What do you do when a particular family has rained havoc and death down upon your town? As a responsible(?) village collective, you try your best to eradicate every trace of them from the map. Feeling the Frankensteins have given their town nothing but the sorriest of legacies and have been nothing short of a blight, the villagers pack the old Frankenstein castle with explosives and wipe that bad boy off the map– KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM!
Unbeknownst to the villagers, the Monster survived and is eventually found by Ygor (Bela Lugosi, once again) amid the rubble. Ygor, who is no fool, knows that when the whole town is out to get you, you get the hell out of Dodge. With the creature dazed and confused, and given a pep of energy thanks to a fortunate lightning bolt, Ygor sneaks the Monster into the town of Visaria.
In Visaria, Ygor seeks to find Henry Frankenstein’s other son, Ludwig (who does not have as cool a name as Wolf). Ludwig is a successful, and respected, doctor. The only one who doesn’t fully appreciate him is one of his assistants, Dr. Bohmer. Bohmer was one of Ludwig’s teachers, but since his pupil has surpassed him, he has some ill will towards Ludwig. Expect that sore spot to, eventually, be exploited by one conniving Ygor.
Speaking of Ygor, he and the creature try to keep a low profile, but that soon backfires. The Monster has a soft spot for kids (even the ones he accidentally kills) and when it meets a little girl who’s lost her ball on a roof, the big reanimated dead guy(s) can’t keep from helping. This seems like an “aww” moment, but the Monster kills a couple of people in the process (not the little girl, though). Gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.
After safely fetching the ball, the Monster is taken into police custody. Ludwig is summoned to examine the Monster and is soon approached by Ygor to patch and repair his father’s creation. Ludwig, adamantly, refuses. Ygor’s counter-proposal is that either Ludwig does as requested or Ygor will let the entire town know the ancestry of their favorite doctor.
Lon Chaney, Jr., takes on the neck bolts in The Ghost of Frankenstein, after they were vacated by the great Boris Karloff. He does an admirable job, but Karloff’s absence is felt and his presence is missed. There’s nothing very wrong with Chaney as the Monster, he just feels different. This would not be the last time Chaney took over a role once occupied by Karloff; after Tom Tyler donned the wrappings for 1940’s The Mummy’s Hand, Chaney took over for the next three installments, making Lon Chaney, Jr., a monster actor extraordinaire– he played the Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy.
The Ghost of Frankenstein isn’t a bad movie, but this is about where Universal assumed the “no idea is a bad idea” mentality which steered them to the monster rally films. Minor gripes aside, the movie is fun and everybody does an adequate job. As with Son of Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi steals the show.