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The third film in the Universal "Frankenstein" series and the last feature film appearance by Boris Karloff as the monster, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN boasts some stunning set design by Russell Gausman, a good script, and a magnificent cast. Set 25 years after the end of BRIDE OF
FRANKENSTEIN, the film begins as the late Baron von Frankenstein's son, Wolf (Basil Rathbone), returns to his homeland and receives a weak welcome from the burgomaster, who presents him with a box containing his father's papers. Once safe in his castle, Wolf is visited by Inspector Krogh (Lionel
Atwill), who warns him that he is not welcomed by the villagers, who fear that he will continue his father's experiments. Wolf laughs off their suspicions, but the next day, while wandering the ruins of his father's laboratory, he meets Ygor (Bela Lugosi). The deceased Baron's assistant now hides
among the ruins, guarding his "friend"--the comatose Frankenstein monster (Karloff) laid out on a slab, immobile, but very much alive. Wolf becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing the monster back to full power, then vindicating his father by teaching the creature to behave. SON OF FRANKENSTEIN
is a rousing, memorable addition to the series, and features a collection of superb portrayals from Lugosi (who delivers the performance of his career and nearly steals the film), Rathbone (in a part originally planned for Peter Lorre), and Lionel Atwill (who milks his false arm for all it's
worth), though Karloff is a bit of a disappointment--his beloved monster turned into little more than a mute robot. Dwight Frye, who had been Frankenstein's assistant in the first two films, unfortunately had his entire role as one of the villagers cut out. While the offbeat vision and humor of
James Whale (the director of the first two FRANKENSTEIN films) are missing, Rowland Lee manages to create a memorable world all his own. The series would go downhill from here and end with a rousing parody of the whole genre in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN.