3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Lugosi's Ygor completely takes over the Frankenstein Monster,
This review is from: The Ghost Of Frankenstein [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Boris Karloff was wrong when he objected to having the monster speak in "Bride of Frankenstein." The progression of the character from the inarticulate brute of first "Frankenstein" movie was a smart move and the second film in the Universal series is the best of the bunch. How wrong Karloff was about his most famous creation is amply proven in "The Ghost of Frankenstein," the fourth film in the series and the first with someone other than Karloff playing the monster (Karloff's daughter agrees with me). Lon Chaney, Jr. gets the honors and he follows Karloff's lead from the previous film, "The Son of Frankenstein," where no longer speaks and is shuffling with a much stiffer gait. In other words, Chaney is reinforcing the stereotype of the Frankenstein Monster that exists today.
It is easy to defend the earlier films in the Universal "Frankenstein" series. After all, the first two were directed by James Whales and stuck the closest, all things considered, to Mary Shelley's original novel, and Karloff played the monster in the first three. By when we get to "The Son of Frankenstein" and "The Ghost of Frankenstein" the driving force of the stories is no longer the monster or his creator, but Bela Lugosi's Ygor. Ironically, Lugosi had turned down the role of the monster in the first "Frankenstein," which then catapulted Karloff to stardom and codified his performance as the finest monster in screen history. Consequently, I can look at Lugosi's two Frankenstein movies as his revenge (and not in a good way).
"The Ghost of Frankenstein" was written by Scott Darling ("Charlie Chan at the Opera") from a story by Eric Taylor ("The Black Cat"), and was directed by Erle C. Kenton ("Island of Lost Souls"). Actually, this 1942 film is more "The Son of Frankenstein II" because the Dr. Frankenstein of this one is Ludwig von Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke of the 1939 version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"), another son of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Ludwig helps people suffering from diseases of the mind and when he finds out that his father's monster is still running around his solution to the creature's apparent immortality is dissection. If his father could sew a body together, then unsewing it to take it apart makes sense. But Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) thinks this is a bad thing and Ludwig does not feel compelled to argue the point, especially after the ghost of his father shows up and tells him to play along in the family business.
When their colleague Dr. Kettering (Barton Yarborough) is killed by the monster, Ludwig comes up with the bright idea of replacing the criminal brain in the monster's skull with that of Kettering. However, Ygor, who has survived having his neck broken after being hung, and now has also survived the three bullets that Basil Rathbone put in his chest in "Son," has a better idea. So the question is whose brain is going to end up in Chaney's skull, especially since the monster has his own weird suggestion. There is a minor plot line involving Ludwig's daughter Elsa (Evelyn Ankers) and the local proescutor (Ralph Bellamy) adds little to this 67-minute film.
Basically, the problem with this movie is that Lugois's Ygor is a more interesting character than Hardwicke's Ludwig and breaking the fundamental dynamic of a Frankenstein movie to make the insane assistant more important than the mad doctor is not a smart move. I was almost going to round up on this one because of the twist provided by one of the basic medical concepts regarding transplants that comes into play at the end, but not quite. The idea of transplanting a second, "better" brain into the monster's head is pursued more successfully in later films, most notably Hammer's "Revenge of Frankenstein" and "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell." Certainly the makers of these later films were inspired by the failure of "The Ghost of Frankenstein" to even come close to maximizing the story line's potential.