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Still fearing the curse of the Frankensteins, the villagers of Frankenstein
form a torch-carrying posse that heads for the baron's castle & blows
it up - despite the hunchbacked Igor's (Bela Lugosi) best efforts to defend it
by throwing rocks onto the mob.
The villagers' efforts however seem to have somewhat the reverse effect when
by that explosion the monster (Lon Chaney jr) is freed of its imprisonment in
dried up sulfur, & he & Igor decide to go to Ludwig (Cedric
Hardwicke), the second son of Frankenstein, who is supposed to heal the
monster, though it's never quite made clear from what.
In the village where Ludwig lives - heading an insane asylum & doing a
little brainsurgery on the side with his trusted but overzealous associate
Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) - the monster promptly causes a commotion when he makes
friends with a little girl (Janet Ann Gallow), but kills pretty much everyone
else in his way - & for that he is apprehended by the authorities. Ludwig
Frankenstein is promptly called in to examine the monster (as this seems to be
his field of expertise) by Erick (Ralph Bellamy), the fiancé of Ludwig's
daughter Elsa (Evelyn Ankers), but by the time he arrives in town, he has
already been blackmailed by Igor to free & heal the monster - even though
the monster proves to be remarkably capable of freeing himself.
Once arriving at Frankenstein's asylum, the monster wastes no time &
kills doctor Kettering (Barton Yarborough), whereafter Igor persuades
Frankenstein into putting a new brain into the monster's head. Ludwig of course
refuses, but the ghost of his father (hence the title - the scene by the way is
extremely ridiculous) persuades him to perform the operation, if only to give
the prematurely deceased doctor Kettering a new lease of life.
When Ludwig however tells Igor, Bohmer & the monster about his plans to
transplant Kettering's brain into the monster, he is met with grave opposition:
Igor wants his own brain in the monster's head (& even finds a way to
persuade doctor Bohmer) while the monster wants the little girl's brain (what
?), whom he promptly abducts.
But while Ludwig & Bohmer perform the operation (with Bohmer secretly
substituting Kettering's brain for Igor's), another mob of torch-carrying
villagers heads for Frankenstein's place, & only Erick can keep them from
immediately burning it down.
However, while with Ludwig another of the Frankensteins sees the error of
his ways when he discovers he has made Igor into a superhuman monster, &
while the villagers decide to tear down the asylum despite Erick's pleas to
wait, Etrick has scarcely enough time to get elsa & the girl out. Igor, at
that time, has already released poisoned gas into the asylum to kill the
intruders, but when learning that his body starts to refuse his brain & he
is all of a sudden blinded, he runs amock & accidently blows up the asylum
... Elsa & Erick walk away into a brighter future.
In the 1930's Universal produced a string of horror movies that, thanks to a
deliberate portion of inventiveness & originality would sometimes transcend
genre confines & in later decades be considered as genuine works of
(pulp-)art. In the 1940's however, these times were long past & Universal
would be strongly relying on its past glory by reviving its monsters again
& again, letting them fight their way through horror-by-the-numbers plots,
brought to the screen in a comparatively uninspired & heavily clichéd way,
usually full of kitsch but devoid of irony.
Ghost of Frankenstein is a fine example for Universal's 1940's
horrors, with a ridiculous story full of plotholes & leaps of logic &
reason, a direction that has little to offer but horror-mainstays, & Lon
Chaney jr - normally a quite capable horror actor - being a poor substitute for
Karloff as the monster. It's an easily forgettable picture, on the other hand
it does provide some laughs & has some entertainment value despite
everything mentioned above. & Lugosi, as the crazed hunchback having to
deliver such lines as "The lightning ... It's good for you !" is just
a hoot to watch. However, in the 1940's the horror pictures of little Monogram
or PRC provided far more
entertainment on that scale.