In what is perhaps the greatest line of ballyhoo ever penned, the trailer for Erle C. Kenton’s The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) assures us, “Here is drama completely strange!” Unfortunately, there’s not much all that strange about it—unless you’ve never seen a Frankenstein movie. This is the movie where the once-great series drops into the realm of the B picture, but it’s a solid little B movie and the last of the Universal Frankensteins that can be taken reasonably seriously. It picks up where Son of Frankenstein (1939) leaves off—but with some not subtle rewritings. Ygor (Bela Lugosi) has somehow recovered from being pumped full of lead in the previous film. The boiling sulfur pit the Monster fell into has inexplicably hardened over. The happy villagers at the end of the preceding film have gotten all grumpy and torch-happy as villagers in these movies are wont to do and decide that dynamiting the castle—which has inexplicably changed dramatically from the Expressionist oddity of Son—will set things to rights. Well, what it really does is free the Monster from the dried sulfur (where he somehow got a different jacket and turned into Lon Chaney) so that he and Ygor can wander off to Vasaria and get Frankenstein’s heretofore unmentioned other son, Ludwig (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), fix up the rundown Monster. Naturally, things don’t go quite as planned and mayhem, murder, duplicity and brain-swapping follow. But it’s agreeable enough, thanks to solid production values, Lugosi’s amusingly wicked Ygor, Chaney’s interesting take on the Monster, and the terrific Hans J. Salter music. Just don’t expect the brilliance of the two James Whale films or the scope of Son of Frankenstein.
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