You knew this was coming. I’ve already reviewed five werewolf movies (not to mention an horror anthology that happens to have a werewolf scene in it) so far. You know by now that werewolves are my favorite movie monster, I’ve mentioned numerous werewolf movies in reviews of other werewolf movies. I have a problem.
So it should come as no surprise that tonight’s feature is the 1941 Universal gem, The Wolfman
Year Released: 1941
Written By: Curt Siodmak
Directed By: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers
Lawrence Talbot is a lonely man. His brother has just died and so he returns to his ancestral home in Wales in hopes of reestablishing a connection with his estranged father. While there, he comes across a beautiful woman running an antique shop and, in an attempt to strike up conversation, purchases a walking stick with a silver wolf head acting as a handle. This silver wolf head will serve as a reminder to Talbot of a saying with which he will soon become very familiar:
Even a man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright
What Lawrence does not yet realize is that this saying will soon hold more meaning for him than he could possibly imagine.
The mack daddy of all werewolf movies. Much like Universal’s 1931 classic Dracula set the standard for countless vampire movies to follow, The Wolfman is a template on which many werewolf movies through the years have been set. It establishes the rules: One who is bitten by a werewolf and lives is doomed to become on one the eve of every full moon. Only silver can kill the werewolf.
Not to mention the transformation sequence in The Wolfman greatly influenced many great on screen transformation sequences that came after it. A simple effect by today’s standards, but still quite impressive in it’s day.
The acting is some of the best cheesy 40s horror acting I’ve seen, with veterans like Lon Chaney Jr., Bella Lugosi, and Claude Rains each giving memorable performances throughout the film.
Filmmaker George Waggner, who made two other horror films with Lon Chaney Jr., 1941’s Man Made Monster and The Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942, and who would go on to direct another Universal horror classic, The Phantom of the Opera, captures the turmoil that faces Larry Talbot quite well. You feel for him, he’s likable, he’s experiencing heartache through the death of his brother and the broken relationship he has with his father, and to then become cursed in such a horrible way.
The Wolfman is among my earliest memories of watching horror movies as a child with my father, and because of that, it will continue to be one of my favorite werewolf films and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Should You See It:
I am a firm believer that everyone should see all of Universal Pictures’ horror classics, in their beautiful black and white glory, at least once in their life time.