Blog Directory CineVerse: Sins of the father visited upon the son

Sins of the father visited upon the son

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Many fans and critics regard "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" as the crown jewels in Universal's classic monster cycle that spans approximately 1931 to 1948. But one strong entry in the canon that oven gets overlooked is "Son of Frankenstein" from 1939, which celebrates an 80th anniversary this year. We took this specimen into the CineVerse laboratory last night and documented the following not-so-clinical observations:

What did you find interesting, impressive or even curious about Son of Frankenstein?

  • This outing has a more impressive cast than many of the other classic Universal horror films, including Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lionel Atwell – all known for their work in horror. With the help of this cast, we get a more character-driven story than any of the other monster movies made by Universal.
  • It’s actually the longest film in the Universal horror cycle of the 1930s and 40s, which includes dozens of movies.
  • It rejuvenated the horror genre for Universal, which released its first wave of classic horror pictures between 1931 in 1936, but abandoned them after the studio was sold and diminishing return on profits. This new entry in 1939 marked the second wave of classic Universal horror, which continued through 1948.
  • The art direction and set design are fascinating.
    • Reviewer Nate Yapp wrote: “The stark, oversized sets seem to be an Americanization of the Expressionist tropes of German silent cinema. Shadows pour over everything, imprinting an atmosphere of doom upon the action. The feeling engendered is unnerving because it bears the weight of inevitability.”
  • The characterization of Wolf is thought-provoking as well.
    • Blogger Tim Brayton wrote that Wolf is “a rather deeper and more complex figure than his father; he is not motivated by a God complex, at least not at first, but by the simple wish to live a comfortable life and to make the lives of those around him better. At the same time, he has an understandable desire for people to think of him not as the son of a psychopath, but as the heir to a rich tradition of scientific curiosity. It is worth pointing out that Wolf does not make a monster; he attempts to rehabilitate his father's monster…He is, pure and simple, out to show that world that Heinrich Frankenstein was right.”
  • This is arguably Bela Lugosi’s strongest role and performance, playing a colorful side character who steals a lot of the scenes he is in. Lugosi is unforgettable as Dracula in that earlier movie, but many fans and critics consider his work in this film to be superior.
  • The Frankenstein monster is a more diminished character in this outing, taking a backseat to the battle between Wolf, Ygor, and the police inspector. This was Karloff’s third and last performance as the monster. Here, he is much less sympathetic, relatable, and nuanced. The monster has also mysteriously lost the ability to speak, which he gained in the previous outing, The Bride of Frankenstein.

What themes or major messages can you identify in Son of Frankenstein?

  • The sins of the father visited upon the son
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Consider that this film covers three generations of Frankenstein males – Wolf, Wolf’s deceased father, and Wolf’s son.
  • The inescapability of destiny and fate
  • Scientific overreach and the hubris of man trying to play God
  • Science versus superstition – as exemplified by Wolf and the villagers, respectively
  • A triangle of intrigue – with Wolf (representing science run amok), Ygor (exemplifying irrepressible evil), and the police inspector (characterizing the fragility of man compromised by that science and evil) standing as points on the triangle and the Frankenstein monster between them.

This movie also makes us think of what other films?

  • Young Frankenstein
  • The earlier and later Frankenstein films by Universal
  • The Mummy and The Invisible Man, two other Universal thrillers that share the theme of the dangers of science in man meddling in God’s territory

  © Blogger template Cumulus by 2008

Back to TOP