After our cheerful little trip through the land of German Expressionism, we’re back in familiar territory and ready to move forward. Today’s film is the first in what we’re going to call the second part of Universal Horror’s Classic Era, which as you may recall lasts from about 1930 to 1960. Why are there multiple parts to this era, you may ask? It’s got to do with some behind-the-scenes corporate stuff going on in Universal at the time. I mentioned in our last review that I would give a more detailed explanation of all that, so here’s what you need to know.
Do you remember Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal? He was still around in the mid-1930s, but the work of actually running the studio had passed on to his son, Carl Laemmle Jr., in 1928. Laemmle Jr. can be credited with “modernizing” the studio with talkies, Technicolor and lavish big-budget productions. It was under his leadership that the studio won its first Best Picture Oscar for All Quiet on the Western Front, and we also have him to thank for establishing horror films as the studio’s big niche.
But when it came to movies, Laemmle Jr. had a bit of a spending issue. The onset of the Great Depression made it more and more difficult for Universal films to make their money back, especially on such large budgets, and the studio had to cut costs in other areas as a result. Things came to a head in late 1935 when production started on the studio ambitious film adaptation of the Broadway musical Show Boat. Company stockholders wouldn’t allow filming to begin unless Laemmle Jr. took out a loan for the film, so he ended up borrowing $750,000 from the Standard Capital Corporation. The Laemmle family’s stake in the studio was offered up as collateral.
Things went downhill from there. Show Boat went over its budget, and when Standard Capital came back for its money, Universal couldn’t pay. In April 1936, Standard took control of the studio, and the Laemmles were out. Standard Capital head J. Cheever Cowdin took over as president, while Charles R. Rogers was put in charge of production. Under Rogers, Universal pivoted away from horror films in favor of lighter fare. The musical comedy Three Smart Girls starring teenage singer Deanna Durbin was a huge hit in 1936, and such films became the studio’s new primary output. Around the same time, the U.K. had put a ban on horror films. These two factors combined to ensure that Universal Horror was seemingly put in its grave. No horror films were produced by the studio for two years straight. Once-huge stars like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were out of work.
Of course, we all know the story doesn’t end here. But what changed?
The story goes that in April 1938, almost exactly two years after the Standard Capital takeover, a movie theater in Los Angeles was on its last legs. Desperate for revenue, the theater decided to try and get audiences by screening some older horror films. Some sources say it was a double feature of Dracula and Frankenstein, and other sources say King Kong was thrown into the mix as well. What we do know is that the first two films were screened together, and it resulted in massive financial success for the theater. Movie theaters across the nation soon followed suit and screened horror re-releases of their own. With this new trend, it became clear to Universal that these horror films still had a dedicated and eager audience. Why not capitalize on that by offering the public something new?
Hence, Son of Frankenstein.
…Oh, and we’ve got a new Universal logo now. Gotta love that sweet Art Deco globe action.
The Plot: Many years have passed since the…let’s call them the “wacky misadventures” of Henry Frankenstein and his Creature. Henry is long dead, and his now-adult son Wolf (Basil Rathbone) has brought his family to Castle Frankenstein in order to claim his birthright. The villagers, understandably fed up with everything Henry put them through, resolve to shun the new Frankensteins no matter what. But that’s not the only thing that’s got them on edge: a new series of mysterious murders have rocked the countryside, and the victims all have burst hearts. What did they see that caused them to die in such a way? The head of the local law enforcement, one-armed Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill), is trying in vain to keep the peace between the village and the castle while also tracking down the murderer. Meanwhile, Wolf’s obsession with his father’s legacy is reignited when he discovers Henry’s scientific notes. His curiosity leads him to the ruins of Henry’s laboratory, where he makes another discovery in the form of Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a sinister graverobber who’s been hiding out in the abandoned castle. And it’s Ygor who leads Wolf to the most astonishing discovery of all: the Creature himself (Boris Karloff), rendered comatose after an accident. Wolf decides to use his medical knowledge to revive the Creature and rewrite his family’s legacy. But the Creature will only take orders from Ygor, and Ygor has dastardly plans of his own. With tensions running high and Inspector Krogh closing in, Wolf must choose between his family’s past and its future. And if he doesn’t choose wisely, history may be doomed to repeat itself…
Son of Frankenstein was made only four years after Bride of Frankenstein, the same amount of time between Bride and the original film. But while the first two films had mostly the same people working on them, time and circumstances now required a major cast and crew overhaul for this installment. James Whale, for example, had no interest in directing any more horror movies. Directing duties on Son ended up going to Rowland V. Lee, a prolific filmmaker who had been a director for almost twenty years by this point. Other notable films from Lee include the 1934 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, the 1935 adaptation of The Three Musketeers and The Wolf of Wall Street. No, not the one you’re thinking of. Significantly less DiCaprio in this one.
The script was written by Wyllis Cooper, who’s worth talking about for a bit in his own right. His work was mainly in radio programming, and in 1939, he was most famous for creating the late-night horror anthology Lights Out, which specialized in creepy and often gruesome supernatural fare. It’s not a stretch to call Cooper the Rod Serling of his day, and Serling would later cite Cooper as one of his inspirations. Lights Out has an additional connection to Son in the form of Boris Karloff, who helped the show celebrate its fourth anniversary in 1938 by guest-starring in five episodes.
Speaking of Karloff, he is the only cast member from the first two films who reappears here. And though this won’t be the last time he appears in a Frankenstein film, it will be the last time he plays the Creature. This is disappointing for a few reasons, but I’ll get into the details of that later on.
The decision to shift the focus from Henry to his son likely came about because there wasn’t much story left to tell with Henry’s character, but it may also have been made necessary by Colin Clive’s death in 1937. Our new Dr. Frankenstein, Basil Rathbone, was by now a well-established actor known for playing suave villains like Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood. This was also right before he first played Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. And although he isn’t credited onscreen in Son, we still can’t have a Frankenstein movie without some Jack Pierce makeup.
As you may have gathered from my plot summary, Son of Frankenstein is very much a film about legacy and about facing the past. But that doesn’t just refer to Wolf confronting the troubled history of his father: it also refers to the film itself paying tribute to its predecessors. This is definitely a movie made for fans of the first two Frankenstein films, as well as fans of the Frankenstein story in general. This is most obvious in the behavior of Wolf. When we first see him, he’s talking about Henry and the Creature and how his father was really a genius who could have changed the world with his experiment. He sounds almost like a disgruntled fanboy complaining about how other fans have misinterpreted his favorite characters. There’s even a pretty good joke referencing pop culture’s tendency to refer to the Creature as “Frankenstein.” Just don’t do it around Wolf.
Another way Son pays tribute to the first two films is by showing how the events of those films affected the characters’ world in the long run. Henry’s destroyed laboratory from Bride is still around, a visual reminder of the family’s sordid past. The village below Castle Frankenstein has gone from being bright and lively to dark and unwelcoming as a result of the trauma it endured. We actually spend a lot more time with the villagers in this film, watching as they debate how to deal with the prospect of another Frankenstein bringing about more tragedy. While the previous films were about a peaceful community stricken by horrific circumstances, this film is about existing tensions exploding into open warfare between generations and classes.
The most poignant callback of them all is the sendoff that this movie gives to Henry Frankenstein. If he managed to find any sort of closure or happiness following his ordeals in the other films — and that’s a big “if” — he didn’t get to enjoy it for long. It’s implied that he passed away not long after the events of Bride, possibly before Wolf was even born and definitely before Wolf was old enough to have any memory of his father. And yet he’s still around, not just haunting Wolf but haunting the film itself. A full-length portrait of Henry stands above the fireplace in the castle library, where several key scenes take place. It’s easy to imagine Henry looking down at the actions of his son, as well as Wolf being in the shadow of the notorious father he never knew. And then, of course, there’s the letter that Wolf finds with Henry’s scientific papers, one last message to both his son and the audience:
My son, herein lies my faiths, my beliefs and my unfoldments. A complete diary of my experiments, charts and secret formulas. In short, the sum total of my knowledge, such as it is. Perhaps you will regard my work with ridicule or even with a distaste. If so, destroy these records. But if you like me burn with the irresistible desire to penetrate the unknown, carry on. The path is cruel and torturous, carry on. I put secret after truth, you will be hated, blasphemed and condemned. You have inherited the fortune of the Frankensteins, I trust you will not inherit their fate.
And it’s Wolf’s obsession with not inheriting that fate, with changing the fate his father received, that ultimately starts his downfall.
But have no fear of being bored, for Son of Frankenstein is not only concerned with looking back on the past but with doing some trailblazing of its own! At last, we have him! The man, the myth, the legend…the Igor.
Okay, so his name is spelled with a Y and not an I. And he’s not a hunchback. And he’s not Frankenstein’s servant. And he never says “Yeeees, master.” But it still counts, because…reasons.
It might surprise you to learn that the first official appearance of the Igor archetype doesn’t contribute much to said archetype beyond his name. Most of the traits we associate with the Igor come from the character of Fritz in the original film, namely the hunchback and the creepy, submissive attitude. Ygor in this movie — it’s still pronounced “Eee-gor,” for those wondering — has neither of those things. But he does still have a defining deformity, however: a broken neck, courtesy of the villagers who tried to hang him for graverobbing. Ygor, naturally, is none too happy about this. And he’s definitely not happy about the fact that the men who convicted him and oversaw his botched execution are still alive. If only he had some kind of really strong guy who would obey his every command and commit murders for him. Oh, wait…
Ygor is the kind of fascinating, proactive villain that you love to hate. He’s clever, arrogant and unrepentant in his rottenness. He has power over his enemies, and he relishes in wielding it. I’m not just talking about Wolf, who plays right into Ygor’s master plan by agreeing to help revive the Creature. The elders of the village can’t hold Ygor accountable for his antics because he’s already dead from a legal standpoint, and Ygor knows this just as well as they do. When they try to interrogate him on what he’s up to with Dr. Frankenstein, he just toys with them and makes it clear that he’s not going to tell them anything. And then he sneezes on one of them for good measure.
This is the first time Bela Lugosi has reappeared in our series since Dracula, and many people who have seen this film think his performance here is on par with his most famous role. Ygor probably is Lugosi’s second-most iconic character behind the Count himself. And there’s a good reason for that, because Lugosi throws himself into the role and creates something wildly different from what audiences at the time knew him for. There’s nothing dignified about Ygor the way there is with Dracula. He’s not an apex predator, he’s an overlooked and underestimated scavenger that relies on his wits to survive. No one really likes or respects him, but he doesn’t need them to, so he’s free to wear his heart on his sleeve and tell everyone exactly what he thinks of them. He might be something of a playful trickster, but he’s also full of rage and hatred that’s continually spilling out into the world, causing ever more violence and tragedy. Is Ygor a complex character? Not really, but he’s definitely a fun character to watch.
A more layered character, but one who’s no less interesting to talk about, is that of Inspector Krogh. I think all the stuff with Krogh is one of the strongest aspects of Cooper’s script, because it takes a character who is initially presented as a flat antagonist and develops him into someone a lot more sympathetic and heroic. When we first meet Krogh, he comes off as stern and emotionally distant in contrast to Wolf’s passionate, charming demeanor. He has a reason to act cold toward the new Frankensteins, since he lost his right arm during an encounter with the Creature years earlier. He had military aspirations before the accident, and — as he bitterly remarks to Wolf in their first scene together — he might have been a general by now if he had both his arms.
Now when you’re first watching this movie and get to this scene, it’s easy to assume that Krogh is going to be the Captain Ahab of this story, with the Creature as his Moby Dick. He’s going to become obsessed with revenge once he realizes the Creature is still alive, and he’ll be willing to put himself and others in grave danger just to get a chance at killing it. He’ll meet his end in a misguided attempt to achieve the glory he feels was stolen from him.
But that doesn’t happen. In fact, as the plot gets going, Krogh proves to be the most honorable and levelheaded member of the main cast. He does his best to protect both the villagers and the castle inhabitants, and he takes his job as inspector seriously even though it’s not what he wanted to do with his life. He’s also unfailingly kind to Wolf’s wife and child, a sharp contrast to how Wolf is gradually abandoning them over the course of the film. He uses observation and deduction to figure out the secret behind the village murders, and when his suspicions about the Creature’s return are confirmed, he tries to handle the situation in an organized and rational way. Everyone else in the film lets their fear, anger and/or obsession dictate their actions, but Krogh is different. He’s more subtle, and he thinks before he takes action. In this regard, he makes a fine narrative foil to Wolf.
(As an aside, another thing I love about Krogh is that he’s a pretty well-written example of a disabled protagonist. We really get a feel for how he functions with his prosthetic arm and how he’s incorporated it into his daily life. There’s no indication that his disability has held him back as a person, nor that the people around him respect him less for being disabled. It’s still rare to see this in media nowadays, so to see it as early as 1939 is impressive.)
But it’s Wolf Frankenstein who ends up being the strongest character in the movie overall. It’s fun not only to contrast him with characters like Krogh and Ygor, but with his own father. For you see, Wolf is a very different kind of Frankenstein compared to Henry. And by “very different,” I mean way more of an asshole.
There’s one crucial difference between Henry and Wolf that tells you everything you need to know about the latter, which is how they view themselves. I don’t think Henry ever saw himself as a victim in his story (although you could make the argument that he was, especially in Bride). He recognized that his grand experiment backfired in a horrible way, and he takes responsibility for that by trying to kill the Creature so it can’t hurt anyone else. He knew when he had screwed up.
In Wolf’s mind, however, both he and his father are the true victims of the Frankenstein story. Henry was a victim because outside forces screwed up his experiment and because the world failed to recognize his genius, while Wolf is a victim because he grew up without a father and has to bear the shame associated with the Frankenstein name. Wolf’s decision to revive the Creature is driven by this sense of victimhood and an obsession with what could or should have been. He can rescue Henry’s reputation (and cement his own in the process) by not just saving the Creature but by making it better.
But it isn’t until things go haywire that Wolf shows his true colors. Because when the Creature starts killing, does he recognize that it’s partially his fault? No. In fact, his first instinct is to cover up for the Creature, seemingly choosing the Creature over the safety of the villagers and his own family. He goes so far as to deliberately impede Krogh’s investigation and threaten violence toward the angry villagers. At his lowest point, he becomes a much worse person than Henry ever was. At first you understand his reasons for wanting to protect the Creature (more on that later), but those reasons get flimsier and flimsier as the movie goes on, while he remains as stubborn as ever. His slide from sympathy into villainy is helped along by the performance of Basil Rathbone, who really throws himself into this role. The more things fall apart for Wolf, the more manic and desperate he becomes, and Rathbone plays that transition so well. In terms of this movie’s acting, I would say he’s exceeded only by Lugosi.
My only real problem with Wolf’s storyline is how it gets resolved. You see, I think Wolf gets let off the hook a little too easily. In the final minutes of the film, after Wolf spends the whole movie getting corrupted by his ambitions and distancing himself from his loved ones, it only takes a moment of crisis — the Creature threatening his son — for him to completely snap out of it and do the right thing. It just doesn’t fit with the trajectory his character had been on up to that moment. Personally, I think it would have been a lot more powerful and creepy if he actually had to choose between saving his son and saving the last connection he has to his father, and if he was conflicted about it even when faced with his son’s imminent death. It would show how far he’s fallen as a result of his obsession with the past, especially after he was so devoted to his son early in the film. Then he saves his son and kills the Creature but has to sacrifice himself in the process, paying the price for his actions. In the final film, he just swing-kicks the Creature into a sulfur pit, and then we get a time skip where everything is back to normal. His redemption just doesn’t feel natural, and the ending is disappointing as a result.
But hey, at least it’s not as bad as everything involving the Creature.
Before I get to talking about the Creature and about my big problems with this movie, I want to talk about some other things that Son does well. I really love the set design in this movie, for example. With a budget of $420,000, this was one of the last really expensive horror productions from this period. You can see that budget all over the screen, particularly in how the sets convey a real sense of size and grandeur. Castle Frankenstein is especially interesting this time around, with a hint of Metropolis-style modernism mixed in with the Gothic decay. The film also spends more time exploring the castle, revealing it to be a labyrinth of secret doors and passages. Each iteration of Castle Frankenstein in these movies is a bit different from the last, and this one might be my favorite due to the creativity of its design. Son also has one of the cooler versions of Frankenstein’s lab: it’s intended to be the same one from Bride, partially repaired after its destruction, and the overall design is more stripped down as a result. But the film makes up for that with some pretty sweet lab equipment, looking a little more Art Deco this time around, as well as the giant sulfur pit looming in the background. Do they explain why there’s a sulfur pit? Not very well, but does that even matter when you’ve got an awesome sulfur pit?
Another area where the movie gets really creative is where it has to comply with the Hays Code. The better horror films from this period are the films that successfully the sense of violence and creepiness without showing anything too explicit, and Son of Frankenstein is no exception. This time around, it’s not so much what you see (or think you see) as what you hear. The script has gruesome acts being described by the characters in some pretty vivid, engrossing ways, so that what you’re imagining is far worse than anything the filmmakers could actually put on screen. The standout example of this is definitely Krogh’s horrifying monologue about his childhood encounter with the Creature:
I was but a child at the time. About the age of your own son, Herr Baron. The Monster had escaped and was…ravaging the countryside, killing, maiming, terrorizing. One night he burst into our house. My father took a gun and fired at him but the savage brute sent him crashing to a corner. Then he grabbed me by the arm! One doesn’t easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots.
Those few seconds are enough to make you shudder even though there’s no onscreen violence at all, and it’s all thanks to the script and to Lionel Atwill’s performance.
But that’s not the only moment where the movie comes up with a clever and memorable workaround on what it can show. When people these days talk about the Hays Code, the one thing that gets joked about a lot is the rule that married couples could never be seen sleeping in the same bed. So when you showed a bedroom scene, there had to be separate beds. This movie has a few bedroom scenes, and so the separate beds are there. But then something happens which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other old movie like this: the script actually calls attention to the separate beds.
The context of the scene is that the Frankenstein family has just moved into the castle, and Wolf’s wife Elsa is checking out her new bedroom. Right away she notices that the two beds are facing away from each other with the headboards pressed together, and she asks a servant why this is. The servant responds with an old saying: “When the house is filled with dread, place the beds at head to head.”
That is an insanely clever piece of dialogue right there. It builds on the established world by shedding light on the superstitions and folk practices of the villagers, and it demonstrates how the modern, urban Frankensteins are going to stick out in this place like a sore thumb, particularly Elsa. The filmmakers didn’t have to draw attention to the fact that there are separate beds in the room, but by doing so, they turn an innocuous piece of set design into an opportunity to enhance the atmosphere of the film.
And of course I can’t discuss the positives of this movie without mentioning the special effects. Jack Pierce is doing a stellar job with the makeup yet again, though he isn’t credited on the final film for some reason. Ygor’s broken neck looks suitably creepy, and the Creature’s design is as cool as ever. There’s also some pretty spectacular effects in the laboratory sequences, like the bubbling sulfur and the real lightning from the lab equipment. And as an additional piece of trivia, this movie was at one point intended to be shot in Technicolor, something not attempted in Universal Horror since The Phantom of the Opera. While the final film is in black and white, some color stills and footage from production do exist.
But as good as the positive aspects of Son of Frankenstein are, they’re not what define the movie for me. This is, unfortunately, a movie that ends up being weighed down by its biggest flaw. Throughout the Frankenstein series, the Creature has always been the most well-rounded and fascinating key player. The first two movies would not be the masterpieces that they are without the Creature. But while the Creature’s storyline in this film has great potential, that potential is ultimately squandered in a really frustrating and disappointing way.
Compared to how he behaved in Bride of Frankenstein, or even in the original film, the Creature is noticeably dumbed down here. I assume this is supposed to be because he got a serious head injury and ended up in a coma. But the film never addresses that idea, so the Creature being rendered mute and dim-witted just feels more like the filmmakers backtracking on the character’s development for no good reason. Boris Karloff was critical of the decision to have the Creature speak in Bride, which is probably why he no longer speaks here. But allowing the Creature to speak made sense: it was a natural progression of his developing abilities, and giving him the means to express his thoughts and feelings made his emotional journey a lot more impactful. By taking that away, you’re moving backward instead of forward.
Making the Creature mute wouldn’t be so bad if the character was still written as intelligent and autonomous. But the film doesn’t do that, either. This is my huge issue with the movie, the glaring flaw that keeps it from being as good as the first two Frankenstein films. The Creature is no longer a character, not really. He is a plot device, he is a weapon wielded by the villain for the sole purpose of doing harm. Throughout the film, he exhibits almost no free will of his own, instead being wholly subservient to the whims of Ygor. There are no glimpses of curiosity, compassion or humanity in Karloff’s performance here. For the first time ever, the Creature really is just a monster.
What makes this whole plotline extra frustrating is that it could have been fixed. There are plot and character elements within the film itself that had potential to become another great story for the Creature. There’s the connection between him and Wolf, for example. The title Son of Frankenstein is referring to Wolf, but it could just as easily refer to the Creature as well. They are both Henry’s sons, which could be one reason why Wolf is so desperate to help and protect the Creature: he sees the Creature as family, the last living relative connecting him to a past that he never got to experience. But outside of one line from Wolf where he notes that the Creature is technically his brother, this connection between them is never explored. They barely interact, and there’s zero indication that the Creature acknowledges Wolf as the son of the man who created him.
The film also could have dived more into the Creature’s relationship with Ygor. As weird as it sometimes is, I don’t think the Creature’s dependence on Ygor comes completely out of nowhere. When you analyze what he’s doing, you realize that Ygor is essentially a twisted variation of the old hermit in Bride, or even a successor to Dr. Pretorius. He takes the Creature in and promises him a home and a family, but he’s just using the Creature to further his own plans. The Creature, of course, never realizes this. In fact, the scene where he finds Ygor’s dead body after Wolf kills Ygor is one of the few moments where he demonstrates some real emotion: he lets out a gut-wrenching howl of despair, and then he storms off to make sure that Wolf pays for what he’s done.
The climax of the film revolves around the Creature kidnapping Wolf’s son Peter and taking him back to the laboratory, where he intends to throw him into the sulfur pit as revenge for Ygor’s death. Even this could have been used as a moment of reflection and character-building, however. You can compare and contrast the Creature’s interactions with Peter to his interactions with Maria, the little girl that he drowned back in the original film. It’s somber to see how far he’s fallen, from being horrified over killing a child by accident to kidnapping another child with the plan of killing him. But like the rest of the potentially strong elements of the Creature’s story, it never gets explored the way it deserves to be explored. You could have had a moment where the Creature realizes what he’s doing, a moment where he hesitates or even decides not to carry out his plan. But we don’t get anything like that. In the end, all we get is the Creature as an enemy that needs to be defeated.
I mentioned back toward the beginning of this article that this would be the last time Boris Karloff played the Creature, and that I was disappointed by that fact. Hopefully you understand why now. It’s not disappointment that he stepped away from the role, it’s disappointment that this is how the story of Karloff’s Creature ends. There will be plenty more Frankenstein movies, but in a way, this is the end of an era for the series. Karloff’s great performance and the brilliant, tragic characterization of the Creature are what defined those first two movies. His version of the Creature isn’t just the most iconic and beloved member of the Canonical Six, he’s arguably one of horror cinema’s greatest accomplishments.
And this is how he dies. Not with any flicker of human emotion, not with any reflection on the tragedy of his situation. He just burns alive in a sulfur pit.
Like the rest of his sad tale, it makes you wonder what could have been.
Son of Frankenstein is the weakest of what we could call the Karloff Trilogy, which also includes Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The intelligence and pathos of the Creature are discarded in favor of making him a one-dimensional villain, which is unfortunate since this is the swan song for Boris Karloff’s version of the character. Compared to how great his story was in the earlier films, especially Bride, it’s clear that the filmmakers didn’t really know what else they could do with the Creature and didn’t use him as well as they could have.
But despite this major flaw, I don’t think Son of Frankenstein is bad. It’s not a masterpiece on the level of the James Whale films, but for the most part, it’s a passionate and intelligent tribute to those films with a lot to add to the Frankenstein mythos. The new characters are wonderfully written and acted. Basil Rathbone as Wolf is a disturbing portrait of a man sliding into monstrosity, while Bela Lugosi chews the scenery as Ygor. The film is visually impressive, crackling with wit and artfully made. Above all, it’s a dark and poignant tale about how sometimes, we need to let go of our tragic past so we can have a happy future.
But I don’t think that quite summarizes the importance and validity of Son‘s place in the Universal Horror canon. I think that in order to make you understand, all I really have to say is this: out of the three original Frankenstein movies made by Universal in the 1930s, this movie is the one that Young Frankenstein was most blatantly spoofing.
(Oh, we will get there. That glorious day will come.)
I can’t find an exact number for what Son of Frankenstein made at the box office, but by all accounts, it was a great success for Universal. Not the biggest release of 1939, of course. Yeah, I think some other stuff came out around that stuff. Something about ruby slippers and Atlanta getting burned down. Whatever.
But that’s not the point! The point is that Universal saw that there was still a thriving audience for horror films, so why not keep making them? And why not revisit another one of their established horror characters?