Son of Frankenstein (1939)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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The most elaborate--and longest--of Universal's Frankenstein series, Son of Frankenstein represents Boris Karloff's last appearance in the role of the Monster. The title character is played by Basil Rathbone, who with wife Josephine Hutchinson and son Donnie Donegan returns to the Old Country to take over his late father's estate. Rathbone receives a cool reception from the local villagers, who remember all too well the havoc wreaked by his father's monstrous creation. Though he assures his neighbors that he has no intention of following in his father's footsteps, Rathbone is hounded by suspicious town constable Lionel Atwill, whose stiff artificial arm is an unfortunate legacy of an earlier confrontation with Karloff. Also hanging around Frankenstein Castle is crazed shepherd Bela Lugosi), whose neck was broken in an unsuccessful hanging attempt. Lugosi wishes to exact revenge on the city fathers who'd tried to execute him, and to that end persuades Rathbone to revive the hideous Karloff. At first resistant, Rathbone becomes as obsessed as his father with the notion of creating artificial life. Now the fun begins, directed with Germanic intensity by Rowland V. Lee. Though Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein has rendered Son of Frankenstein virtually impossible to take seriously, the film remains an excellent marriage of the slick, sanitized production values of the "New Universal" and the Gothic zeitgeist of the earlier Frankenstein epics. Best line: Lugosi, looking over the dormant body of The Monster, explains raspily that "He does...things...for me." Hans J. Salter's intense musical score for Son of Frankenstein would continue to resurface in Universal's Mummy B pictures of the 1940s. Watch for Ward Bond in a bit part as a police officer...and see if you can spot Dwight Frye, whose supporting part was excised from the final release print, among the villagers.
Classics , Horror , Science Fiction & Fantasy
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MCA Universal Home Video

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Basil Rathbone
as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein
Boris Karloff
as The Monster
Lionel Atwill
as Inspector Krogh
Josephine Hutchinson
as Elsa von Frankenstein
Donnie Dunagan
as Peter von Frankenstein
Emma Dunn
as Amelia
Edgar Norton
as Thomas Benson
Perry Ivins
as Fritz
Lawrence Grant
as Burgomaster
Lionel Belmore
as Emil Lang
Michael Mark
as Ewald Neumuller
Caroline Cooke
as Frau Neumuller
Edward Cassidy
as Dr. Berger
Tom Ricketts
as Burgher
Harry Cording
as Bearded Gendarme
Ward Bond
as Gendarme at Gate
Dwight Frye
as Villager
Clarence H. Wilson
as Dr. Berger
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Critic Reviews for Son of Frankenstein

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5)

[Bela Lugosi] pretty much steals the movie in his last really juicy role.

Full Review… | October 20, 2016
Village Voice
Top Critic

Well mounted, nicely directed, and includes cast of capable artists.

Full Review… | September 23, 2007
Top Critic

A strangely literary and leisurely monster movie, laced with amusing gothic doodles.

Full Review… | September 23, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The set, shot in a style reminiscent of the German Expressionist classics, is superb.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Its silliness is deliberate -- a very shrewd silliness, perpetrated by a good director in the best traditions of cinematic horror.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

The third instalment of Universal's classic series features Boris Karloff's last fling as the Monster and is a superior shocker all round.

Full Review… | October 18, 2016
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for Son of Frankenstein


Repeating the sins of the father is an overriding theme in â~Son of Frankensteinâ(TM) and the film doesnâ(TM)t tread lightly around it. Trying to tame and domesticate the inherently feral and wild is a futile enterprise as Wolf Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) unearths in this rousing, unexpectedly character-driven sequel that doesnâ(TM)t bastardize the films that came before it. Karloff is still an inimitable silent actor since he must gesture and flail to convey the monsterâ(TM)s self-hatred. For example, when the monster is awoken, he stares into the mirror and acts predatory until the tragic revelation that he is looking at his own reflection. However, the film is plundered outright by Bela Lugosiâ(TM)s scenery-chewing as Ygor, Frankensteinâ(TM)s deformed assistant. Lugosi is insidiously creepy and manipulative by using Wolfâ(TM)s scientific curiosity to his revenge agenda. The townspeopleâ(TM)s sudden change-of-heart in the third act is a lazy deus ex machine but otherwise this is a judicious, absorbing rebound for the Universal monster.

Cory Taylor
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer

In spite of great casting, without James Whale at the helm the overall result is campy and less artful. Not a horrible film but not in the same league as Whale's Frankenstein or Bride of Frankenstein.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


This movie has a fantastic cast, an interesting story, and a classic monster, but it could have been a better movie. Still, I enjoyed it mostly.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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