Saturday, February 28, 2015

Crazy about a Well Dressed Wolf

Next up in the Universal Monsters box set is The Wolf Man from 1941, starring Lon Chaney Jr and directed by George Waggner.

The science fiction writer Curt Siodmak wrote the script and produced much of the Werewolf mythology that we now accept as gospel, although interestingly poor Larry Talbot's transformations are initially tied to the flowering of the Wolfsbane plant as opposed to the full moon that would later become the norm.

It's filmed on that familiar Universal studios European village set and does not look like its setting in Wales at any point. Six years have passed since the Bride of Frankenstein and in that time film technology has moved on and instead of the creepy and grainy black and white we see a much slicker and clearer image as Hollywood really starts to set the look of its Golden age productions.

Jack Pierce's famous yak hair make up is impressive although her doesn't look terribly fierce, rather cuddly in fact. And I'm curious as to why the first thing that the Wolf Man does after transformation is to put on that neat button up shirt, Chaney having stripped down to his vest as the change begins. Still a young Wolf out on the town has to look good, plus he needs something to hide the edges of the make up.

Sadly the clear cut look of the film and the dafter aspects of the Welsh village fully populated by Hollywood stars mean this one doesn't rate very highly. Nice to see Bela Lugosi in a brief role, although I'm not sure how he gets all his clothes back on after he dies? And Claude Rains makes his second appearance as Talbot's father despite being only 17 years older than Chaney in real life. 3 out of 5 silver topped canes and on with more rains to come in the Phantom of the Opera.

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