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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Wolf Man (1941) - George Waggner



Another Universal Monsters movie classic. The Wolf Man is a fantastic story that introduces the newly developed modern horror community to werewolves. At least in the form that we all know and take as scripture. Lon Chaney Jr. turns in his most infamous performance in the lead. It was definitely the peak of his career, but it serves him very well. I am very hard on Werewolf movies and this one gets no mercy. I went into this watching it with a pretty great distaste, but I was softened. It was good. 

Lon Chaney Jr. plays an American, Larry Talbot, that has come to his ancestral homeland of Whales. He falls in with the locals and enjoys the scenery. Everyone seems really outspoken about werewolves. They chant and tell tales that eventually intrigue Talbot into a trip to a Gypsy Camp. They are attacked by a werewolf but Talbot ends up killing it. However, in the struggle the werewolf bit him. He is told of his fate to become a werewolf during every full moon. Larry distances himself from everyone. He's afraid that he might become a werewolf with an insatiable lust for blood. He begs for everyone to leave him alone and when the moon is full he becomes the Wolf Man! He stalks the shadows preying on whatever might come his way. 

This film is responsible for endless spawn of the same genre. Just about every iconic trope associated with werewolf movies comes from this feature. Silver Bullets, The infectious bite, and turning during the full moon are just a few. It's definitely a benchmark for horror fans. The character design is really great, dated, but great. The cinematography helps a lot. Some of the shots of The Wolf Man stalking through the shadows are just beautiful. The makeup and look is so iconic and the way that the actor portrays it is fantastic. If you are a fan of makeup and design you should definitely check this out. 

The movie does an amazing job of building a world that it exists in. Everything is pretty flushed out. The acing is a bit rough but has it where it counts. The real draw is the story. It's wonderful. You get an amazing introduction to Lyconthropy and an iconic telling of that subject. Lon Chaney Jr. gives the best performance of his career even though it starts out a bit weird and creepy. The movie doesn't really get very dull. It's short but it packs a great deal of quality storytelling. Parts of it are corny but it's good. 

The Wolf Man isn't scary. It has a few moments that could be confused for scariness. But overall, this film just doesn't get the blood rushing. It may be pretty and iconic, but it isn't scary at all. Larry Talbot is a creep in a different sense. He leers at women through a spyglass and demands romantic interludes from them. 

Of course this movie is recommended. This movie was great but not amazing. If you are a student or fan of the genre, then this is right up your alley. This is the most iconic werewolf movie and nearly the most iconic horror movie of all time. I don't recommend werewolf movies that often. I just find the subject to be pretty dumb. But after starting this project I have started to let down my guard a bit more. This may not be the best, but it is the most well known. Check it out. 


Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Reigns, Warren William, and Bela Lugosi
Style: Fantasy Werewolf Horror
Studio: Universal
Country: USA


Did ya know...



The church scenes were shot on the old "Hunchback of Notre Dame" set where Chaney's father had played Quasimodo in 1923.
The Wolf man battled a bear in one scene but unfortunately the bear ran away during filming. What few scenes were filmed were put into the theatrical trailer.
Larry's silver wolf-headed cane, the only known surviving prop from the movie, currently resides in the personal collection of genre film archivist Bob Burns. Burns, who was a schoolboy at the time, was given the cane head by the man who made it for the film, prop-maker Ellis Burman.

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