Going old school today. A good old fashioned Universal monster movie. I’m a big fan of the classics. The Wolf Man is no different. I’m happy that Netflix has it on the instant streaming. Someone needs to tell them to put Frankenstein on there already. The werewolf story is a classic tale about a man being bitten by a werewolf and then becoming one. It’s been done a shitload of times. A lot of them get their inspiration from the 1941 film. It’s influence is pretty apparent in most werewolf films. Maybe not Strippers vs. Werewolves but I don’t know. I’d have to watch that one to find out. Perhaps I will do that tomorrow. Let’s move into this review. Spoilers!!!!!!!
Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) has returned home following his brother’s death. His father is Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) and he’s a pretty wealthy guy. Larry starts to fall for a girl named Gwen. He becomes a peeping Tom and spies on her at one point. He actually admits this to her. I doubt George McFly ever did that in Back to the Future. Gwen is engaged, but that doesn’t stop Larry on his pursuit. He is a wolf haha. They go visit some gypsies with a friend named Jenny. She gets her fortune told by Bela Lugosi!!!! Bela is actually his name in this film too. I guess they were too lazy to give him a different name. He is sadly underused in this one. Larry kills him after Bela kills Jenny. It turns out Bela was a werewolf. He bit Larry. Bela’s mother, Maleva, tells Larry that he will become a werewolf. She’s a fortuneteller too. We see Larry transform from the foot up which is a suspenseful reveal to finally seeing him as a werewolf. He kills a man, and then the townspeople know they have a wolf to kill. Maleva saves his ass a few times which is good. Larry talks to Gwen and sees the pentagram on her hand. This means she will be his next victim. He warns her to stay away from him. He tells his father about being a werewolf. Sir John doesn’t really believe him but he ties him up to a chair for good measure. Larry eventually escapes and attacks Gwen. Sir John finds him and beats Larry with the same silver cane Larry killed poor Bela Lugosi with earlier in the film. I should also mention Larry bought the cane from Gwen before that. Sir John is shocked to see the werewolf turn back into Larry. He realizes what he has done. Maleva says a prayer for him. That’s nice of her. She did that for Bela Lugosi too. The townspeople didn’t see what happened so they figured Larry saved Gwen and then the wolf killed him. The End.
Lon Chaney Jr. is the heart of this film. I don’t think it would be nearly as good without him. For being a peeping Tom, he makes you root for him. There’s a sadness to him that’s really believable. He’s a very tragic character. There’s a reason he became iconic for this role, and it’s because of that he had to play this character a few more times. I’m sure those paychecks helped. As for everyone else, I really liked Maleva the gypsy lady. She brings a wise creepiness to the role. It’s fun watching Lon Chaney work off of her. Claude Rains put in a good performance as Sir Larry Talbot. He really shines in the latter half of the film when he has to talk with his son about the werewolf myth. Gwen is a good character too. Evelyn Ankers is pretty nice to look at, and she acts good too.
I like the Wolf Man effects. It’s always fun to see the superimposition of the hair slowly growing on the feet. That’s the first thing we see of the Wolf Man. It’s a slow build. We see the feet and then the camera rises up to show the rest of the body. I love the look. There sadly is no man to Wolf Man face transformation in this film. It is done in the reverse with Larry going back to being human. That’s still pretty cool. I love these effects for 1941. Stuff like this still works. Fuck your CGI.
A classic! It’s a movie I like the more I think about it. The performance by Lon Chaney Jr. will forever immortalize him in film history. This movie is the architect for all werewolf films. The effects are still fun to look at and the acting is good. It didn’t need any gore to be good. It relied on atmosphere and suspense. None of that jump scare shit. Universal knew how to make some classic movies in the 30s and 40s. This is one of the best. I highly recommend The Wolf Man.
- Why Rebooting The Universal Monsters Is A Dumb Idea (badassdigest.com)
- History’s Creatures: Lore of the Werewolves (theepochtimes.com)
- 31 Days of Horror: Make-up man Jack Pierce and his monsters (mattmulcahey.wordpress.com)