SON OF FRANKENSTEIN/GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN
With the biggest box-office draw featuring Universal Studios' biggest stars of the time, sequels were not only thought about, they were mandated. The Mummy saw four additional entries, Dracula saw the birth of his "children", The Wolfman had a whole series to himself it seemed and Frankenstein met not only his "Bride" but his "Son" and indeed his "Ghost" as well. Not too mention the double dipping of the Wolfman and Frankenstein in the first and only "Monster meets Monster" category. In Son Of Frankenstein, 75 years have passed since the "death" of the monster. Henry Frankenstein has since died as well and his son Wolf Von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) is on his way to inherit his father's lands and title of Baron from the not-too-thrilled residents of the town of Frankenstein. In the interim, mysterious deaths have continued to plague the town with all the victims suffering the same woundings. Some believe the Monster is still alive and to blame but, most have attributed the murders to Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a local grave robber who escaped death by hanging with only a badly broken and bent neck. Interestingly enough, at the time of each murder, Ygor could be heard playing his strange flute in the broken battlements of the remains of Castle Frankenstein. As you can see, Wolf von Frankenstein could not have chosen a worse time to accept his birthright. Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the Burgomaster and an assemblage of very damp and hostile residents. A locked box containing his father's records of the ill-fated experiments, as well as a letter encouraging him to continue where the elder Frankenstein left off, is presented to the family Frankenstein and the townspeople and Burgomaster leave as silently as they came. The richness that was once the family's castle is now a dank and dark shell of its former glory. The explosion (See Bride of Frankenstein) that rocked the castle has left it in a state of rapid decay. The only people to live their since the explosion are the Baron, his family and our friend with the broken neck. Evidently, the monster survived the explosion and subsequent fires. Having received numerous burns, he lies in a near-comatose state. Ygor, has been caring for the monster as best he can and now that another Frankenstein inhabits the castle, he's sure to get the medical help he needs to restore his "friend" . Like his father before him, Wolf is seduced by the allure of bringing life to the dead and he consents to reviving the monster. Now if there's anything we've learned about the monster it's his predictable behavior. When he's weak he's like a kitten but when he's recharged...oy vey! Needless to say, Wolf recharges the monster and the countryside is once again terrorized. Not only by the gruntings and mayhem of the monster but, Ygor's awful flute playing as well!
Ghost of Frankenstein
At the close of Son of Frankenstein, both Ygor and the monster appeared to have bitten the dust...again. Baron Wolf von Frankenstein has left the country and the townspeople have returned to their lives. Unfortunately hard times have befallen the town of Frankenstein and we find her residents in what amounts to abject poverty. The crops have all died and the townspeople blame their misfortune on the shadow of the castle that looms high on a hill outside of town. Desperate for re-election, the Burgomaster sends the townspeople off to destroy the castle in the hopes of assuaging their fears and putting votes in the ballot box come election day. When the townspeople arrive they are met with tumbling blocks of stone, as Ygor hurls them from the roof, in an attempt to kill as many townspeople as possible. Ever the resourceful townspeople, the villagers ignite dynamite they brought along and throw it deep within the castle. Moments later the dynamite explodes and the castles falls in on itself effectively killing (heard that before!) Ygor and putting the Frankenstein curse to bed once and for all. Well...the resultant explosion unearths the monster and Ygor runs to aide his now crusty friend. With the aide of a lightening strike, the monster is up and running but not as his usual glib self. He's depressed given the break-up of his marriage two films ago and is looking for a new outlook on life! (kidding!) Ygor knows the Frankenstein family all too well and looks to Wolf's younger brother, Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke), for the much needed medical assistance needed to get the monster back up to par. Now say it with me, "the monster will eventually go berserk and will be put down by torch bearing villagers at some point in the film". Isn't that the way all these films end up? But, not too worry, both of these films are very cool to experience and do the name of Frankenstein no harm whatsoever.
Like all the entries I have seen thus far in the Universal Monsters "Double Feature" series, the imagery has been amazingly clean and brilliant. If there were any scratches or flecking, I did not see them. What I did see however, was an incredibly sharp Black and White transfer that exceeded all of my expectations prior to viewing the features. Please forgive me for being redundant but, these titles have really never looked better.
The mono platforms presented are the same as when they were first recorded well over sixty years ago. The dialogue is easily understood and the score for each feature while obviously without any real depth, is quite enjoyable as well.
The extras for Son of Frankenstein are production notes, cast and filmmaker bios and recommendations for other Classic Monsters discs currently available from Universal.
The extras for Ghost of Frankenstein are the same as its predecessor with one addition being the trailer for the feature. Again, the true "extra" if you will is getting both of these great films on the same disc for the price of one. While these extras don't even come close to the watershed provided the first tier of films, these still have enough information to satisfy the true fans of these films.
Next to Dracula, Frankenstein is my favorite classic monster and these are two of the best entries in the series. They are wholly enjoyable and a real bargain at the price they are currently offered. Karloff's final performance as "the creature" in Son of Frankenstein, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Evelyn Ankers in Ghost of Frankenstein and Lionel Atwill in both pictures is more than reason enough to grab this absolutely wonderful disc!