So, Dracula, who now limps and has a beard, wakes up the Wolf Man, who is now the Creature, and the creature takes Burrito Girl…
No, no, that’s not what happened.
But, I did find out what happened to Burrito Girl. For those unfamiliar with The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) (that’s Frahnkensteen!), Burrito Girl is our (The Mighty Tates Creek Classic Horror Film Club) name for the little girl that the Creature (often mistakenly called Frankenstein, not-so-affectionately called the Monster – he’s more a victim than a monster in the movies) befriends. Burrito Girl is, in fact, Cloestine Hussman in the film, played by Janet Ann Gallow, a child actor from the era, with most of her roles uncredited, in titles such as Butch Minds the Baby (1942) and That Night with You (1945). Her mom was one of those stage mothers, and after she died, Janet didn’t continue with the acting. She did, however, remain lifelong friends with the Big Guy, Lon Chaney Jr. (the Creature), and his wife. Last I checked, Ms. Gallow is still with us. We will always fondly remember her as Burrito Girl.
Okay, on with the show. This is one fast-moving fun film. It’s short, clocking in at just under 68 minutes, but a lot is packed in. There’s mayhem and madness, there’s Bela Lugosi as Ygor (don’t know why there’s a ‘Y’ on Ygor – wouldn’t you say ‘Wie-gor’ then?), there’re Angry Villagers with dynamite and torches, castles and chateaus (fancy word for a Big House), the Creature, of course, a jazzed-up laboratory, what they’re calling a dungeon (pretty cool man-cave, actually), there’s blackmail and betrayal, dead doctors, mad doctors, and brain swapping, and even a Goose Girl. No, seriously, one of the characters is listed in IMDb as Goose Girl. Check it out.
So, I reckon you can tell this was one heckuva fun movie. Our loudly/rowdy Scoobies exuberantly enjoyed every single moment of our voyage last night, bordering on a Rocky Horror Event, especially for one of our beloved group members who had apparently seen it several times. This was, for many of us, the first time we’d seen Ghost of, and it was a treat to see our favorite characters again.
Ghost of came crawled onto our screens eleven years after the first Universal Frankenstein film (1931), and they were still playing straight horror, no comedy yet. That won’t happen ‘til 1943 with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, where it’s horror, but with comic relief. And, you can tell from the title that we’re heading towards comedy country. Once you start down the road of ‘So and so Meets Someone Else’, we’re checking out of the ‘pure horror express’. Think Abbott and Costello Meet… At any rate, though this was straight horror, the settings, scenes, characters, etc., were so familiar, we often filled in dialogue ourselves, or made dialogue up.
We get rockin’ with a little backstory on what happened in the previous films (Frank, Bride of, and Son of), then the Angry Villagers (no torches yet, just dynamite) storm the old Castle Frankenstein, and Bela as Ygor (who really steals the show) does his Hunchback interpretation, dropping stones on the Angry Villagers. The Castle Frahnkensteen eventually goes boom, Ygor survives, and his old buddy, the Creature, is unearthed, still alive, but a little weak, until a stray bolt of lightning gets him recharged.
One note about the creature. I really missed Mr. Karloff in his role as the Creature. Partly due to the odd make-up job on face Mr. Chaney’s face (his eyelids were so heavily coated it looked as though he was squinting or had his eyes shut most of the time), and partly due to Mr. Chaney’s, uh, mostly expressionless performance, the creature came off as a blank slate. When Mr. Karloff wore the Creature’s boots, he was able to express a wide range of emotion with his facial expressions and body language. Okay, ‘nuff said about that.
Back to the story. Ygor’s got his ol’ buddy back, but he wants him back to full power. And, hey, guess what, the OTHER Frankenstein son, Ludwig Frankenstein, lives practically next door in a huge chateau, and he just happens to have some nifty lab equipment to juice the Creature back up, but he refuses until Ygor twists his arm a bit by telling him he’ll tell the already angry villagers that he’s the OTHER son of the original Creature-Maker. So, Ludwig says yes. Well, that was easy.
Lots of excitement follows, including the Creature bumping off one of Doc Ludwig’s assistants (Oops!), and then some brain swapping. Fun stuff.
One of the many interesting things about this film, is that since it was released early in ’42, our crew looked for any WWII references, however small. And, we saw at least three. A couple of times gas was used to subdue folks. Hmm, why did good ol’ Doc Ludwig have a control panel in his lab where he could gas an entire room?
Next, the local gendarmes’ uniforms looked awfully Gestapo-y, all black and everything.
And, one of our sharp-eyed folks noticed that when the ghost of Henry Frankenstein finally made his appearance (only for a couple of minutes — from that they called it The Ghost of Frankenstein?), he looked a lot like the spectral image of Dr. Mabuse from one of our German Expressionist films.
Finally, to round things out, just a bit of trivia for my fellow trivia-ites out there. Mr. Karloff appeared at the Creature in the first three Frank films (Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939)) from Universal, but took a leave-of-absence for The Ghost of Frankenstein as he was appearing in Arsenic and Old Lace on Broadway. So, that’s how we got Mr. Chaney Jr. as the Creature this time.
Lon appeared in 1941′s The Wolf Man, and would be back in 1943 as the Wolf Man again, in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, going up against Bela as the Creature, who had just played Ygor in The Ghost of Frankenstein.
In the ’31 Frank, Dwight Frye appeared as the assistant Fritz, and Dwight is back in Bride of Frankenstein but as Karl, not Fritz. In Son of Frankenstein, Dwight is now a villager (unconfirmed), Bela is Ygor, and Perry Ivins is Fritz. By the time we get to The Ghost of Frankenstein, Dwight is now an uncredited villager, there’s no Karl or Fritz, and Bela is Ygor again.
Rrraahhhhrrr!! Trivia bad…
’til next time… Adios.