Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 295: The Ghost of Frankenstein (1943) - Rank 3.5/5


This is the first film in the Universal franchise to not feature Karloff in the iconic role of Frankenstein's monster. Sadly, the film suffers as a result. Pity, because there are a lot of fun elements to the story. A generous portion of the film's plot is lampooned by the better known "Young Frankenstein" (though none of the films are same from Mel Brooks' satire). The story follows Ludwig Frankenstein (Sir Cedric Harwicke), a successful surgeon who left the rest of family to pursue a sane career in medicine. He's roped into returning to his hometown by the town's prosecutor (Ralph Bellamy) after the Frankenstein monster is caught, to see if he can be of any assistance. Amidst the chaos of the courtroom, Ludwig brings solace to the monster's rage for the beast senses elements of its master within the doctor (a clever little plot point). Then the madness of his family begins to sink in as Ludwig devises a means to correct the monster's animalistic ways - by giving it a new brain. Ah, but the manipulative Ygor (Bela Lugosi) has his own scheme that involves his mind in the body of the monster.

As I said, a fairly cool story, considering this is the fourth installation the series (with two more to follow). The problem is Lon Chaney Jr. under Jack Pierce's makeup. He's too wooden, enacting more a stereotype of Karloff's performances than an extension. That lifelessness takes the humanity out of the monster, making him less of a pivotal character and more of an incidental component of the plot. But an excellent cast, rounded out with Lionel Atwill as Frankenstein's untrustworthy protegee.

Watch the Trailer

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