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Film / Son of Frankenstein

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"By Heaven, I think you're a worse fiend than your father!"
Inspector Krogh

Son of Frankenstein is a 1939 horror film, the third film in Universal's Frankenstein series. It stars Basil Rathbone as the eponymous son, Bela Lugosi as Ygor and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster for the final time in his career. Notably absent is Dr. Henry Frankenstein, the Monster's creator - Colin Clive passed away in 1937, before production began on this film.

A couple decades after the events of Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Wolf von Frankenstein with his wife and son arrive in the town of Frankenstein (previously known as Goldstadt) to claim his inheritance from his late father, namely the Castle Frankenstein. Terror of the Monster still fresh on their minds, the townsfolk shun Wolf but he keeps his mind open. He meets his father's previous assistant Ygor, who survived a hanging attempt following his conviction for Grave Robbing. Ygor reveals that the Monster is still alive, but is in bad shape due to being struck by lightning one night, and begs Wolf to help it. Wolf decides to restore the Monster in the name of science, but Ygor has other plans in mind...

Son is considered to be Universal's last great Frankenstein movie and Lugosi's portrayal of Ygor is often hailed as a high-point in his career. The film's basic concept and a number of ideas unique to it (such as Krogh's artificial arm) were specifically parodied by Young Frankenstein.

The film was followed by The Ghost of Frankenstein.

Son of Frankenstein contains examples of:

  • Brains and Brawn: The Monster is back to being a lumbering brute, who takes orders from Ygor.
  • Broad Strokes:
    • This film appears to be based on a scenario where Henry dies at the end of Bride, but Elizabeth survives (either while pregnant or already having sons); the original ending of Bride where Henry dies would mean Elizabeth does, too. There are other things that don't quite gel with the previous film as well.
    • The previous movies seemed to depict the Monster's entire career, but now we're told that he ripped off young Krogh's arm at some point.
  • Call-Back: As Wolf surveys the Monster's comatose body, he sees its hand moving. Startled, he yells "He's alive!"
  • Children Are Innocent: Peter, Wolf's son is an extremely sweet and innocent little child. So innocent in fact that he's otherwise oblivious to the more serious matters at hand.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Monster's Bride doesn't get so much as a mention in this film, even though she theoretically should have survived the destruction of the lab, considering the Monster himself did (and they should be roughly the same level of unkillable, both being creations of Henry and all).
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Inspector Krogh has a prosthetic arm, having lost his right arm as a child, when the Monster tore it off of the boy, and he wears a glove on it indoors and out. He does remove the left glove in some indoors scenes. There's a bit of black comedy when the actor (Lionel Atwill) sets the position of his right arm with his left hand to "demonstrate" the right arm is a prosthetic.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title "Son of Frankenstein" refers to both Frankenstein's biological son and the constructed one.
  • Drop the Hammer: Ygor tries to attack Baron with his smithing hammer when he comes looking for him. It doesn't end well for old Ygor, who gets shot where he stands.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Monster tries to drop Wolf's son into a sulfur pit as revenge for "killing" Ygor, but can't bring himself to go through with it.
  • Failed a Spot Check: As Wolf is lead into his father's and grandfather's crypt by Ygor, he fails to notice the Monster's comatose body lying few feet away from him as he enters there. Only once his attention from caskets is drawn away he notices it.
  • Fainting: Amelia faints at the sight of the Monster when he comes to kidnap Wolf's son.
  • For Science!: Wolf's reason to heal the Monster. He also hopes to clear his family name by fixing the monster's brain, proving that his father had the right idea and just made a mistake.
  • Handicapped Badass: Inspector Krogh as he confronts the Monster in order to save young Peter.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The darts scene. You might as well replace Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill's dialogue with "See here, I'm about to out-act you!" "Oh really? Well, I say I'M about to out-act YOU!"
  • Have a Gay Old Time: A reference is made to being "gay as larks".
  • High-Class Glass: Inspector Krogh wears one as a part of his attire.
  • The Igor: Ygor is the Trope Namer, but he just helped the Frankenstein senior in Grave Robbing, not in science experiments. The Trope Maker is Fritz from the first film.
  • Immune to Bullets: Inspector Krogh empts a revolver in the Monster's chest, without any results.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Peter meets Inspector Krogh, the young boy innocently doesn't grasp the fact that Krogh's prosthetic arm is a rather sensitive subject.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Ygor was hanged in the past for his compliance in robbing graves for Frankenstein senior. His neck broke and he was pronounced dead, but came back.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, especially considering his eagerness to follow in his father's footsteps.
  • Noodle Incident: Krogh describes a childhood encounter with the Monster that cost him an arm. No such event is depicted in the first two films.
  • Organ Dodge: When the Monster tries to take hold on Krogh's arm, he grabs his wooden one and Krogh manages to get free.
  • Papa Wolf: Wolf won't let anyone hurt his son as he displays when he swings and kicks the Monster into the sulfur pits.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. The police led by Krogh are the only ones who keep the unruly and superstitious townsfolk from lynching the Frankensteins when bodies start popping up.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: While Krogh has more than enough reason to get at the Frankensteins like the rest of the superstitious townsfolk for what happened to him as a child, he instead gives the family the benefit of the doubt. He even protects them from the unruly mob when bodies start showing up whilst also professionally investigating whether Wolf is indeed behind said murders.
  • Remember the New Guy?: The film introduces Ygor as a grave robber hired by Wolf's father to supply body for his experiments, but this is the first time he's ever seen or mentioned. In fact, the original film shows Henry Frankenstein robbing graves on his own with Fritz's help.
  • Revenge: Ygor has been using the Monster to get revenge on his accusers. Later on, after the Monster finds Ygor dead, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that culminates in his trying to kill the Baron's son by hurling him into a sulfur pit.
  • Secret Path: Castle Frankenstein has several hidden doors and paths, which Ygor and the Monster use to move about unseen.
  • Spiteful Spit: As he is leaving being questioned by the townsmen, Ygor fakes a coughing fit to spit in the eye of Neumüller, one of the men whom sentenced him to be hanged. He returns the favour the next time they meet.
  • Stylistic Suck: Many comment on how the sets look really cheap, including Frankenstein Manor which looks more like a bad stageplay than a big Hollywood movie. Watching the documentaries though reveal this was on purpose, as the director wanted to give the film a dream-like quality, with things half finished and empty to show Wolf stepping out of the normal world and into this bizarre world gods and monsters.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After the death of Lang, the town apothecary, the citizens try storm the gates of Frankenstein castle, but are stopped by Krogh's gendarmes.
  • Überwald: The town of Frankenstein is this.
  • Villainous Friendship: Between the Monster and Ygor, both outcasts in some form or another.
  • The Von Trope Family: The name of Frankenstein is Retconned into von Frankenstein.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Monster did this to Inspector Krogh in the backstory, ripping his arm out of its socket, and he tries to do it to the Baron's son in revenge for Ygor's death. While he hesitates a bit when he picks Peter up above the sulfur pits, it however is made clear that he really wants to harm Peter as evident in his confrontation with Krogh. In order to stop Peter from getting away, the Monster basically pins down the frightened young lad's whole body with his massive foot.
  • The X of Y: The film's title.