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Universal films without Boris Karloff:

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)



The Ghost of Frankenstein continues precisely where Son of Frankenstein ended. Because crops are failing and the people are starving, the villagers blame it on the cursed castle of Frankenstein and demand it be destroyed. The Burgermaster agrees and a mob equipped with torches and dynamite sets out to destroy the castle. Ygor, who has miraculously survived the shooting in Son of Frankenstein, throws bricks from the tower at the villagers, but can't stop them from blowing up the castle. The explosion frees the Monster from the sulphur pit and it is revealed that he is still alive. Ygor and the Monster flee to a remote town where Wolf Frankenstein's brother Ludwig runs a clinic for people with serious mental disorders. Ludwig Frankenstein then is blackmailed by Ygor, who threatens to reveal his identity to the villagers if he refuses to cure the Monster.
On arrival in town, the Monster helps a little girl to get her lost toy ball back. The townspeople, however, attack the Monster and imprison him. Ygor manages to free him and they both escape to Frankenstein's castle, where the Monster kills one of Frankenstein's assistants, Dr. Kettering. Luckily, Frankenstein captures the Monster and Ygor and plans to destroy the fiend by dissecting him.

The Monster's new face: Lon Chaney, Jr.

A new family member: Ludwig Frankenstein (Sir Cedrick Hardwicke)
The next night his father's ghost appears to Ludwig Frankenstein and urges him not to destroy his life's work but instead restore the reputation of the family by curing the Monster. So Ludwig changes his mind and decides to remove the Monster's brain to replace it with that of a "good man", the brain of Dr. Kettering.
Unfortunately Ygor has a different plan. He volunteers to give the Monster his own brain in order to live on forever in the fiend's indestructible body. He manages to convince Frankenstein's assistant Dr. Bohmer, who is tired of being overshadowed by Ludwig Frankenstein, to secretly use his brain for surgery instead of Dr. Kettering's brain. 
Meanwhile the Monster abducts the little girl from her parents' house and takes her to Frankenstein's clinic because he would prefer to get the girl's brain instead of Kettering's.
Frankenstein is able to talk the Monster out of this plan and finally begins surgery. Following his secret plan, Dr. Bohmer gives Ygor's brain to Frankenstein, who unknowingly transplants the wrong brain into the Monster – with fatal consequences. When the Monster awakes, he speaks with evil Ygor's voice and threatens Frankenstein. Unfortunately Ygor's and the Monster's blood are not compatible and as a result the Monster goes blind. Right after the surgery, a mob of enraged villagers storm the castle and burn it. Frankenstein, Bohmer and the Monster die in the blaze.

Released on 13 March 1942 and directed by Erle C. Kenton, The Ghost of Frankenstein, was the first film in the series without Boris Karloff as the Monster. Instead, Lon Chaney, Jr., at the time famous for being the Wolf Man, took over the role. The rest of the cast consisted of the usual lot of Universal Studios' contract players. Bela Lugosi returned as Ygor, Lionel Atwill played Dr. Bohmer, and even Dwight Frye had a minor role as a villager.


All the new elements to the Frankenstein mythology established in Son of Frankenstein are continued in the series' fourth installment. Except for the episode with the little girl (reminiscent of the series' first film), the Monster is a mute, mindless killer, who shows no signs of emotions. Ygor is a truly evil character, who once again acts as a Faustian Mephistopheles, when he promises Dr. Bohmer fame and fortune if he transplants his brain into the Monster. His only motivation, however, is to become immortal and to seek revenge on society, from which he was cast out years ago.

Often criticised for being exploitative and not offering anything new, Ghost of Frankenstein is surely a minor entrance in Universal's Frankenstein series. The screenplay is often illogical and full of plot holes and relies mainly on plot devices that were established in the previous movies.

Ygor (Bela Lugosi) seems to be a funny man...

Compared to Karloff, Chaney's Monster is not very convincing either. He is not tall enough and plays the creature without any sense for pathos.
On the other hand Ghost of Frankenstein should be praised for its wonderful sets, great actors (especially Bela Lugosi's Ygor) and Hans Salter's terrific musical score, that adds a lot to the film's atmosphere.

At that time Frankenstein had become an extremely profitable merchandise for Universal Studios, which continued to cash in on the name Frankenstein with 4 more sequels.


Cast & Crew:  
Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein Cedric Hardwicke
Dr. Bohmer Lionel Atwill
The Monster Lon Chaney jr
Ygor Bela Lugosi
Elsa Frankenstein Evelyn Ankers
Make-up Jack Pierce
Writing credits Scott Darling, Eric Taylor
Music Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Elwood Bredell, Milton Krasner
Producer George Waggner
Director  Erle C. Kenton



Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)


Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man begins in Wales, where two grave-robbers break into the crypt of the Wolf Man Larry Talbot to rob his grave. When they open Larry's coffin, the light of the full moon suddenly revives him and transforms him into a werewolf once again. After killing one of the robbers and roaming the streets of the town, he is found unconscious in human form. He is brought to a Cardiff hospital, from where he soon escapes, driven by the wish to die. He then seeks out Maleva, the old Gypsy woman, whose werewolf son once bit Talbot and condemned him to a life as a monster, to find help.
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, jr.)

The Monster (Bela Lugosi)
Maleva tells him to find the one man who knows the secrets of life and death – Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein. They embark on a journey to Vasaria where they learn that Ludwig Frankenstein is dead and that his clinic has been destroyed. As Talbot searches the ruins for Dr. Frankenstein's diary, he stumbles upon the Monster, frozen in ice. He breaks him out of the ice in the hope that the Monster might lead him to Frankenstein's records. Unfortunately, they are not able to recover the books. It appears, however, that one descendant of Frankenstein is still alive: Ludwig's daughter Elsa Frankenstein. 

Talbot tries to talk her into handing him her father's books, but she refuses. Only when Dr. Frank Mannering, the physician who treated Talbot in England, comes to Vasaria, she admits to lead them to the book's hiding place. Mannering soon finds out the only way to kill both the Wolf Man and the Monster: by using the old laboratory equipment he wants to draw away the life energies of both the Monster and the suicidal Talbot. But during the experiment Mannering suddenly changes his mind because he wants to see the Monster at its full power. As the Monster grows stronger, a full moon rises over the horizon and Talbot transforms into a werewolf. A battle for life and death between Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man begins, which is finally resolved by an angry villager, who blows up a dam, drowning both monsters.
Frank Mannering (Patrick Knowles)

Larry Talbot needs more than a good barber...

          Directed by Roy William Neill and released in 1943, this was the was the first team-up of Universal's two most popular horror icons. Since Lon Chaney had returned to his role as the Wolf Man, someone else had to be found to play the Monster. This time it was Bela Lugosi's turn to take on the role that he had turned down years ago. The choice was rather obvious, because since Ghost of Frankenstein the Monster actually possessed Ygor's brain – and Ygor was played by Lugosi. As a consequence the Monster now had both Ygor's mind and body. But judging by his uninspired, wooden performance Lugosi still seemed to dislike the role.

          Sadly, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man confronts the viewer with a number of inconsistencies. At the end of The Ghost of Frankenstein, the Monster had regained his ability to speak (with Ygor's voice), yet was blind and finally burned to death by the villagers. When Talbot discovers the Monster, the creature is no longer blind, but unable to speak. Moreover, no burn scars from the final explosion in The Ghost of Frankenstein are visible on the monster's body. Even Elsa Frankenstein, this time played by Ilona Massey, is a different person. In Ghost of Frankenstein she spoke proper English, whereas now she seems to have donned a strange European accent.

Elsa Frankenstein (Ilona Massey)
...or a waitress at the Munich Oktoberfest?

Yet, what might strike Frankenstein fans most is the fact, that this is much more Talbot's story than that of the Monster. Apart from scaring a couple of villagers and fighting the Wolf man, the Monster is mostly off screen, with the story concentrating on the fate of poor Talbot, the doomed man who cannot die.

          It should also be noted that in this movie's title the name "Frankenstein" for the first time clearly refers to the Monster. This time there is no more mad scientist by the name of Frankenstein, but someone from outside the family trying to continue the groundbreaking work. The only Frankenstein descendant left is Lisa, whose role is of such minor importance, that it is highly unlikely the title refers to her. This film is named after its monsters, after those characters the movie audience wanted to see and to be scared of.



Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
movie poster

Cast & Crew:  
Dr. Frank Mannering Patrick Knowles
Baroness Elsa Frankenstein Ilona Massey
The Wolf Man Lon Chaney jr
The Monster Bela Lugosi
Maleva Maria Ouspenskaya
Make-up Jack Pierce
Writing credits Curt Siodmak
Music Frank Skinner
Cinematography George Robinson
Producer George Waggner
Director  Roy William Neill


            At that point the screenwriters at Universal Films had obviously run out of ideas, yet continued their successful strategy of teaming up their horror icons from different film series. The next entry in the Universal horror series was House of Frankenstein (1944, directed by Erle C. Kenton; based on a story by Curt Siodmak). Here, the mad scientist Nieman (played by Boris Karloff), a former assistant to Frankenstein, resurrects Count Dracula (John Carradine), runs into the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney), and is finally killed by the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange).

A change of roles: Boris Karloff as scientist Nieman with the Monster (Glenn Strange)

Movie Poster for House of Frankenstein

            The Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man meet again in House of Dracula (1945, directed by Erle C. Kenton). The series finally came to an end with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948, directed by Charles Barton), featuring the whole lot of Universal's monsters and the popular comedy duo Lou Abbott and Bud Costello. The Monster was once again played by Glenn Strange. 
It took almost 60 years until Universal returned to their successful franchise with big-budget blockbuster movie Van Helsing.

Abbott and Costello discover the Monster (Glenn Strange)

Movie Poster for House of Dracula

It might be interesting to note that recently the team-up formula has once again been tried by a number of Hollywood studios to revive some of their most successful horror franchises from the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003 genre fans were treated to the long-awaited Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th team-up Freddy vs. Jason and in 2004 20th Century Fox released their own team-up with Alien vs. Predator.


© 2004 Andreas Rohrmoser

Son of Frankenstein  The return of Universal's Monsters