Friday, July 15, 2011

The Wolf Man (1941)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 10 out of 10
Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya
Rated: PG
Genre: Horror, Drama
Run Time: 70 minutes
Sequels: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Remake: The Wolf Man (2010)

After his brother's tragic death, Lawrence "Larry" Talbot (Chaney) returns from America to his family's estate in Wales.  While fixing his father's telescope, he catches sight of the beautiful Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers) whose father owns the antique shop in town.  When he takes Gwen and her friend Jenny (Fay Helm) to see the Gypsy camp and get their fortunes told, Jenny gets attacked and killed a wolf who turns out to be Bela (Bela Lugosi) the Gypsy fortune teller who is cursed to become a werewolf.  When Larry goes to save Jenny, killing the wolf, and finding himself bitten in the struggle, Bela's mother Maleva (Ouspenskaya) warns him that now, he too will become a werewolf when the moon rises. 

I discovered the classic Universal Horror Films when I was either a sophomore or junior in high school.  I used to watch them with my dad (still do sometimes, although not much anymore, since I started college).  This was the first one we watched together and it has always been my favorite.  Larry is so human, so easy to connect and sympathise with.  I instantly fell in love with the character (it also helps that he's played by the incredibly handsome Lon Chaney Jr., but that's beside the point).  After watching this film, I threw myself into checking out all the other Universal Horror Films, and I've seen most of the standard cannon: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Mummy (1932), and The Wolf Man.  I still need to see The Invisible Man (1933).

I love everything about this movie, but since I could rant on and on for ages, I'll be extra sure to keep it short.

I've always been squeamish about horror films because there was too much blood, or too much violence.  However, older films prove that you don't need blood and violence to be scary.  And even better, they don't need to rely on sex to hold the audience's attention.  In fact, the audience of The Wolf Man doesn't even get to see that much skin, not even Larry's.  When he opens his shirt to show Maleva his wound, he barely even unbuttons it.  One or two buttons are undone, and you don't even get to see anything.  Not saying that I think it was necessary, but I think it was nice that the director didn't need to focus on sex appeal like today's films do.

The Wolf Man is a wonderful springboard into the other Universal Horror films.  I've thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, and again, and again.  If you're interested in scary movies, but don't like sex and gore, then this is a good film to start with.  If you've enjoyed Bela Lugosi's Dracula and Boris Karloff's Frankenstein, then The Wolf Man might be a good film to watch next.  Interesting fact, Lon Chaney Jr. was one of the only Universal actors (if not the only one) to play all of the classic horror monsters: the Wolf Man (The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, etc.), Frankenstein's Monster (Ghost of Frankenstein), Dracula (Son of Dracula), and Kharis the Mummy (The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Curse, etc.).


  1. You are definitely right about old horror films! The Wolfman was always my favorite too. I grew up watching these old classics; I never realized that most people have never seen them...

  2. So nice to find another classic horror fan :) I'll be sure to post reviews about some of the other films now that I know someone else is interested in them :)


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