The Ghost of Frankenstein

The Ghost of Frankenstein is a 1942 American horror film, and the fourth in a series of films produced by Universal Studios based upon characters in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. The film features Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, taking over from Boris Karloff, who played the role in the first three films of the series, and Bela Lugosi in his second and final appearance as the demented Ygor. The supporting cast features Lionel Atwill, Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Bellamy and Evelyn Ankers.

The Ghost of Frankenstein
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErle C. Kenton
Produced byGeorge Waggner
Screenplay byW. Scott Darling
Story byEric Taylor
Music byHans J. Salter
CinematographyWoody Bredell
Milton R. Krasner
Edited byTed J. Kent
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 13, 1942 (1942-03-13)
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited States


The residents of the village of Frankenstein feel they are under a curse and blame all their troubles on Frankenstein's monster. The Mayor allows them to destroy Frankenstein's castle. Ygor finds the monster released from his sulfuric tomb by the explosions. The exposure to the sulfur weakened yet preserved the monster. Ygor and the monster flee the castle, and the monster is struck by a bolt of lightning. Ygor decides to find Ludwig, the second son of Henry Frankenstein, to help the monster regain his strength.

Ludwig Frankenstein is a doctor who, along with his assistants Dr. Kettering and Dr. Theodore Bohmer, has a successful practice in Visaria. Bohmer was formerly Ludwig's teacher but is now his envious assistant. Ygor and the monster arrive in Vasaria, where the monster befriends a young girl, Cloestine Hussman. The monster carries her onto a roof to retrieve her ball, killing two villagers who attempt to intervene. After Cloestine asks the monster to bring her back down, the monster returns the girl to her father Herr Hussman and is immediately captured by police.

The town prosecutor, Erik Ernst, comes to Ludwig and asks him to examine the giant they have captured. Ygor then visits Ludwig and informs him that the giant is the monster. Ygor implores Ludwig to heal the monster's body and brain. Ludwig refuses, but Ygor threatens to reveal Ludwig's ancestry to the villagers.

At the police station, the monster is restrained with chains as a hearing is conducted to investigate the murder of the villagers. When Ludwig denies recognizing the monster, it breaks free in a fit of rage, and is led away by Ygor. Elsa, Ludwig's daughter, finds the Frankenstein journals and learns the story of the monster. She sees Ygor and the monster in the window, and after breaking into Ludwig's laboratory, the monster kills Dr. Kettering. The monster grabs Elsa, but Ludwig is able to subdue him with knockout gas.

Ludwig is examining the monster when it awakens and tries to kill him. Ludwig tranquilizes the monster and then tries to enlist Bohmer's aid in dissecting him. Bohmer refuses, claiming it would be murder. While studying his family's journals, Ludwig is visited by the ghost of his father Henry Frankenstein. The spirit implores him to supply the monster with a good brain. Ludwig calls in Bohmer and Ygor and tells them that he plans to put Dr. Kettering's brain into the monster's skull. Ygor protests and asks Ludwig to use his brain, but Ludwig refuses because of Ygor's sinister nature. Elsa begs Ludwig to stop his experiments, but he chooses to operate on the monster as soon as possible. Ygor tells Bohmer that he should not be subordinate to Ludwig. Ygor promises to help the disgraced doctor if he agrees to put Ygor's brain into the monster.

The police soon arrive at Ludwig's house, searching for the monster. They find the secret room, but Ygor and the monster have fled. The monster abducts Cloestine from her home and returns with her in his arms to Ludwig's chateau. The monster conveys his desire for her brain to be placed in his head. Cloestine does not want to lose her brain, and the monster reluctantly gives her to Elsa. Ludwig then performs the surgery, not knowing that Bohmer has replaced Kettering's brain with Ygor's. In the village, Herr Hussman rouses his neighbors by telling them his daughter has been captured by the monster and that Ludwig is harboring it. Ludwig shows the monster to Erik, but when the monster rises, Ludwig is shocked to hear that it has Ygor's voice.

The villagers storm the chateau and the Ygor-Monster decides to have Bohmer fill the house with gas to kill them. Ludwig tries to stop him, but the Ygor-Monster repels the attack and mortally wounds Ludwig. The Ygor-Monster suddenly goes blind. The wounded Ludwig explains that the blindness is a result of the incompatibility between the blood types of Ygor and the monster. Feeling betrayed, the Ygor-Monster then throws Bohmer onto the apparatus, electrocuting him, and inadvertently sets fire to the chateau. The Ygor-Monster becomes trapped in the burning chateau while Erik and Elsa escape, walking out into the sunrise.



Ghost of Frankenstein marked the final appearance of the Monster in a solo capacity in the Universal Monsters series. Beginning with the next film, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (in which Lugosi plays the Monster with Chaney switching to his Wolf Man character), and continuing for the rest of the Universal cycle, Frankenstein's Monster would be part of an ensemble cast of creatures.

The blinding of the Monster resulted in a lasting stereotype of the creature walking with arms outstretched, even though this is the only film in which it is explicitly indicated that he is blind, such references being cut by the studio from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, sabotaging Lugosi's performance in the process, since the audience is left to wonder why the Monster is behaving so peculiarly. The Monster's ability to speak would also be dropped after this film (Lugosi's dialogue was filmed but ultimately deleted from Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) until Glenn Strange, playing the Monster, spoke briefly in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein has Chaney make an uncredited second appearance as the Monster during the laboratory escape sequence, replacing a broken-footed Glenn Strange in the Monster role.

Despite having been apparently killed at the end of Son of Frankenstein, Ygor was revealed to have been only "maimed by the bullets shot into him by Wolf Frankenstein". There was no mention of a second son of the original Frankenstein in Son of Frankenstein. Ludwig states that he has lived in this area his entire life, but it is not explained why only Wolf was raised in England.

The Ghost of Frankenstein also marked the changeover of the Frankenstein (and Universal Monsters) series from "A-movie" to "B-movie" status, with noticeably reduced budgets and the reuse of actors from previous films. As noted below, footage from this film would be recycled in even a later Frankenstein feature.

The title of the film refers to the fact that Henry Frankenstein, creator of The Monster in the first Universal Frankenstein film, appears (played by Hardwicke) as a ghostly apparition to advise Ludwig.

The footage of the Monster scrambling to escape the fire was later reused at the end of House of Dracula, even though Glenn Strange plays the Monster in that film.


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  1. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
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