Movie Review: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1939 monster movie starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

Synopsis: Henry Frankenstein's son, Wolf, returns with his family to claim his inheritance and is quickly met with hostility from the villagers. When a half-crazed blacksmith, Ygor, reveals the creature still lives, Wolf decides to continue his father's experiments in an effort to redeem his family's now-forsaken name. However, while he is successful, he quickly learns the blacksmith has an ulterior motive for helping him.


Despite having watched all the Frankenstein movies that both preceded this film and followed it, my daughter and I had never actually taken the time to watch this movie. However, she recently (at my insistence) started reading the book "Frankenstein" and, with Halloween just around the corner, I figured it was a good reason to finally do so. We did that tonight and, overall, I thought this movie was pretty decent.

There were a couple things, in particular, I liked about this film. The first was Basil Rathbone's performance as Wolf von Frankenstein. One of my biggest complaints about the later Frankenstein films is the lack of quality when it comes to the various actors that took on the mad scientist role. Rathbone was a nice exception to that and, much like Colin Clive in the movies that preceded this one, did an awesome job of transitioning from a likable character to someone that was obviously going insane from stress and guilt.

The evil blacksmith, Ygor (Lugosi), however, was a big part of the reason why this movie was as entertaining as it was. I loved how he manipulated both Wolf and the villagers with the ultimate goal of using the monster for his own vengeful purposes. Helping this was Lugosi's performance. He did an excellent job of bringing the character to life.

There were a couple things I didn't like about this movie. For one, I wasn't a big fan of Wolf's son, Peter (Donnie Dunagan), mostly because his high-pitched whiny voice was actually kind of irritating whenever he was in the room talking. That, and he didn't have much of a purpose, other than to be threatened by the monster, something that could have easily been accomplished by having the creature attack Wolf's wife (Hutchinson) instead.

I also wasn't crazy about the movie's ending, which had a few too many loose ends, including the way the villagers suddenly treated Wolf like a hero despite his role (no matter how unwitting it was) in the death of some of their prominent citizens. It just seemed like a very weak attempt to give the movie a happy ending and I hate it when that happens in movies like this.

Final Opinion

I wasn't crazy about the ending and it would likely have been a little better without the cute (annoying) kid. But, overall, this was a good film that my daughter and I both enjoyed watching. If you haven't seen it, I recommend taking the time to watch it.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 10/24/2015, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/28/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
The library system here has Son of Frankenstein among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I look forward to checking it out and watching it in broad daylight.

How would Son of Frankenstein fare as a colorized reboot or remake? Would an actor such as Mark Strong be a contender for Basil Rathbone since he starts out on the right foot by somewhat resembling him?

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