“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Baron Von Wolf Frankenstein is not only the coolest name in the history of the universe (sorry Septimus Pretorius), but it is the name of Henry Frankenstein’s son. Henry was the one who created a certain Monster only to have it terrify a village and kill some people. Henry also made the Monster a mate…that didn’t turn out so well either. Henry’s Monster survived a burning windmill to meet its end in an exploding castle with its bride and the very mad scientist Pretorius.
That’s all ancient history, though, in Son of Frankenstein. Wolf has relocated his wife and son to his ancestral home where he wants to redeem the family name. Frankenstein is all but a curse in the local village, so bitter, in fact, that newly arrived Frankensteins receive a considerably cold welcome. A Frankenstein in town just means trouble in the minds of the locals, it strikes fear in their hearts. They don’t care if Wolf is not his father– Henry caused enough damage and bloodshed to last a few hundred years.
Once they are settled, the only person willing to befriend Wolf is Inspector Krogh. The inspector only has one arm, the other is a prosthetic due to the Frankenstein Monster having ripped it off when Krogh was a child. If a former victim can be friends with the new Frankenstein chap, surely anyone can.
The other “friend” Wolf is able to become acquainted with is Ygor (played by Bela Lugosi). Ygor is a blacksmith who lives in the ruins of Henry Frankenstein’s former castle/laboratory. Ygor is somewhat of a pariah in the town, as he was a graverobber. The graverobbing conviction came with a sentence to be hanged. The hanging was performed adequately and left Ygor with a messed up neck. So Ygor, no love lost between him and the villagers, lives at the outskirts of society.
Ygor, also, tends to the remains of Frankenstein’s Monster. Yep, the creature survived the explosion (his mate did not; neither did Pretorius, thankfully). The Monster resides, somewhat comatose, in the family crypt where Wolf discovers it while visiting the grave of his father. Graffiti marks his father’s sarcophagus: “Heinrich von Frankenstein: Maker of Monsters”.
The vandalism irks Wolf, as does the accusation. To prove his father was no deranged lunatic, he decides to revive the Monster. This news pleases Ygor who may have a revenge plan utilizing the creature in mind already. Surely, Wolf can succeed where his father twice failed? Right?
With such a classic sequel as The Bride of Frankenstein, another sequel of such quality would be a miracle to pull off. Son of Frankenstein ain’t Bride, but it’s no slouch either. It’s a very good film, and a little peppier than Bride. Karloff is back in the make-up and heavy boots (for what would prove to be his last time playing the Monster in motion pictures) and there’s also Lugosi who is the real star of the movie.
Let’s talk about Bela Lugosi for a moment. Whatever he was in, he went all in on the role. It didn’t matter if it was a big budget Hollywood blockbuster, a second program B-movie, or a skid row Ed Wood flick. Lugosi gave it everything he had. He played Dracula (a foundational role), and he played Frankenstein’s Monster a few years after this movie was made. As iconic as Dracula is, Ygor is where his talent truly shines. Lugosi makes Son of Frankenstein a classic.