Tag Archives: Basil Rathbone

My Thoughts on: The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Continuing the Frankenstein marathon, I promptly moved on to the fourth film in the series, The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), a decent enough film, though it’s more than obvious that the story is starting to go off the rails just slightly. This is not only the first Frankenstein film without Boris Karloff involved in any way, it also stretches credulity by now following Frankenstein’s second son Ludwig (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), yet another doctor-scientist who has mostly managed to escape the stigma attached to the name of Frankenstein.

Here’s the thing about The Ghost of Frankenstein: surely we must assume that a number of years have passed since Son of Frankenstein because that is the only way I can believe that Sir Cedric Hardwicke is the younger brother of Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone). If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was the other way around. Forgetting the noticeable age difference between the alleged brothers, there’s also the not-so-minor-detail of Lon Chaney Jr. now playing the Monster. It’s not that he does a bad job, he’s actually quite believable. It’s just….I can tell it’s not the same person, and that bothers me every time I see this film. Also, is it just me or does Lon Chaney spend most of the film with his eyes closed?

Speaking of recasting, the one element of this film I dislike is that Hardwicke is used to play the ghost of his father Henry (originally played in two films by Colin Clive). I sort of get why they did so, but you’re telling me they couldn’t find anyone to serve as a sound alike for Colin Clive? I feel like they missed a big opportunity by not casting in a way that made it appear the ghost of Colin Clive’s Henry Frankenstein was really present and it’s the one detail I would change if I could.

Those issues aside, the film is otherwise a direct sequel to Son of Frankenstein, with Ygor (Bela Lugosi) still leading the Monster around in an attempt to fulfill his longterm goals. This is the film where the explanations for how the Monster survives from one film to the next start to become ridiculous. I can believe that the Monster dropped down into a cavern when the mill burned down in the first film, I can believe he survived the lab blowing up at the end of Bride of Frankenstein. However, you want me to believe that the Monster survived being dropped into boiling hot sulfur that then hardened around him? Nope, that’s one step too far (it gets more ridiculous from here).

Also, how is it that all of the Frankenstein children manage to get their hands on electrical equipment necessary for reviving the Monster? I can sort of understand how Wolf pulled it off by rebuilding the laboratory on the estate, but explain to me how and why Ludwig also has the right tools when it’s implied he’s a brain surgeon? Funny how that works isn’t it.

The Ghost of Frankenstein also starts the recurring subplot of giving the Monster a new brain to “fix” him (a plot point that will return in House of Frankenstein). It’s an interesting thought, though I notice no one ever explains to the Monster that this would essentially erase him from existence (since the brain is what makes everything work). I was suitably impressed by how the combination of Ygor and the Monster came off (the Monster is perfectly dubbed with Ygor’s voice). The explanation for why it doesn’t work is also perfectly simple and, it makes sense.

The Ghost of Frankenstein isn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is definitely below the three films that came before it. A significant stretching of the imagination is required to enjoy this film without asking any questions about how it works (I particularly roll my eyes when the Monster is “recharged” by bolts of lightning). Your mileage will definitely vary on how much you enjoy this film.

Let me know what you think about The Ghost of Frankenstein in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frankenstein (1931)

My Thoughts on: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

My Thoughts on: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Once I got my hands on the Universal Classic Monster 30 film collection (on blu-ray, it’s excellent and I highly recommend it), I was briefly stymied as to where I should start with so many classic horror films to choose from. And then it dawned on me: I’d already watched Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), it follows that I should continue the pattern with Son of Frankenstein (1939).

As the title implies, Son of Frankenstein follows the adventures of Henry Frankenstein’s eldest son Wolf (an almost neurotic Basil Rathbone), a plot development likely necessitated by the death of Colin Clive two years earlier in 1937. There is, however, a delightful homage to the actor in the form of a gorgeous oil painting that hangs in the main hall of Castle Frankenstein. In a way then, Clive literally looms over the story, though he is not physically present. I also like that the film reveals, in part, what happened to Henry after Bride of Frankenstein. Far from getting off scot-free in regards to creating these monsters, it seems that the truth came out and Henry spent the rest of his life shunned by the community and deep down never gave up his dreams of creating life. Unfortunately, one can only imagine what Clive would have brought to a third Frankenstein film, but these homages and references really are a nice touch.

In a further nod to continuity, Frankenstein’s laboratory is in ruins from the explosion that decimated it in the conclusion of Bride of Frankenstein (we’re meant to forget the fact that the building was completely demolished at the end of that film). Wolf Frankenstein has returned with his family in an attempt to make a new life there, but due to all the events with Frankenstein’s monster, the welcome is less than warm. Matters become unbelievably complicated when the hideous Ygor (Bela Lugosi in a brilliant performance) reveals to Wolf that the Monster is in fact alive, but injured. For the record, I believe these injuries are why the Monster can no longer speak (having learned to do so in Bride of Frankenstein).

This is the first Frankenstein film I saw that made it perfectly clear where Young Frankenstein (the Mel Brooks spoof) got a big chunk of its source material from (The Ghost of Frankenstein being the other). There’s something that makes it different from the two films that came before it, and I’m still struggling to put a finger on exactly what it is. Basil Rathbone, as I mentioned before, puts in a somewhat neurotic performance as Wolf Frankenstein, but it’s still an enjoyable performance, especially as you watch him get drawn into his father’s work bit by bit.

And speaking of Wolf….Son of Frankenstein has an unintentionally hilarious (at least I think it’s unintentional) moment where Wolf basically gives the Monster a complete physical in order to find out how he functions. There’s something surreal about watching the Monster’s blood pressure get taken, blood drawn, X-rays given, just like he’s a normal person (though one can argue the Monster is hardly normal). It’s also interesting, by the way, to watch Wolf and the Monster interact. When they first meet, I think it’s implied that the Monster mistakenly believes Wolf to be his father, hence his initial reaction to strangle Wolf. And then, most interesting, the Monster stops mid-action, as if it dawns on him that “this isn’t my creator, this is someone else.” It’s one of my favorite moments in the entire film.

I was also surprised to learn that THIS is the film where Ygor first appears. I grew up believing that Ygor was always a part of the Frankenstein story but that is simply not true. In the book, Frankenstein has no assistant at all, and in the first film his assistant is named Fritz. It’s well worth the wait though to finally see Ygor. Bela Lugosi is brilliant as the hunchbacked friend of the monster with a hideously disformed neck (they tried to hang him but it didn’t stick). I still haven’t figured out yet if I like Ygor or hate him, because Lugosi plays him so well, you’re not sure what to think about him.

One other detail I have to mention that is the presence of Wolf’s son Peter (Donnie Dunagan). First of all, cool trivia point: if Donnie’s voice sounds familiar that’s because he’s the voice of young Bambi in the 1942 film of the same name. He’s so adorable, and I love how any time he enters the scene, all the action briefly pivots to center on him (he was all of 4 at the time). Peter is also part of my second favorite scene in the film, when he innocently tells his father about the “friendly giant” that’s been visiting him in his bedroom (re: the Monster). The moment when little Peter imitates the Monster’s walk (making it crystal clear whose been visiting him), complete with a snipped of the Monster’s musical theme, is one of my favorite moments in the film, not least because of the complete panic in Wolf’s reaction to it.

Son of Frankenstein is, unfortunately, not quite up to the level of Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein, but it remains an enjoyable film, the last to feature Boris Karloff in the role of Frankenstein’s Monster. I would recommend watching this film once you make your way through the first two Frankenstein films.

Let me know what you think about Son of Frankenstein in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Frankenstein (1931)

My Thoughts on: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

My Thoughts on: The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Royalty on Film Blogathon: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

*This post is part of the Royalty on Film Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame

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The 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood is the epitome of the perfect swashbuckler film: there are exciting sword fights, an archery tournament, a great ambush in Sherwood Forest and an A-list cast led by Errol Flynn as Robin Hood himself. But this film is also notable for highlighting a real life feud between two royal brothers, namely Prince John and his older brother King Richard “the Lionheart”.

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King Richard (Ian Hunter)

The story begins when news arrives that King Richard has been taken prisoner  by Leopold of Austria while returning home from the Third Crusade and is being held for ransom! This is indeed what happened to the historical King Richard: during the crusade, Leopold had been insulted when Richard had replaced the Austrian banner with his own and so when Richard was returning back to England, he took the opportunity to capture him for his own personal revenge (never mind that those returning from crusade were not to be harmed in any way).

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conniving Prince John (Claude Rains)

Back in England, Prince John, brilliantly performed by Claude Rains, is gleeful at the idea that his older brother is out of the way for the foreseeable future. It’s no secret that John and Richard never got along very well (if at all), as John resented Richard for being favored by their mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. With Richard gone, John disposes of Longchamps (the man assigned to co-rule England with John in Richard’s absence, not all of England, as the film implies) and sets himself up as ruler of England.

This proves to be disastrous for the common folk of England as John begins to tax them ruthlessly. Ostensibly, this money is for Richard’s ransom, but John has no intentions of helping his royal brother get free. Instead (the film never mentions this but it’s a historical fact), John plans to use this money as a bribe to KEEP Richard locked up, at least until he can secure the throne for himself.

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historical illumination of the real King John

The plan is working beautifully until Robin of Loxley, a Saxon knight, gets tired of seeing his people oppressed and vows to do something about it. After fleeing Nottingham, Robin sets up a hideout in Sherwood Forest and gathers a huge company of outlaws who wreak havoc with Norman tax collectors (and wealthy Normans in general) any chance they get. The culmination of all this is when they take Sir Guy and Lady Marian captive and force them to have dinner with them in the forest (Marian ends up enjoying herself, while Sir Guy just fumes the whole time). While this film greatly highlights the tension between the Norman and Saxon populations, I should note that by the time of King Richard’s reign in real life, these tensions had all but vanished (it just made a good plot device for the movie).

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There is a third royal (of sorts), in this mix, the Lady Marian Fitz-Walter (Olivia DeHavilland), the royal ward of King Richard (and Prince John in his absence). Being a royal ward means that your parents are dead or unable to care for you, and your education and marriage and general well-being are the responsibility of the king. John plans to use this to his advantage by trying to match Marian with the handsome (but lethal) Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). It almost works too, until Robin interrupts the feast at Sir Guy’s castle in Nottingham and Marian gets a good look at the Saxon rogue.

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Historical drawing of the real King Richard

While Marian and Robin slowly build a romance together, John proceeds with his plans to take the throne for himself, plans that are accelerated when the Bishop of the Black Canons reports that he’s spotted Richard himself in England (how and when Richard got back to England is never said). Desperate, John plots to have Richard murdered and himself proclaimed as King in two days time. Marian (fortunately and unfortunately) overhears all of this and writes a warning for Robin so that he can save the King. However, Sir Guy, Prince John and the Bishop noticed Marian overhearing, so Sir Guy catches her red-handed with the warning letter. This leads to a summary trial where Prince John condemns her to death. When Marian protests that John can’t order her execution because “only the King himself has the right to condemn me to death”, John states that it shall be a King who gives the order, implying that as soon as he is crowned, Marian will die.

Of course Robin gets word of what’s going on regardless and moves to save Marian, but not before meeting three mysterious monks in the woods. Of course, these aren’t monks at all but King Richard and two of his knights in disguise! Richard had been trying to find Robin Hood for quite some time, but when he noticed that the outlaws tended to show up for rich abbots/monks, he decided to go in disguise to grab his attention. Robin (and all the outlaws) are naturally overjoyed that King Richard has returned, but there isn’t a lot of time to waste: John is going to be crowned the very next day and he’s got to be stopped! Of course, Robin has a plan on how to do that…

As majestic as the coronation scene looks, there are a host of errors that make it completely implausible as well. First of all, a mere bishop cannot possibly crown Prince John, it has to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. Second, coronations are always held in Westminster Abbey; Prince John may be a prince of England, but even he can’t order a coronation where and how he pleases, the other nobles wouldn’t have accepted it! Errors aside, it is a grand sight to see, with the bishop marching in followed by altar boys and hundreds of fellow monks (you’d think they’d have gotten suspicious with so many monks tagging along).

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At the last moment, King Richard reveals himself when John tries to proclaim himself king, answering “Aren’t you a little premature brother?” Bedlam ensues in the form of a gigantic sword fight while Sir Guy and Robin separate to have their long awaited reckoning with one another.

Adventures of Robin Hood- Climactic sword duel

Happily, the good guys come out victorious, Prince John is banished from England for the rest of King Richard’s lifetime (which would be less than ten years) and Robin is “ordered” to marry the Lady Marian, to which Robin can only say “May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure sire!”

While coming up a little short in the historical accuracy department, The Adventures of Robin Hood still gives a great look at two of England’s most well known royals: the noble King Richard and the ever-despised Prince John.

Enjoy the rest of the Royalty on Film Blogathon! And please check out The Flapper Dame’s great blog if you haven’t already 🙂

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*all images are the property of Warner Bros. Studios