The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Manwolf man poster
Directed by George Waggner
Written by Curt Siodmak
Universal Pictures

Repeat viewing /Amazon Instant Video
#153 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


Jenny Williams: Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

Larry Talbot: [after hearing it twice already] You know that one too ah?

If only they could have found another actor to play the Wolf Man ….

The story takes place in an English village where everyone speaks with a different accent.  Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), the younger son of Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), has been away from home for 18 years.  During that time, he seems to have developed total amnesia about his ancestral manse and its environs.  Once there he takes to repairing his father’s telescope and spies on lovely Gwen Corliffe (Evelyn Ankers).  He immediately chats her up using lines that would make me flee in the opposite direction in fear of a stalker.  Gwen, on the other hand, agrees to go walking with him on a foggy night despite the fact that she is engaged to another man.

The couple winds up at the camp of gypsy fortune teller Bela (Bela Lugosi) and his mother (?) Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya).   It is autumn, there is a full moon, and the wolfbane is blooming.  Bela turns into a wolf and attacks their companion Jenny.  (Question:  Why is it that Bela’s alter ego has four legs while the Wolf Man walks upright on two?)  Larry goes to rescue her  and is bitten by the wolf, dooming him to a similar existence.  The rest of the story follows Larry’s tortured journey as The Wolf Man, unable to convince anyone he is the mysterious murderer lurking around the village.  With Ralph Bellamy as a constable and Warren William as .the family doctor.

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I’ve always found this not quite a classic of the Universal horror genre due to the performance of poor Lon Chaney Jr. who just seems to be a fish out of water.  His plodding sincerity seems the polar opposite of anything one could expect from a son of Claude Rains.  The rest of the cast, particularly Maria Ouspenskaya, are fine and the special effects and make up are not bad.



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