The Wolf Man

Year: 1941

Director: George Waggner

Written by: Curt Siodmak

Threat: Werewolf

Weapon of Choice: Silver-headed cane

Based upon: none

IMDb page: IMDb link

The Wolf Man

Other movies in this series:
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
House of Frankenstein
House of Dracula

Rish Outfield's reviews
If I'm not mistaken, this is the first movie we've reviewed from the 1940's. As a kid, of all the Universal monsters, the Wolf Man was always my favourite. The reason is probably the dichotomy of the peaceful, kind, haunted Larry Talbot and the soulless, shameless, mindless savage he becomes-–a much less human monster than Dracula, The Invisible Man, or even the Frankenstein Monster.
This film begins with picture credits, which is unusual. Lawrence Talbot returns from America to his father's estate, and after visiting a gypsy camp, is attacked by a werewolf. Though he kills it, he finds himself beset by the same curse, and every full moon, he becomes the wolf man!
"Even a man who's pure at heart, and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright."

This poem is repeated three times by three different characters, and it really sums up the film. Lon Chaney Junior is great as the title character, truly a man who is pure at heart, but a monster all the same.
This is another keeper, folks. A nice script, with a multi-level story and intelligent dialogue. More great makeup from Jack Pierce (who I really ought to list on the Makeup Artists page someday)-–we never actually see the transformation, just the legs and a reversion at the end. A good cast, with an odd mix of both English and American actors. Claude Rains plays the stately and dignified Sir John Talbot. Evelyn Ankers plays a young town woman, Gwen, who immediately attracts young Talbot's eye. Bela Lugosi plays Bela (good name!), the gypsy lycanthrope who infects Talbot with his curse. Malena, the old gypsy woman, was cool, always uttering accented, mysterious dialogue. Ralph Bellamy as the babe's boyfriend and the manly figure of the film.
I'll always remember Chaney as this role, you can't help but love him (even though he apparently never got out from under his more famous father's shadow). He's very likeable as Talbot, with a decent, everyday guy quality. True, he does stand a foot and a half taller than his old man, and he's quite American, while his dad is as English as crumpets. But ah well. I gave it two Villain Sympathy Skulls because the monster WAS the hero. A real tragedy, because Sir John didn't believe, his son went on to kill again. One thing I didn't get was that Gwen's boyfriend steps out of the movie so Gwen and Larry can have an almost romance, but of course, the second Talbot is dead, she was back in her fiancé's arms.
The Wolf Man wasn't as good or satisfying as Bride of Frankenstein, but it was better than most. It suffers from the same dumb, abrupt ending that they all pretty much had. There's no denouement-–they just flash "The End." I shouldn't compare these to modern films, but hey, there are still movies today that end the same way (Halloween: H20 for example).
Note: As I said in my Frankenstein review, I feel funny giving this our slasher Skulls, since most of the cliches we point out weren't either invented yet or allowed to be shown when this was released.
Posted: April 24, 2001

The tyranist's thoughts
What can you say about a movie that is part of the foundation of the genre you've dedicated years of your life to? What can you say about a movie with both Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr.?
It is interesting that as frightening as movies like Frankenstein and The Wolf Man were, they are fundamentally about tragic figures. After these initial movies, it would be years before anyone made movies again that had such sympathetic monsters. There's something majestic and graceful in these movies. The monsters are dignified. The heroines are beautiful. The mobs evil and misunderstanding.
This movie is amazing even all these years later. It is happy and sad and moving. The performances are spot on and the script is well-written. It is a shame that we've entered an age where not only do we ignore the black and white classics, but we often remake them into inferior movies.
Compared with The Wolf Man, Van Helsing is a banal empty movie notable only for its special effects and Kate Beckinsale. I liked Van Helsing, but I can't honestly say it was a better movie than this one. And I hope that you would take this as the high praise I intend it to be. Please, don't waste another day. See The Wolf Man if you haven't.
Posted: July 12, 2004

Total Skulls: 6

Sequel setup
Rips off earlier film
Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie
Future celebrity appears
Former celebrity appears
Bad title
Bad premise
Bad acting
Bad dialogue
Bad execution
MTV Editing
Girl unnecessarily gets naked
Wanton sex
Death associated with sex
Unfulfilled promise of nudity
Characters forget about threat
Secluded location
Power is cut
Phone lines are cut
Someone investigates a strange noise skull
Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door
Camera is the killer
Victims cower in front of a window/door
Victim locks self in with killer
Victim running from killer inexplicably falls
Toilet stall scene
Shower/bath scene
Car stalls or won't start
Cat jumps out
Fake scare
Laughable scare
Stupid discovery of corpse
Dream sequence
Hallucination/Vision skull
No one believes only witness
Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth skull
Warning goes unheeded skull
Music detracts from scene
Death in first five minutes
x years before/later
Flashback sequence
Dark and stormy night
Killer doesn't stay dead
Killer wears a mask
Killer is in closet
Killer is in car with victim
Villain is more sympathetic than heroes skullskull
Unscary villain/monster
Blood fountain
Blood spatters - camera, wall, etc.
Poor death effect
Excessive gore
No one dies at all
Virgin survives
Geek/Nerd survives
Little kid lamely survives
Dog/Pet miraculously survives
Unresolved subplots
"It was all a dream" ending
Unbelievably happy ending
Unbelievably crappy ending
What the hell?