Film Review


“There is, however, one major
expression of modernist culture
that Kafka avidly soaked in:
the world of film.”
—Saul Friedländer, Franz Kafka: 
The Poet of Shame and Guilt

“They die—Dead!!!
I die—Alive!!!”
—Bela Lugosi,
Son of Frankenstein (1939)


What does it mean to be Ygor?

It means to live—a kind of living death. Ygor knows his fate isn’t simple—but he has a talent for portraying his nightmare-like inner life. Bela Lugosi does this much better in Son of Frankenstein rather than Dracula.

Ygor is still living in the gloomy dumpy castle—with its secret passageways and crypts below ground near some fuming hellish sulfur pits. There’s an old Count Frankenstein laboratory down there—and a special hideaway for the Creature.

Ygor asks the Baron’s son for help—to revive his friend from a deep monster coma. He got out one night during a lightening storm and got zapped by a lightening bolt right into his neck-bolts. What a orgasmic thrill it was—but it was too much even for such a huge terrible monster. He’d been half-dead half-alive ever since then—with Ygor worrying about him like an old woman.

Frankenstein’s monster tries to please Ygor—but he doesn’t have any energy left. Lightening is his mother—and he needs another shot of joy juice. Basil Rathbone struggles with his guilty conscience—but is persuaded to move forward with his father’s daring experiments. Ygor hangs out in the background—like a jealous lover. He knows he’s just an old aging hunchback—with a bone in his throat from a mishandled hanging.

Ygor wants his big brute lover-boy back—in fact in another episode in The House of Frankenstein Ygor wants his brain to be transplanted into the Creature so that he can escape his crippled body and have some fun around the joint.

But what is it like to be a Monster? Monsterhood is an exciting, wonderful livelihood—terrorizing the countryside and getting revenge for Ygor on the Burgomaster and his cronies. Ygor plays his crummy little flute—and there’s the Monster played by Boris Karloff mostly in a reclining position. But he manages to get it up and move around—thanks to Basil Rathbone and all that art deco electronics down below the castle. One by one Boris knocks off each petty official in Frankensteinville—all the creeps that had poor Ygor hung by the neck.

What’s it like to be a Monster—stitched together like a rag-doll with human arms and legs and all those squishy organs inside? To be reborn and not know who you are—except that your body is constantly struggling against itself and your brain belongs to a serial killer from Budapest? Nature embraces you with dubious binding spirits—and surely it’s the devil in disguise that peers at you from the mirror?

Being a Monster must be like the Living Dead—none of your organs no longer knows anything about where they came from or who once enjoyed this or that throbbing once-alive organ? It must be truly a bonfire of vanities—your whole body craving enjoyment but discombobulated so much that you don’t know what’s up or what’s down?

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