REVIEW : The Ghost of Frankstein
“He wants the brain of that child!”
Dr. Shatterhand reviews THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN.
The Ghost of Frankenstein isn't half bad, thanks to its quirky storyline. A direct sequel to The Son of Frankenstein, there is some time dedicated to a logical revival of the Monster from his sulphur pit tomb. For the first time however, it's clear that the story is a convenient assembly of available elements. Ralph Bellamy's ineffectual attorney arrives to supposedly save the day but serves mostly as a dupe to stall off the angry mob that from frame one is ready to burn down Frankenstein's hospital. Living in this patient-free science fiction establishment is the beautiful Evelyn Ankers. By the midpoint of the picture she's a witting accomplice to most of what's going on, but the script and direction forget to give her any reactions. She's there to be seen in designer dresses that clash with the ?-period design. There are automobiles, for instance, but Bellamy rides a horse.
The production notes boast that low-billed Lon Chaney (the Jr. is dropped from the posters) played all the main Uni monsters in a the period of a few months, perhaps the worst thing that happened to the series. His Dracula is a puffy dullard, his Frankenstein an inexpressive hulk, and even Forrest Ackerman copped to the truth that in many shots in the Mummy movies, it was really Eddie Parker shuffling off to Cairo.
However, the silliest part of this Frankenstein monster mash turns out to be the most fun. Hardwicke, Atwill and Lugosi go round-robin proposing what brain to transplant into which body, until everyone is confused. Lugosi's Ygor is a rather cleaned-up version of the original (and in pretty good shape considering Rathbone shot him full of holes three years before) but here negotiates like a champion, somehow convincing the conniving Atwill (magically reincarnated from the one-armed inspector Krogh of Son) to let his brain be the one to end up in the Monster's cranium, musical chairs-style. But medical science isn't up to the task, and blood types are an overlooked factor in the procedure. Also overlooked (by everyone but Ygor?) is the obvious idea that consciousness and identity probably reside in the brain ... if someone 'gives' you a new brain, it's the new brain that benefits, while yours goes out with the table scraps.
(spoiler) Although it wraps up with the same conflagration ending that became the easy out for everyone from Universal to Corman to Hammer, The Ghost of Frankenstein has one of the best kicker endings, one that actually delivers something to go with all its brain-swapping nonsense. When the Monster recovers from surgery, he speaks with Ygor's voice, an idea that makes no practical sense but works very well dramatically. Anything resembling a reasonable role for Lugosi became very rare from here on out, so it's nice to see (or even hear) him flexing his acting muscles and doing something unusual. This fun conclusion effectively redeems the rest of the newer, pre-fab elements in the production.