With Halloween 2015 closing in fast, I thought it only proper that I review a couple of classic Universal Monster films. The black and white film genre produced some awesome masterpieces of light and shadow, and the “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) deserves a very special mention for wonderful cinematography.
The film starring (photos from IMDB)
Was a continuation of the Universal Monsters franchise of horror films. The original story was of course adapted from the works of writer Mary Shelly, who as the story goes penned the work during a dark winter of 1814.
Additional photos from “The Art of The Son of Frankenstein”
THE BACK STORY
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by the English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley about the young science student Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823.
Shelley had travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where, two centuries before, an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topic of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.
Mary Godwin (later Shelley), far more flamboyant than Fanny Imlay, escaped the family through rebellion. Upon returning home from Scotland in 1812 she encountered a young poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, accompanied by his wife, Harriet, visiting her father, William Godwin. Two years later she eloped to Europe with Shelley who had abandoned his estranged wife Harriet. Writing to a friend Hogg he said that his marriage was a calamity, a heartless union and a revolting duty.
“I felt as if a dead and living body had been linked together in loathsome and horrible communion” (Marilyn Gaull. English Romanticism: The Human Context, p. 197).
Harriet later committed suicide. While financially pressured and weather worn Mary, Percy and Claire Clairmont, Mary’s stepsister, romped, read and borrowed their way through Europe. On their second visit to the continent, rest did not come until they arrived at Villa Diodati, the home of Lord Byron on Lake Léman near Geneva.
Ghost Writers’ Contest
The inclimate summer of 1816 left the visitors ensconced in the Villa telling one another Gothic German ghost tales such as Fantasmagoriana: Collection of the Histories of Apparitions, Spectres, Ghosts. The talent in the Villa drawing room superseded the literature being read so Byron suggested that they individually write a supernatural tale. Other than Mary’s classic, the only extant story from this occasion is John Polidori’s reworking of Byron’s tale entitled The Vampyre: A Tale.
The theme of Mary’s book was not forthcoming. She admits that she was in the throes of writer’s block when she had a vision, probably an image from the unconscious. In her final revision of Frankenstein .
I think Shelly’s work is worth mentioning in relation to the Son of Frankenstein because I truly believe that the Director Erle C. Kenton, used sets, shadows and lighting to give the effect of a dreary land plagued with ongoing inclement weather. His use of slanted sets and strange flickering shadows exemplified a dark winter of long shadows.
However the most memorable character in the Son of Frankenstein was Bela Lugosi who played the evil protagonist Ygor. Lugosi’s performance overshadowed that of Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. The role of Ygor showcased Lugosi’s ability to act in character.
Lugosi created a very convincing evil partner of the Monster created by Dr. Frankenstein. One created being with a damaged brain and the other a psychopathic killer and unremorseful body snatcher and murderer, who together seek misguided revenge of their victims.