Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Wolfman (1941) directed byGeorge Waggner

Part of the original classic Universal Horror series of films, the Wolfman is an iconic film from that era. Larry Talbot returns to his home town after his brother's death, meets a pretty girl, get introduced of the local legend of a man who turns into a wolf and quickly gets attacked by one and acquires that trait.

If you haven't seen this movie in a long time you might want to revisit it. It's probably not exactly how you remember it. Many aspects of werewolves we take for granted now are not in the movie or in a form that is very different from what is taken to be "true" legends. A fascinating thing about this movie is much of the lore in it was made up completely for the movie by the screenwriter and some of the more famous elements you might expect are missing, having been added in sequels to the film.

Two examples:
The little poem recited thought the film:
Even  man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at might; may become a wold when the wolfs bane blooms and autumn moon is bright. 

No mention of the full moon. That came in later movies. It is mentioned that the transformation takes place several times  a year but the full moon is mentioned as the cause.

The werewolf is not killed by a silver bullet. In fact, silver bullets are not mentioned. Both werewolves we see are beaten to death by the same silver headed cane.

Most of the cast is great, Maria Ousenskaya, Bela Lugosi, Claude rains are fantastic. Lon Chaney Jr is pretty terrible, though. You have to give him credit for sitting for up to 6 hours in makeup for the transformation, but he is not the actor his dad was. The effects are pretty good, the wolfman make up has become iconic and for good reason. The exterior sets are just so-so, you know are in a studio. The interiors are much better.

This film is.... not good overall - can you say that about such a classic? The editing is really inconsistent. No matter what Talbot is wearing when is becomes the werewolf, he is next seen an outfit we only see when he is in full make up. Does the werewolf make a fashion choice to change clothes before going out on each killing spree? Larry Talbot is a creep, spying on the romantic interest who is already engaged to a nice guy and pursues her anyway. The first time we see a werewolf... its just a wolf, but when Chaney transforms he is a different creature entirely. The dead Talbot brother's death is never fleshed out - he just died and both his father and brother seem pretty nonplussed about it.

Should you see it? Even after that last paragraph I would say yes. Parts are cringe worthy, but it is a classic and the makeup alone is worth seeing for yourself in action. The blu-ray restoration is excellent and the 180,000$ budget was put mostly to good use. In any case, it's MUCH better than the  2010 remake!

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