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Son of Frankenstein

Son of Frankenstein movie poster
Directed by Rowland V. Lee
Produced by Rowland V. Lee
Written by Novel:
Mary Shelley
Wyllis Cooper
Starring Basil Rathbone
Boris Karloff
Béla Lugosi
Lionel Atwill
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by Ted Kent
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) January 13, 1939
Running time 99 min.
Country United States
Language English
Preceded by Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Followed by The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

Son of Frankenstein is the third film in Universal Studios' Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster as well as the first to feature Bela Lugosi as Ygor.

The film was a reaction to the incredibly popular re-releases of Dracula and Frankenstein as a double-feature in 1938.[1] Universal's declining horror output was revitalized with the enormously successful Son, and the studio enjoyed two more decades of popular monster movies.


Plot summary

The story begins with Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone), the adult son of the monster's creator, relocating his wife and young son to the Frankenstein estate in the village that bears the family name. Wolf's desire to recast his father's reputation is strengthened to obsession by what he believes to be unfounded hostility from the villagers, memories of the monster being still too fresh in people's minds. Aside from his family, Wolf's only friend is the local police Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill), one of whose arms is now wooden as a result of being torn off by the monster (a scene which was not featured in the previous movies).

With the help of demented blacksmith Ygor (Béla Lugosi), Wolf finds the monster's ailing carcass, and he imagines rehabilitation of the creature to be the perfect means by which to restore the family's honor. When he heals the monster (Boris Karloff), but only to consciousness, Wolf discovers that its horrible legend is a reality, but his residual denial prolongs the search for the monster and its eventual destruction about kidnapping Wolf's little boy. By the film's end, Wolf has realized his role as a father is more important than his role as a son.



  • Dwight Frye as Villager
  • Ward Bond as Gendarme at Gate
  • Ed Cassidy as Webber (burgher)
  • Russ Powell as Webber (burgher)
  • Harry Cording as Bearded gendarme
  • Clarence Wilson as Dr. Berger
  • Betty Chay as Extra
  • Jack Harris as Extra
  • Bud Wolfe as Extra


After director James Whale had departed from Universal Films, Universal selected Rowland V. Lee to direct Son. Lee's film explores dramatic themes: family, security, isolation, responsibility, and father-son relationships.

Son of Frankenstein significantly alters the monster's evolving persona from the previous film, Bride of Frankenstein. Gone are his alert intelligence and speech capabilities; in Son, the monster is duller and mute, which is his basic image through not only the rest of the series, but also in the lasting public perception of the character. The monster's brain was obviously damaged in the explosion from the end of the last film, and has reverted into a childlike state. He is immensely fond of Ygor, and finds faith only in him. Although he lost his ability to talk, he obviously remembers his creator, as he sees the resemblance of Henry Frankenstein in Wolf. The films most touching scene is when the monster finds Ygor, apparently dead, trying to wake him up, and when he understands that his only friend is gone, he screams out in sorrow.

The look of the creature is unique in Son. While his physical appearance does not change, he is shown with a fur vest and tall boots. In the previous and following movies in the Universal series depict the monster in a dark suit. Even later movies by different companies tend to follow the trend of a dark suit, making the monster from Son one of the most visually striking versions.

In the next film, Ghost of Frankenstein, Lon Chaney, Jr.'s performance solidifies the monster's reputation as a frowning, robotic brute. Peter Lorre was originally cast as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, but he had to leave the production when he became ill. This is explained in the 1996 Ted Newsom horror film documentary, 100 Years of Horror: The Frankenstein Family.

See also


  1. ^ "Revival of the Undead", New York Times, October 16, 1938, p. 160.

External links

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