein and features Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, taking over from Boris Karloff, who played the role in the first three films of the series, and Béla Lugosi in his second appearance as the demented Ygor. The supporting cast features Lionel Atwill, Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers.

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Production

Ghost of Frankenstein marked the final appearance of the Monster in a solo capacity in the Universal Monsters series. Beginning with the next film, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (in which Lugosi plays the Monster with Chaney switching to his Wolf Man character), and continuing for the rest of the Universal cycle, Frankenstein’s Monster would be part of an ensemble cast of creatures.

The blinding of the Monster resulted in a lasting stereotype of the creature walking with arms outstretched, even though this is the only film in which it is explicitly indicated that he is blind, such references being cut by the studio from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, sabotaging Lugosi’s performance in the process, since the audience is left to wonder why the Monster is behaving so peculiarly. The Monster’s ability to speak would also be dropped after this film (Lugosi’s dialogue was filmed but ultimately deleted from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) until Glenn Strange, playing the Monster, spoke briefly in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has Chaney make an uncredited second appearance as the Monster during the laboratory escape sequence, replacing a broken-footed Glenn Strange in the Monster role.

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Despite having been apparently killed at the end of Son of Frankenstein, Ygor was revealed to have been only “maimed by the bullets shot into him by Wolf Frankenstein”. There was no mention of a second son of the original Dr. Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein. Ludwig states that he has lived in this area his entire life, but it is not explained why only Wolf was raised in America.

Ghost of Frankenstein also marked the changeover of the Frankenstein (and Universal Monsters) series from “A-movie” to “B-movie” status, with noticeably reduced budgets and the reuse of actors from previous films. As noted below, footage from this film would be recycled in even a later Frankenstein feature.

The title of the film refers to the fact that Dr. Henry Frankenstein, creator of The Monster in the first Universal Frankenstein film, appears (played by Hardwicke) as a ghostly apparition to advise Ludwig.

The footage of the Monster scrambling to escape the fire was later reused at the end of House of Dracula, even though Glenn Strange plays the Monster in that film.

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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Universal’s “Frankenstein” series descended from the “A” to the “B” category with The Ghost of Frankenstein, though production values were still well above average and the cast is first-rate. The story picks up where Son of Frankenstein (1939) left off, with both the Monster (Lon Chaney Jr.) and his crazed companion Igor the shepherd (Bela Lugosi) being chased out of the village of Frankenstein by the irate citizens (actually both Monster and Igor had been killed at the end of Son of Frankenstein, but that’s neither here nor there). The gruesome twosome head to the tiny Balkan community where dwells the son (Sir Cedric Hardwycke) of the original Dr. F. At the urgings of both Igor and the disgraced Doctor Bohmer (Lionel Atwill), Frankenstein Jr. is coerced into repeating his father’s experiment of placing a fresh brain in the head of the monster. Seeking vengeance against his enemies, Igor wants to have his own brain grafted into the Monster’s skull, but the big lug himself has other ideas: having befriended cute little Cloestine (Janet Ann Gallow), the only person in the village who doesn’t fear him, the Monster insists upon receiving Cloestine’s brain. In the end, however, Dr. Frankenstein goes with Igor’s graymatter-and the result is disaster for practically everyone in the cast. Highlights of this 68-minute scarefest include Lionel Atwill’s outraged reaction when he is reminded of the “slight miscalculation” that ruined his medical career, and the uncredited appearances of several “Frankenstein” movie veterans, including Dwight Frye, Holmes Herbert and Lionel Belmore.

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