A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.
Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. He visits a gypsy camp with village girl Jenny Williams, who is attacked by Bela, a gypsy who has turned into a werewolf. Larry kills the werewolf but is bitten during the fight. Bela’s mother tells him that this will cause him to become a werewolf at each full moon. Larry confesses his plight to his unbelieving father, Sir John, who then joins the villagers in a hunt for the wolf. Transformed by the full moon, Larry heads for the forest and a fateful meeting with both Sir John and Gwen Conliffe.Written by Doug Sederberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
All things to make this an horror classic are present here.
Horror films mainly in the ’30’s and 40’s needed 3 good things to make it a successful one. A good story, a good ‘monster’ and good actors. “The Wolf Man” truly is a movie that has all those ingredients present.
“The Wolf Man” is written by one of the best writers of the genre in that period; Curt Siodmak. It also has the ‘luck’ that it stars Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. Three of the biggest names of that period. Let’s face it people, Lon Chaney Jr.
isn’t that much good of an actor but he still is some sort of an icon with a kind of cult status which makes him extremely good for playing ‘monster’ parts in movies like this. Lugosi’s role is extremely limited and in the few scene’s he’s in he’s terribly overacting. Fans of him will be terrible disappointing by this. Also a legendary person in this is Maria Ouspenskaya. She might not be terribly legendary as an actress but she surely is as an acting teacher. One of her students was Lee Strasberg who later became the teacher of actors such as Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. He is probably still best know for portraying Hyman Roth in “The Godfather Part II” for which he also received an Oscar nomination but lost to his own protégé De Niro (Also for “The Godfather Part II”.). Another protégé of her was Stella Adler who became the mentor of Marlon Brando. This all to just indicate how legendary Maria Ouspenskaya was.
As for this movie itself; it has a fantastic atmosphere and simple but very effective story with some nice moments in it. The Wolf Man himself has grown into one of the legendary movie monsters and this is the one role that Lon Chaney Jr. will always be remembered for. He later reprise his role as Larry Talbot/Wolf Man in “Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein”, “House of Dracula”, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and “House of Frankenstein”.
For the fans of classic horror movies this is a must see. Most other ‘normal’ people will probably just shrug while watching this movie but they should still be able to appreciate the atmosphere and the fine actors and story.
Insert Clever Werewolf Joke Here
Author: Shield-3 from Kansas City, MO, USA
16 September 2001
It wasn’t the first werewolf movie (that honor goes to `Werewolf of London’), but it was `The Wolf Man’ that gives us most of the werewolf mythology we still cling to today.
As with most classics, `The Wolf Man’ draws its power from a combination of elements. First, there’s Curt Siodmak’s plausible and intelligent script. Siodmak said he was given a title, a star and a start date, and from there he consolidated and invented the werewolf myth into a cohesive, logical format.
Then there’s the actors, a veritable who’s who of 1930s-40s Universal horror. Lon Chaney joins the pantheon on great horror actors on this one, playing the tormented Larry Talbot. He manages to give Larry a tragic quality, a man trapped by a curse he doesn’t understand or deserve. Chaney also generates considerable chemistry with the luminous Evelyn Ankers, which is surprising considering the rumors that the two practically hated each other. And then there’s the always-excellent Claude Rains, who doesn’t look very much like Lon Chaney’s father, but still exudes quiet authority and authenticity.
Topping off the whole package is a healthy dollop of atmosphere: foggy forests, Gothic mansions and crypts, colorful Gypsy encampments. Each bit of design enhances the sense of mystery and dread that surround Larry Talbot, and burns `The Wolf Man’ into your memory.
I’ll never walk a foggy forest at night again!
Lon Chaney Jr’s signature role is still one of his best performances. ‘The Wolf Man’ is an undisputed horror classic.
Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
18 February 2004
Lon Chaney Jr lived under the shadow of his famous father, but in ‘The Wolf Man’ he helped create a horror icon that has lasted for over sixty years. Chaney had already shown that he could act in ‘Of Mice And Men'(1939). In ‘The Wolf Man’ he gives another excellent performance, but this movie was both a blessing and a curse to his career I think. It forever labeled him a horror actor, and frankly he made a lot of lousy movies after this. Some good ones too, don’t get me wrong, but too often he was given b-grade material to work with. Maybe his drinking problem had a lot to do with it, I don’t know, but apart from a strong cameo in ‘The Defiant Ones'(1958) and a great performance in Jack Hill’s cult classic ‘Spider Baby'(1964), he rarely was given a role as good as Larry Talbot in this movie.
Chaney is surrounded by a very strong supporting cast including horror legends Claude Rains (‘The Invisible Man’) and Bela Lugosi (sadly only a cameo), Ralph Bellamy (‘His Girl Friday’), and frequent costar Evelyn Ankers (she and Chaney made a great on screen couple but apparently hated each other off screen. Such is Hollywood!). Many people complain about the casting of Rains and Chaney as father and son. I agree it’s totally unrealistic, but I don’t think it hurts the movie at all. The lack of Lugosi is a bigger problem. There was more footage of him but unfortunately it wasn’t used in the final cut. It’s too bad as more scenes between Lugosi and Chaney would have been a treat. Of course they worked together a few times after this, but mostly in lesser movies. The real scene stealer in ‘The Wolf Man’ is Maria Ouspenskaya who plays the gypsy woman Maleva.
She’s just terrific, and gives the most memorable performance after Chaney. ‘The Wolf Man’ has had an enormous influence on just about every subsequent werewolf movie. Much of the lore seen on screen here isn’t in fact traditional, as many people assume, but created by the talented Curt Siodmak (‘Donovan’s Brain’) who subsequently wrote the horror classics ‘I Walked With A Zombie'(1943), and ‘The Beast With Five Fingers'(1946). ‘The Wolf Man’ is an undisputed horror classic, and just as entertaining and interesting as it ever was.
The Rising Of the Moon
Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
31 October 2001
As werewolf movies go The Wolf Man is probably the best. It was written by Curt Siodmak and directed by George Waggner. The script, though it gets the job done, has altogether too many wolf and dog references in it for comfort, many in the first fifteen minutes. A horror movie should never at the outset tell you that it is a horror movie. The title and and cast often give this away anyway, I grant, not to mention lobby cards and reviews. But the idea is or should be to draw the viewer in slowly, enabling him to acclimatize himself to the people and atmosphere so that the horror can, as it were, creep up on him. For all its excellent qualities The Wolf Man does not do this. Otherwise it works fairly nicely.
A thoroughly Americanized Larry Talbot arrives at the estate of his British father, Sir John (A baronet? I wish they’d made this clear). Aside from the fact that he is three times larger than his father and altogether different in temperament (shy and fumbling as opposed to assertive and incisive), the two hit it off well enough. Larry has returned from the States due to the death of his brother, and Sir John clearly wants Larry to take his place (whatever it is) in the village. Larry spies on a young woman through a telescope (Sir John is an astronomer), and goes to her shop, where he buys a cane, with a wolf’s head, and asks her for a date. She agrees, but when they meet later on she brings a friend, just in case Larry gets too, well, wolfish.
It is autumn and the gypsies are in town. Larry his girl and her friend go to a fortune teller to get their palms read. The palm-reader sees death in the friend’s hand and urges her to go. Later on, in the form of a wolf, he attacks and kills the girl, and is in turn killed by Larry with his cane; but Larry is bitten by the wolf, which guarantees that he will become one, too. In time Larry does indeed become a werewolf, but as with everything else in his life only goes half-way.
While the animal that attacked him was a wolf, Larry becomes only partly wolf in appearance, though when the transformation occurs he is wholly wolf in spirit, yet walks on two human, albeit furry legs. He is more or less adopted by the dead Gypsy fortune teller’s mother, who looks after him, and has a way of turning up in her wagon at appropriate moments. She also recites a poem about werewolfery (or lycanthropy if you will), which I shall not repeat here and which everyone in the village seems to know by heart. Sir John, being a man of science, does not believe that his son is a true werewolf but suffering from some form of mental illness. Yet when the moon rises Larry turns into a werewolf and goes on rampages.
The Wolf Man is quite well made on what appears to be, for its studio, a generous budget; fog swirls everywhere, and the landscape is dominated by gnarled, leafless trees. It’s tone is evocative of the Sherlock Holmes films, though not of course the content. There are so many good and bad things in the picture they’re difficult to enumerate, and are often jumbled together. Of the bad, the casting of Americans Evelyn Ankers and Ralph Bellamy as Brits. Neither give a bad performance, but they don’t belong in this film. It’s difficult enough to keep one’s disbelief in suspension with Lon Chaney on hand, but the addition of these two is a bit too much. Claude Rains, as Sir John, is a great asset to the movie, giving it a touch class and gravitas. His occasionally supercilious manner is in keeping in with the part he plays; and though he doesn’t look at all like Chaney’s father, he acts it.
Maria Ouspenskaya and Bela Lugosi make marvelous gypsies, and they play their parts sincerely, with none of the hamming one might expect. Chaney’s Larry Talbot became, after his Lennie in Of Mice and Men, his most famous role. He is sincere if somewhat phlegmatic in his ‘normal’ scenes, and early on, before the wolf-bite, lacks the joi de vivre he ought to have, as he is supposed to be a carefree young man. Chaney never seemed carefree. On the other hand his tragic, deeply lined face, sad eyes and prematurely middle-aged appearance suggests a troubled soul,–not an easy thing to fake–and in this regard he is magnificent in the part. His worry, over the prospect of another werewolf transformation, and the damage it will cause, appears genuine, and to a degree seems to come at times from outside the character he is playing, which as we know Chaney had serious personal problems, is a case of art imitating life, and the result is a kind of sad serendipity.