Son of Frankenstein (1939)/Skinner

September 8, 2011

 Directed by Rowland V. Lee for Universal (#8574), Son of Frankenstein (1939) certainly carried on the sequel tradition. There would be four more loosely referencing the previous one. It was also the last time Karloff would play the monster. Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Rathbone), son of Henry while claiming his estate encounters Ygor (Lugosi), a character who was hung off screen and the noose failed leaving him crippled, has tried to keep the monster alive but now with the aid of Wolf they truly are trying to revive him which they succeed in doing sending the Monster off on another killing spree. Police inspector Krough (Atwill) who lost an arm to the monster tries to stop the monster and ends up being killed for his efforts along with Ygor and the Monster or were they? Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) reveals the next episode.

Frank Skinner, composer, was given the go to come out with a new score quite different from what Waxman created in Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Like the wolf man the monster now had his own motif performed by the lowest register of the orchestra. It is a theme that is carried forward for all future films. Skinner not only created the motif for the monster but many other themes that we’re carried forward and used. The beginning of “Main Title” after a creepy introduction with swirling strings and very low register horns and woodwinds goes to a theme that in addition to being eerie is also a recognizable one with the horns offering the melody. A fourth theme is briefly offered. “The Message” uses the organ as counterpoint as the strings softly play the main title theme almost adagio like. The horns are given a break in the funeral like cue. “The General” begins with a new somewhat tragic theme from the strings before a march identifies Krough. “Discovery-Blute Solo” offers a brief new motif before the English horn gives us the main title again. It slowly builds to a small crescendo with the horns. This is a quiet yearning track with some urgency where Morgan makes nice use of the harp in his orchestration/arrangement. It is followed with a few classic bars denoting the monster. It ends with the English horn giving us the main title. “The Examination-Looking for a Monster,” the longest of the nine tracks slowly builds from the lower register of the orchestra to the main theme again. There is a brief motif with the brass offering urgency. The strings offer the main title and a new melody is offered, a sad tragic one, part of the theme uses part of the main title. “Death of Igor” is a quiet track with what John Morgan refers to as the bowels of the orchestra. “Monster Rampage” begins with main title before the brass offer dissonant chords and loud timpani. The urgency is from the strings as it builds to a climax where the monster falls into the sulfur pit. The conclusion is exciting. “Finale-The Cast” briefly concludes the score before the standard cast music is used. I’ve included an audio clip from the score. Click on 04 – The General 

Skinner had help with the orchestration from Salter and this work helped to launch the successful career of the dynamic duo. It was performed nicely by the Moscow Symphony conducted by William Stromberg. This CD is a part of the Monster Music set from Naxos (8.506026). It is available from SAE for $39.95 with all of the CD’s being noteworthy. https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/monster-music-classic-horror-film-scores/

Track Listing:

1… Universal Signature (0:17)

2… Main Title (2:58)

3… The Message (2:08)

4… The General (1:06)

5… Discovery-Blute Solo (4:19)

6… The Examination-Looking for a Monster (8:29)

7… Death of Ygor (2:20)

8… Monster’s Rampage (4:07)

9… Finale-The Cast (0:39)

Total Time is 26:25

Naxos CD# is 8.557705

William Stromberg conducts the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

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