Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was the fourth of the Frankenstein films produced by Universal Studios. This film would mark last solo appearance of Frankenstein’s monster and first time Lon Chaney Jr. would play the role. Boris Karloff, who played the monster in the first three films, had decided that the monster would now become the brunt of jokes.

After playing the lead roles in Man-Made Monster (1941) and The Wolfman (1941), Lon Chaney Jr. had become Universals Studios number one horror film star. Universal proclaimed Lon Chaney Jr. as “The Master Character Creator” a title reminiscent of his father Lon Chaney Sr.‘s title  “The Man of a Thousand Faces”. After the release of The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) Lon Chaney Jr. was declared as Universal Studios new “Lon Chaney”. Lon Chaney Jr. had long resisted being compared to his father and was very unhappy with Universal Studios insistence he change his name to Lon Chaney Jr. when in reality his birth name was Creighton Chaney.  The studio execs eventually gave in and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was only the second time Lon Chaney Jr. was billed as simply Lon Chaney, the first being The Wolfman (1941).
Béla Lugosi reprised his role as Ygor, once again stealing the show.  Lionel Atwill who has played Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein (1939 EU) returned this time playing the evil Dr. Theodore Bohmer. Sir Cedric Hardwicke played dual roles as the Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein and Henry Frankenstein's ghost.  Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers made up the supporting cast. The film was directed by Erle C. Kenton, an actor turned director who got his start directing two-reel comedies in the 1910’s.  

The first draft of the script which was written by Eric Taylor was considered too depressing by the studio. In the original script Wolf von Frankenstein returns as well as Ygor, and a hunchback, named Theodor is introduced. Ygor plans to form a mob of social rejects and with the monster’s help wreak havoc. The studio ordered a rewrite and Scott Darling was assigned to the task. While Darling did keep some of the elements from the original script he did make significant changes in the final draft.
Some sources claim that it was The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) that established the lasting image of the monster walking with arms outstretched. It was actually the following film Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943). In The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) it is quite apparent that the monster can see in the scene where he picks up the little girl and carries her to the rooftop to retrieve her ball. Not only can he see the little girl and her ball, he is also able to fend off an attacker. The monster does lose his vision toward the end of the film due to a botched brain transplant this maybe the source of the confusion.  The monster in this film does lose his ability to speak and appears somewhat dull and sluggish, this gave Béla Lugosi , who plays Ygor, an opportunity to show his talent as an actor and as with Son of Frankenstein (1939), Lugosi outshines the rest of the cast.

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was the first production of a Frankenstein "B-movie" , the first three movies, Frankenstein (1931), Brideof Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939) had been “A movie” productions. Despite the low-budget production and poor reviews The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was a box office hit making Lon Chaney Jr. one of Universals Studios brightest stars in this galaxy of monsters.


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