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John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #1 Of 31!! SON OF FRANKENSTEIN!!


John Ary here with the first installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews.  Today we’ll be taking a look back at an overlooked sequel in the Universal Monster stable.
When horror fans talk about Frankenstein movies, they usually mention Boris Karloff in the original and James Whales’ excellent directorial work in Bride of Frankenstein.  Both of those films are iconic.  Rarely, and I mean RARELY does anyone mention the third film in the series Son of Frankenstein, and that’s a real shame.  4 years after Bride, Universal produced a big budget sequel featuring 3 genre heavyweights and a strong performance from Lionel Atwill as Krogh the police inspector.  
This film changes up several of the plot details of the first two.  For one, the name of the town has changed from Goldstat to Frankenstein, the monster can no longer speak, and we find out the lighting that originally granted him life was actually cosmic rays giving him near invincibility.  Who knew the Frankenstein monster and the Silver Surfer have something in common?  
Also there is the addition of Bela Lugosi who brings the character Ygor to the screen for the first time ever.  He’s a scruffy broken man who was hung by the town’s people for his role in helping the original doctor, but survived and now walks around with a broken neck.  This is Lugosi at his best.  He’s cunning, tortured and vengeful, yet portrays himself to those around him as the total opposite.  He’s the type of bad guy you root for.
This is also Karloff’s final film performance as the monster.  He did some public appearances and showed up in the make up later in his career on TV, but that doesn’t really count.  No one can blame the guy for not wanting to continue in this iconic role.  It took makeup legend Jack Piece 4 hours every day to get him ready for work.  If there was one thing that disappointed me about the film was the lack of screen time for the monster.  Under the direction of the evil Ygor he kills a couple of people, but otherwise he’s used on screen as a tug o’war rope, constantly being pulled between Ygor’s deadly agenda, the research work of Doctor Frankenstein and the safety concerns of Inspector Krogh.
And speaking of Doctor Frankenstein, Basil Rathbone plays the son of the original doctor.  He returns to the community that his father’s monster help destroy a hated man by the town’s people.  Rathbone plays his role without the slightest hint of camp.  The film takes itself very serious, and prefers to think of itself more as a dark drama than a horror movie.  His relationship with Lionel Atwill on screen is fascinating as each man constantly tries to the measure the other up without tipping their own hand.  They are intellectual adversaries and friends at the same time.  Atwill captivates Doctor Frankenstein and the audience as he tells the story of how he received his wooden arm thanks to an attack during his youth by the monster.  Now you know where Mel Brooks got his inspiration for Inspector Kemp.
I can’t confidently proclaim that Son of Frankenstein is as good as the first two installments, but it boasts big shadowy sets, a beautiful score and brilliant performances from its leads.  It’s a film that deals less in grandiose themes like the creation of life and the soul of man and focuses more on revenge and a son dealing with the sins of his father.  Universal seemed to have set its sights on making a solid picture that lives up to the Frankenstein name.  They definitely succeeded.
Son of Frankenstein is currently streaming on Netflix.  It’s also available on DVD with Ghost of Frankenstein HERE.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as we fast forward to the 70’s with an alternate take on the vampire mythos.
For more video news, reviews and interviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter
Also check out Ambush Bug’s top 31 horror film countdown of the year here on AICN.
Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 1, 2012, 10:15 a.m. CST

    my 1st 1st?

    by gerry derboven


  • Oct. 1, 2012, 10:16 a.m. CST

    i don't feel any different :(

    by gerry derboven

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 10:16 a.m. CST


    by Mennen

    Welcome to the party, pal.

  • ...oh happy day! Oh and yes, always good to see Boris Karloff's monster, even if the film as a whole isn't the greatest.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:06 a.m. CST


    by John Ary

    to all the "firsters" out there.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:09 a.m. CST

    Rathbone is great in this

    by B Arnold Quizzling

    He chews up the scenery like Claude Rains! The only weak spot other than the script is that little kid. Why couldn't the monster toss him in the sulphur pit at the beginning of the film? UGHH

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:34 a.m. CST

    Now we're talking

    by CuervoJones

    This is a great movie, even better than the first Frankenstein, IMHO. It´s cool to read about real cinema in AICN.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:51 a.m. CST

    AISR - It's Alive!

    by buggerbugger

    Nice start to the column, glad to see you picked a decent one to begin with. Yeah, this is one of the better sequels in the series. I could be wrong, but it might very well be the last one to "star" the Monster, as the next in line - 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man' - is essentially more of a Wolf Man sequel than a Frankenstein movie. After that, the Monster (in 'Ghost of...') is essentially Ygor in the gigantic Franken-body, stumbling blindly toward the twin abyss of 'House of Frankenstein' and 'House of Dracula'. Those two movies are really quite terrible. I'm glad we got two completely different spins on Frankenstein with Universal and Hammer, one with the Monster as the star and the other focusing on the scientist. Of the two approaches, I prefer the latter and I'm glad Hammer were basically "forced" into following the mad doctor rather than his bolt-necked creation. I'm an odd one when it comes to the Universals. If asked, I'd say that my favourite monster is the Wolf Man, my favourite monster actor is Karloff and yet my favourite movie is 'The Invisible Man'. To paraphrase, Karloff was the bomb as Frankenstein's Monster. Truly iconic. And yet I love Christopher Lee's take on the creature in 'Curse of Frankenstein'; horrifying and pathetic at the same time. And Cushing as the "father"? One of my favourite actors ever. Love that bloke. He could play anything. Ahem. Anyway... looking forward to see what tomorrow brings, John. The 1970s and an alternative take on vampires? 'Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter', by any chance? Actually, it could be a number of films, couldn't it? 'Martin'? 'Thirst' (the Australian one)?

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Good start johnary!

    by adeceasedfan

    I look forward to watching the video when I get home. I think i've seen some of this one, but looks like a revisit is in order. Thanks.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:11 p.m. CST

    should have been included in the new blu raybox set

    by Shaun D Lyons

    Doesnt come anywhere near the gothic genius of the first two, but still a real treat for horror buffs. Best thing about it is Lugosi. Anyway, just ordered the legacy blu ray set. Essential Halloween viewing!

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Well, HellOW

    by elmo

    God, that kid was annoying

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:48 p.m. CST




  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:51 p.m. CST

    love this film but the explanation for Ygor....

    by john

    I mean they basically retcon the original film slightly by making Ygor Dr. Frankenstein's assistant and not Fritz (Dwight Frye). I mean yeah most films in the Universal canon aren't always true to the one before it but this was always a bit jarring to me. Maybe because there actually was a hunchbacked assistant in Frankenstein that's never mentioned again in favor of Ygor. And that Ygor in most mediums, has always been known as the doctors assistant.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Karloff . . . . ?

    by Nice Marmot

    That limey cocksucker can rot in Hell for all I care!

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 12:54 p.m. CST

    In all seriousness . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . I'm not going to diss classic horror or anything, but I thought I'd be discovering a new flick every day that I'd actually find scary or at least pretty damn creepy.

  • So much of "Young Frankenstein" is in this film. Which is fine, since it's a parody-- and the audience had plenty of time to see the original. The doctor even has a dart game with the inspector! There were other similarities I can't remember-- but it was beautifully shot and acted, I was surprised-- I expected much worse from a lesser known sequel.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 1:48 p.m. CST

    Awww,johnary,youwill always be me first!

    by gerry derboven

    And i will be following this column with great interest, yes, great interest....

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST

    Hey, John...

    by Sandy

    Spell Checker... ...invest.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 2:33 p.m. CST

    Svengoolie showed a couple of months ago

    by Crimson Dynamo

    Was surprised to find out Lugosi was Ygor; he totally disappeared into that role

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 2:36 p.m. CST

    AVGN did it years ago!

    by Disgruntled_Chinaman

    For his Monster Madness reviews, go to his site now! Loads better and fewer dildo references...

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Agreed, a worthy sequel...

    by PhineasFlynn

    ...but I can't watch it without my mind going to "Young Frankenstein" constantly. THIS is the movie Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder parodied. The original "Frankenstein" and "Bride of" are touched on in "Young Frankenstein", but this was the film they were inspired by.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 3:37 p.m. CST

    Never says Ygor helped his father

    by KanekoFan

    Ygor was hanged because, "I stole bodies... they said." He then found the injured monster and developed a relationship with it, subsequent to the events of the first two movies. It is never claimed that Ygor was in any way involved in the creation of the monster or the events of Frankenstein and/or Bride.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 3:46 p.m. CST

    By far my favourite Frankenstein film followed by House of Frankestein.

    by CeejayNightwing

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 3:57 p.m. CST


    by John Ary

    I think that's one of the interesting aspects to the Ygor character. He never tells the whole truth and only alludes to his life before the hanging. He has insider knowledge as to how the creature was created and he claims to have known the creature before it went into its coma. Also the townspeople ask Ygor if the new doctor has requisitioned him to steal more bodies for experiments, which insinuates he dug up bodies for the old doctor. While he never comes out and tells the new doctor or the townspeople the whole story, I think we can extrapolate from the evidence that he had some part in the creation and maintenance of the creature.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Ygor's history with the family...

    by Alan_Moore actually spoken of in the next film in the series, Ghost of Frankenstein. I believe he says his brother aided the original doctor, suggesting perhaps he and Fritz were siblings!

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 4:27 p.m. CST

    Ah thanks for the clarification guys!

    by john

    Will have to throw this and Ghost at some point this week...

  • Too bad I'm not at all familiar with the Frankenstein series... I've been kind of hoping to get my hands on the new Universal Monsters blu-ray set and delve in to that. But being broke will probably put a stop to that...

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 5:44 p.m. CST

    Nice work John. I like your work man

    by JP

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 7 p.m. CST

    I love, love, LOVE this film!

    by dgeer80

    You're right, Ary. Rarely do people mention this film, and they really should, for the very reasons you mentioned. Strong performances, great sets and a good story make for a great third film in the Karloff Frankenstein series of films.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 7:56 p.m. CST

    Freaked me out...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...when the monster tore off the fake arm. Hey, I was really little.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 7:59 p.m. CST

    And this is a good start...

    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...I haven't watched any of the old Universal Horror movies in a while, think the last was The Wolfman during last year's Halloween marathon.

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 9:33 p.m. CST

    It's pronounced "Why-Gore"

    by MrD

    And I assume that Martin comes tomorrow?

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 10:07 p.m. CST

    The Pronunciation of Ygor

    by John Ary

    You can hear Lugosi clearly say his character's name at this Youtube link:

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 1:44 a.m. CST

    Frankenstein's son voiced Bambi

    by old_man_and_the_sea


  • Oct. 2, 2012, 4:28 a.m. CST

    Tomorrow's review...

    by KelseysNuts

    Count Yorga?

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 6:08 a.m. CST

    Love Son of Frankenstein...

    by Terry Powell

    ...but kind of wish it had been Ghost of... as that was the first movie I remember watching. Back when i was about 4 years old, in the early sixties, My aunt was babysitting me and let me stay up to watch the late show while she necked with her boyfriend. And my lifelong love affair with horror was born. It was several years before I realized what the title was. But the film gave birth to a major misconception for me. And that was that the monster liked kids and was their protector. So it blew me away a few years later when I saw the original and the monster kills the girl and also Son of... where he gets ready to toss the kid into the sulpher pit. So I have a soft spot for Ghost of. Also, did anyone notice that the Hammer film, Evil of... was a kind of remake of Son of Frankenstein. The moster is discovered alive and is used by someone to kill those who have wronged him. The movie was coproduced by Universal so I guess they let them do a pseudo remake(and do a similar makeup).

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 7:39 a.m. CST

    Karloff Hated The 'Sweater-Vest' The Monster Wore

    by Graphix67

    Originally, they toyed with the idea of filming in color and thought that the sweater-vest would break-up the head-to-toe darkness of the Monster's clothing. The color-idea was soon dropped but the sweater-vest stayed anyway.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 12:56 p.m. CST

    It wasn't just that one character

    by DrGogol

    Young Frankenstein is almost a scene-for-scene parody of Son of Frankenstein.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 2:09 p.m. CST

    I really liked this movie, and i loved Inspector Krogh.

    by albert comin

    And it's funny that in an early scene when Frankenstein's son is traveling by train to his father's hometown, he makes a coment that everybody connects his family name to the monster, a nice take that to the audiences who always mistook the name of the scientist who create the creature with the creature's name. Clever movie. "Son of Frankenstein" is a good start for this project. Good job, John Ary.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 3:05 p.m. CST


    by Baryonyx

    My favourite Universal Frankenstein movie. Rathbone is great in this.

  • Oct. 2, 2012, 9:57 p.m. CST

    How did the monster forget to speak in this one?

    by darthwaz1

    it always bothered me..

  • Oct. 9, 2012, 10:13 p.m. CST

    Pronounciation of Ary

    by Kortan Askew

    It's pronounced awry, as in this talkback went all awry, when I Realized John Ary hasn't seen Young Frankenstein. :( you need to fix that John, so you can get mrd's joke.

  • Oct. 13, 2012, 10:51 p.m. CST

    Break with consistency and Corrections to your Review

    by Oldnewbie

    This was the first of the Universals that broke with any canon established by the first two films. it would get worse in the ensuing sequels. Several examples: The lab was never on the property. It was in an old watchtower far from the family home. Hence Elizabeth being concerned about Henry always being away in the first film. Oh and he wasn't a doctor. He was a medical student who became frustrated with the school and left to "find what he needed elsewhere" and Dr. Waldman put it. Henry never brought his work home with him. In fact, his notes were supposed to be taken care of by Waldman but the monster killed him before he could. So them being in a locked box in the castle is wrong. And in your review you mention Ygor saying he was Frankenstein's assistant. Ygor never said he was Frankenstein's assistant. He simply said he was hanged for "stealing bodies... they said". And that he was tossed ito the old lab because he could not be buried in "holy place cause I stole bodies... they said". He could have been stealing them for medical use. Again, never once did he mention being Frankenstein's assistant so Fritz's presence in the first film remained intact. Nonetheless, popular culture and base parody ahve made Ygor the 'assistant'. As for "Young Frankenstein"... while when I saw it I thought it was hysterical (after having seen all the old classics), thirty some odd years later I feel it was the final coffin nail in any respect the old monster films had. The effect started by Abbott and Costello, followed through by 'The Munsters" and then Brooks did the old ghosts in. At best they are curiosities for film students, at worst boring jokes.

  • Nov. 1, 2012, 5:12 p.m. CST

    Re: Well HellOW

    by madmental

    Nail, head, hit elmolincoln. I love almost everything else about this flick, but every time that horrific demon child comes on screen, I feel like taking a nail gun to my forehead.