The Wolf Man

Today we have the last classic Universal Pictures horror film on this journey…a film that gave us another worldly recognisable movie monster, although not the first film to incorporate a werewolf, it gave us the majority of what we recognise in ‘werewolf-lore’ today…it is of course, 1941’s The Wolf Man!!

Like all the Universal horrors I’ve mentioned before it, it does everything right when it comes to the genre. The atmosphere is there perfectly, although it’s more an aura of mystery and confusion than the others. This atmosphere is brought on wonderfully with the wooded locations and heavy amounts of mist used. Plaudits go to director George Waggner for choosing that…it perfectly fits in to the tone of the film.

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The atmosphere in the brilliant and famous climax

Again, like all the others, the main areas of success are with the creation of atmosphere, as well as the performances and the makeup/effects. I think these three aspects are what makes any horror film great and if you have them, you’re in for a winner. The Wolf Man certainly is another winner.

For those who like werewolf films, it goes without saying that this is essential viewing…like I said, it was responsible for giving us so many of the now traditional mythology of werewolves. Death by silver, for example or the fact that the werewolf doesn’t know he’s a werewolf or idea of the pentagram appearing to mark the next victim. Anyway, all these aspects are incorporated ideally into the film.

Quite unlike most of the other however is the fact that The Wolf Man is more of a supernatural horror. It involves fortune telling gypsies, prophecies and (in a sense) bodily possession. It still manages to keep a similar atmosphere to the Gothic horrors though…make of that what you will.

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Claude Rains (left) and Lon Chaney Jr. (right) as father and son

The performances are of course great, as they have been in every film I’ve mentioned on the journey so far. Lon Chaney Jr., son of the silent horror legend, Lon Chaney Sr, gives a terrific performance as Lawrence Talbot, a man who returns home after a long time away and eventually becomes the title monster. Also highly notable is Claude Rains as his father, Sir John Talbot, who is key to the terrifically thrilling final sequence as well as Evelyn Ankers as Gwen, the girl whom Lawrence falls for and eventually becomes desired victim of the Wolf-Man.

Bela Lugosi, donning a moustache, makes a short but memorable appearance as ‘Bela’ (they were clearly stuck for names), one of two gypsy fortune tellers and the man who is responsible for creating one of the most memorable movie monsters as he is the one who bites Lawrence. The real gem however, is none of the above, it is Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva, a gypsy woman who is highly knowledgable about werewolves and offers guidance and protection, most of the time receiving denial.

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The fantastic Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva

The narrative is a perfectly straightforward one, Lawrence returns to his home after many years and begins to become one with the community again, after meeting Gwen in her fathers shop, the two of them, plus a friend of Gwen’s go and see some fortune tellers who’ve just travelled into town. Whilst there, Bela sees the pentagram on Lawrence’s hand and by the end of the night, turns him into a werewolf and is killed. The rest of the film is Lawrence’s struggles to cope with not knowing what’s going on while the other characters go in hunt of the deadly Wolf-Man. All this leads up to the excellent climax. There would be a few spoilers if I told you a detailed synopsis so I won’t do that but just know that there’s a reason this film has gone down in history.

Again, plaudits go to Jack Pierce’s makeup work on the Wolf Man himself as he created yet another universally recognised movie figure.

There’s really not much else to say other than I’m a huge fan of this film and it’s a must watch for any horror fan (I get the feeling I’m saying that a lot).

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Lugosi and his moustache

Tomorrow we’ll be missing out 13 years, (like I said yesterday, sadly) and going straight into 1954 and our first Asian horror film which gave us another one of the most recognisable monsters of all time and offered some very real horror to it, despite it incorporating a giant lizard.

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues Tomorrow

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