The Wolf Man (1941) title

Tag line : His hideous howl a dirge of death!

The Wolf Man (1941)One of Universal studios later iconic movie monsters, coming out some 10 years after "Dracula" and "Frankenstein". "The Wolfman" stars Lon Chaney Jr (the son of the "Man of 1000 faces", Lon Chaney Sr) in the role that would see him forever remembered as a horror icon.

In this, Chaney plays Larry Talbot, the son of a wealthy estate owner, who's returned to the family home following the death of his older brother. Whilst looking round a carnival on the outskirts of town, he decides to visit a fortune teller with some female friends, who predictably foretells of various ominous events that are about to befall them (but then, what did you expect when the fortune teller is played by Bela Lugosi?).

Heading home shortly afterwards, the group are attacked by a wolf like creature, which bites Larry, before he clubs it to death with his silver headed cane. However, the authorities find only the body of the old Gypsy fortune teller. Suspicion falls upon Larry, but as the body of one of the victims was clearly that of a wolf attack, he is cleared of any wrong doing.

But when another local is killed, the authorities are convinced they have a wolf of some sort on the loose, but is it actually a werewolf, and is Larry the culprit? Of course the answer to both questions is yes, as we're treated to a rather amusing transformation, considered quite groundbreaking for its day, of Larry slowing sprouting hair and growing fangs.

Sadly, the film doesn't really do much else after this. It's a full 45mins before Lon Chaney's character goes through his transformation and as the film is only just over an hour long, doesn't really have time to do much else before they have to bring the story to a close. He only really kills one person and attacks one other, with the bulk of the film setting up it's central premise.

That's not to say this is a "bad" film as such, its just a bit of a slow one. The Werewolf concept had actually been attempted by Universal once before, but didn't really catch on. So I can only imagine the longevity of Lon Chaney's Wolfman charcter is probably due to them deciding to use him is several crossover movies that followed ("Frankenstein Vs The Wolf Man", "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein" etc).

To summarise, this one is worth a watch if you like old B&W horror movies, but pails in comparison to "Dracula" and "Frankenstein".

Overall marks : 4/10

Terrifying Trivia.

  • For the scene where Chaney's character first changes into the wolfman it took over 10 hours of filming, which was done over 2 days.

  • Not the first Universal horror picture to deal with Werewolves, that honour goes to "Werewolf of London" (1935), but that film proved less popular and didn't have the same impact as this, which is probably why it isn't as favourably remembered.

  • Claude Rains, who plays Larry's father, Sir John Talbot, also played "The Invisible Man" (1933)

  • The Werewolf that bites Lon Chaney's character is a traditional 4 legged type werewolf, however he becomes a 2 legged half-man/half-wolf type of werewolf. The reason for this is never explained.

  • In the original script, you never actually saw Larry Talbot (Chaney) as a werewolf and the killings were shown from a first person perspective. The only time you saw him as a wolf was when he looked at himself in a reflection, but this was changed during rewrites.

  • Ottolah Nesmith, who has a minor role as Mrs Bally, was also a horror TV host during the 1950s called "The Lady Ghoul".

  • There was to be a scene where Larry Talbot (Chaney) fights with a bear in the carnival scene, but the animal got loose during filming, causing panic on the set as all the cast and crew ran for their lives. The scene was subsequently abandoned and never finished, though bits of what had been filmed did end up in the trailer.

  • At no point in the film do you see the full moon, which is the one thing typically associated with werewolf films. This was rectified in the later films in which Chaney's Wolfman appears.

  • The silver wolfs head on top of the cane Larry Talbot carries was actually made out of rubber, so that none of the people being struck during the fight scenes would be injured.

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