Son of Frankenstein is a 1939 American horror film that was directed by Rowland V. Lee. The film is the third in Universal Pictures' Frankenstein series and is the follow-up to Bride of Frankenstein. Son of Frankenstein stars Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein who, with his wife Elsa (Josephine Hutchinson) and son Peter (Donnie Dunagan), return to his late father's estate. Near the castle lives Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a crazed shepherd whose neck was broken in an unsuccessful hanging attempt. Among the castle's remains, Frankenstein discovers the remains of the monster (Boris Karloff) and decides to try save his family name by resurrecting the creature to prove his father was correct. He finds, however, the monster only responds to Ygor's commands.
The film was originally announced in August 1938 after a successful theatrical reissue of Dracula and Frankenstein. Son of Frankenstein was initially announced under the title After Frankenstein. The screenplay written by Willis Cooper was initially rejected and early script drafts included only the characters that would be used in the final film. The original budget was set at $250,000 but Lee increased it to $300,000 and had a 27-day shooting schedule. Difficulties in production arose when Lee was unsatisfied with the script. Production was delayed until November 9 due to inclement weather and other problems, and filming was completed on January 5, 1939, with a final cost of $420,000. The film was released on January 13, 1939, and received positive reviews from The New York Daily News, The New York Times, Variety and the Monthly Film Bulletin. A sequel, The Ghost of Frankenstein, was released in 1942.
Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, son of Henry Frankenstein, relocates his wife Elsa and their young son Peter to the family castle. Wolf wants to redeem his father's reputation but finds this will be more difficult than he thought after he encounters hostility from the villagers, who resent him for the destruction his father's monster wreaked years ago. Wolf's only other friend is the local police Inspector Krogh, who wears an artificial arm after his real arm was ripped out in a childhood encounter with the monster. While investigating his father's castle, Wolf meets Ygor, a demented blacksmith who survived being hanged for graverobbing and has a deformed neck as a result. Wolf finds the monster's comatose body in the crypt where his grandfather and father were buried; his father's sarcophagus bears the phrase "Heinrich von Frankenstein: Maker of Monsters" written in chalk. He decides to revive the monster to prove his father was correct and to restore honor to his family. Wolf uses a torch to scratch out the word "Monsters" on the casket and write "Men" beneath it.
The monster is revived but it only responds to Ygor's commands and commits a series of murders, the victims of which were jurors at Ygor's trial. Wolf discovers this and confronts, shoots and apparently kills Ygor. The monster abducts Wolf's son as revenge but cannot bring himself to kill the child. Krogh and Wolf pursue the monster to a nearby laboratory, where a struggle during which the monster tears out Krogh's false arm ensues. Wolf swings on a rope and knocks the monster into a pit of molten sulfur beneath the laboratory, saving his son. Wolf leaves the keys to Frankenstein's castle to the villagers, who turn out to cheer the Frankenstein family as they leave by train.